Q&A - Defending a No Insurance Ticket

Q&A ImageQuestion: I recently received a ticket for no insurance. At the time I had a passenger in my vehicle with me. I produced expired insurance papers to the officer and was given a ticket. I then had to have my car towed home.

I had been unaware that my insurance was expired at the time I was pulled over, as it had expired only 5 days prior and had not received a renewal notice. I genuinely had no intent to drive without insurance and I am confident that was apparent to the officer.

The very next day I renewed my insurance. I do not have any recent offences, the only blemishes on my record are from at least 5 years ago, one at fault accident and 2 speeding tickets.

I would now like to know if I am able to have my fine reduced if I would be better off to do so in writing or by appearing in court?

I have heard if the officer does not appear it could be dismissed, but I have read inconclusive information that that was going to be changed? That the officer is no longer required to appear?

Can you please confirm for me if I would be able to have my ticket rejected if the officer did not appear? Otherwise it would seem smarter to dispute the fine amount in writing?

Can you please advise if I were able to have it rejected by the officer not appearing, would I waive my right to that by choosing the 'guilty' but want to dispute the fine option on the dispute notice?

Sorry to hear that your oversight caused so much difficulty for you. Thank goodness it was a traffic stop that brought it to your attention and not a collision.

Absolute Liability Offence

Driving without insurance is an absolute liability offence with a reverse onus on the driver. This means that you don't have to intend to drive without insurance, driving unknowingly is also illegal. The reverse onus leaves it to prove that you were insured (if you were) at the dispute if the officer is able to establish a prima facie case that you were not. The fact that you did not receive notice from your insurer will not help.

Prima facie in modern legal English means to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts.

Disputing the Penalty

If you wish to dispute only the penalty, you may choose either of the two options you mention. Disputing in writing would mean that you would not have to take the time to appear in court. Whether one method is more effective than the other, my guess is that the dispute in writing might be the better avenue. My last information was that your driving record is not before the JJP when the decision is made.

Minimum Fine

The minimum fine for this is specified in the Motor Vehicle Act as $300, $345 with the Victim Surcharge Fee included in the total. So, if $345 is going to be difficult to pay, you may wish to ask for time to pay and specify a reasonable length of time to do so.

Officer Fails to Appear

If the officer does not appear, either in person or by telecommunication depending on the situation, the ticket will be dismissed.

Your Appearance

If you appear in court, your case will be called and you will stand before the bench. The justice will ask if you understand and what your plea is. If the officer is not there and will not participate by telecommunication, the smart thing to do is plead not guilty. With no evidence in front of the court from the prosecution, the justice will have no option but to dismiss the charge. You can always reconsider and change your plea to guilty at any time during the trial.

Towing for No Insurance

The officer's authority to tow is for an unattended, unlicensed vehicle. Had your friend remained with the vehicle and you had arranged to be taken to renew your insurance and vehicle licence, there would not have been a need for the tow. Of course, this does assume that your vehicle was stopped in a safe place.

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I suggest appearing in court if at all possible.  I've found written submissions don't generally have the same effect.  The fine no insurance is $598, pretty hefty, but the cost of collision with no insurance could bankrupt you.  I've heard in Alberta it's $2500, I've yet to confirm that.

Not sure why you did not get a renew notice, they are always sent out at least a month ahead of time.  I find the biggest reason people don't get their notices is, they've moved.  The number of people I've stopped with expired driver's licenses is a lot, number one reason, they moved and never advised motor vehicle branch.  I stress to everybody that has moved, let them know.  It helps if you driver's license has to be returned to you or more importantly, should you be in a found unresponsive, collision or otherwise, the first place we will look for an NOK is your own house.  I don't like waking people up at 3:00 am only to find you have moved 6 months ago.