Producing Your Driver's Licence

BC Driver's Licence"I've got 24 hours to produce it, don't I?" and "It doesn't matter, I know my licence number." had to be the two most common responses I received when I stopped someone that wasn't carrying their driver's licence with them. Yes, you may know the number, but if my past experience is any indication, most of you don't know a lot of the other details such as class, expiry date, restrictions or even your security keyword!

"So what?" you say, "You can look it up." Yes, I was able look it up if the system was working, but how could I be sure that it was really you, especially since the police don't have access to driver's licence pictures on the computers in their cars. Add the fact that your friends may have a similar physical description and may also know your licence number and it begins to really get interesting.

Occasionally your "friend" would try to convince me that they were you when I had my pen poised over my ticket book. Often they were unlicenced, prohibited from driving or would be if they were convicted of the offence I was preparing to write. Why not avoid the whole mess and personate you? I wouldn't know I was issuing the ticket to the wrong person.

The courts have held that it is permissable to take a photo as a part of police notes when investigating an incident. I took advantage of this whenever a driver did not produce their licence. I would ask them to step to the back of their vehicle, stand to the side of the licence plate and take a shot of them, the vehicle and the plate.

If the driver was reluctant to have their photo taken, this was a sign to me that chances were very good that they were not who they said they were. I would take extra care to make sure that I satisified myself that I was dealing with the right person.

Usually the first time you found out about a successful deception was when you tried to renew your driver's licence. The agent at the Driver Service Center gave you two options: pay for all these tickets you had never received and renew or refuse to pay and don't renew. Not renewing meant that you couldn't legally drive until the whole matter was resolved and that often took a month or more.

It is also possible that if the person masquerading as you accumulates a large number of tickets, you could find yourself being prohibited from driving. The could occur either by receiving notice in the mail from RoadSafetyBC or at the roadside if you are stopped by the police.

Today you can easily keep track of suspicious entries on your driving history. ICBC provides your driving record on line where you can check for driving convictions that are not yours prior to renewal.

In British Columbia when the police demand your driver's licence you are legally obligated to immediately hand it over and allow the officer to take it in hand. If requested, you are also required to verbally state your name and current residential address. Doing so will avoid a failing to produce charge and likely significantly reduce the time that you are stopped at the roadside.

Carrying your driver's licence could provide valuable information for rescue and medical personnel if you are involved in a collision and are unable to communicate.



Original issue of Licence

For us older members ICBC does not have the ability to provide the date we originally obtained our licence. Wonder what year they record the correct date?

Also note under References: the spelling is not correct:)

I think it might have been 1971

I'm going from memory here. I know that I obtained my original Class 5 Driver License in BC in June of 1971, when I was 16. But my Driver Abstract 'Original Date' is January 1st of 1971, and in the annals of memory I believe that's because it's the same year they started a permanent record of the date of issue. If your own Abstract indicates the same, then that should be the answer.

In the back of my mind, I think the original date of issue used to appear on the license, but that's not the case these days.

My own 7 digit license commences with 17***** which I believe indicates at that time, there had been one-point-seven-plus million BC licenses issued since whenever they first started keeping track. However, I believe they subsequently skipped a million numbers for some reason at some point. These days, I think they're over ten million licenses issued.

My First Digit is a Zero!

Currently I think that when everything became computerised that the date of issue will be recorded for those of us that got our licence prior to the digital age they just entered January 1 of that year. Would be interested to know what is recorded for people that got their licence in the 80's.

Date of Issue, and other stuff

Currently I think that when everything became computerised that the date of issue will be recorded for those of us that got our licence prior to the digital age they just entered January 1 of that year.

Yeah, that would be it. And the computerization of records could only go back so far. I believe that the driver licensing numbers also had to harmonize with a separate computerized system involving the courts (believe it or not, but a 14-year old could be ascribed their eventual DL number by the court system, if they were charged with an offence such as underage drinking). Also, if I'm not mistaken, the whole system was based on a maximum of 9,999,999 numbers; they probably never imagined needing any more than that, back then. When I worked in licensing with ICBC 20+ years ago and a new applicant was added in order to generate a new DL number and identity, this would get done on a separate screen that tied in with the court system.

Would be interested to know what is recorded for people that got their licence in the 80's.

Well, I became a Driving Instructor in 1987, and I'm quite certain that the 5,000,000 series were being issued as new numbers back then; this continued through the early 90's so far as I recall.

Approximately ten years ago, they were into the 8,000,000 series.  These days, I believe they've used up all the original 9,999,999 numbers, and some old numbers are being re-issued; I have worked recently with mature drivers arriving from other countries (so although experienced, receiving their initial BC license) whose numbers have had a 28***** prefix. Perhaps it's the 2,000,000 series that never got used previously, I'm not sure.

permissable to take a picture

I would be very interested to see the case where the court held it was permissable to take a photo as part of police notes when investigating an incident.  Did this case law cover a traffic stop as well?

The case I had was a police officer pulled me over (on my motorcycle) to check my license.  She said the reason for the stop was that she was checking to see if I had a valid license, because "a lot of motorcyclists drive without one".  I was able to produce the motorcycle  registration (in my name) and gave her the secret word, but I did not have my licence with me (I did have a valid license).  She then demanded I remove my helmet for a picture, saying, "it is not in my system and I need it".  She wrote me a ticket for failure to produce a license.

In traffic court, she admitted she had no doubt as to my identity when she took the picture. She told the Justice of the Peace something different in court, that she had taken it to verify my identity in court, but did not bring it to court, nor any notes.  The JOP accepted my request to dismiss the ticket due to lack of evidence but it bugs me to this day that she was able to put a dishevelled picture of me "in her system", and I would really like to know if this is still allowable, or how I could have prevented it.

Just a suggestion ...

... but why don't you try carrying your Driver License on you, as required?

Meanwhile, it seems to me that the cop didn't have grounds for pulling you over and checking you out; I'm surprised she showed up in court.

Hi CompetentDrivingBC

The specific situation was my wallet was accidently left in my pants at work that one day. (I ride into work, change out of riding gear into decent office clothes and have a shower at work before starting my day, reverse in the evening.  Wallet got accidently left in the office pants that one evening, and I got pulled over on  my ride into work the next day..)

What I believed at the time (having recently moved from a jurisdiction in the US where probable cause was required to make a traffic stop) was that the evidence (that I didn't have a valid license on my person) was not discoverable because the traffice stop wasn't justified (I was doing nothing wrong, riding my own motorcycle and I did in fact hold a valid license).

I had researched the Canadian case law in detail because I couldn't believe what the officer had said justified her actions. I had focused on the test given in  R v Ladouceur which seemed to be important case law for the constitutionality of random police checks.  In that case they gave a test qualifying the s.1 limitation on the s.9 violation which was that the motorist was only questioned and detained to the extent required for the violation (or not) of the MVA to be determined.  "Once stopped the only questions that may justifiably be asked are those related to driving offences.  Any further, more intrusive procedures could only be undertaken based upon reasonable and probable grounds.  Where a stop is found to be unlawful, the evidence from the stop could well be excluded under s. 24(2) of the Charter."

It was my opinion that the decision to ask a motorcyclist to remove his helmet for a picture ("to put in my system") while he was in care and control of a motorcycle on a public roadway, after having verified his identity with vehicle registration and the secret word and no longer had any doubt as to his identity, violated the test of Ladouceur because it was no longer necessary in order to determine if there  was a violation of the MVA.

So in court as soon as the officer told the JOP that I did not produce a license, I asked for a Voir Dire in which I planned to argue that the stop was illegal because it violated the test of Ladouceur, therefore the evidence that I did not have a license was not admittable.

Long story short, the JOP did not accept my request for the Voir Dire, but then accepted my motion to dismiss the ticket on another point (lack of some other required evidence).

So my argument never really got a chance to be heard, and some years later, still wonder if I was correct or not.

Interesting reply ...

... thanks for taking the time to articulate that; it's an interesting case.

A few things come to my mind, with regard to the legal requirement of being able to produce a Driver License as a direct consequence of operating a motor vehicle.

  • Many jurisdictions only expect that the driver possess a valid license; not that they have it on them. Take the UK just as one example, where nobody is required to carry identification on them, even if they're driving. 
  • The BC Driver License is one of the greatest pieces of identification in the world - better than your Birth Certificate, which would probably describe a bunch of different people born on or about the time and place as you. That BC Driver License is probably the only thing a person possesses here that contains their relatively current picture, signature, full name, current address, date of birth, height, weight, eye colour, hair colour - etc. It's an awesome ID and you can see why the cops, and other authorities (such as the health department), like it so much.
  • The cop was not entitled to know your key word. Date of birth and surname are entirely sufficient, though it probably helps speed things up if you can recall your license number.
  • Here in BC, it's worth noting that as of next year, as noted in this article, the police will have to be able to provide greater justification for apprehending members of tha public.

I'd like to think that we're moving forward to a time when there will be greater cohesiveness between the authorities and the populace. But that's not going to be gained when either side fail to recognize the fundamental rights of the other.

Security Keyword

The security keyword that you provide for your driver's licence is part of the information that police obtain when they query you. I used it often to try and determine that I was dealing with the right person when they could not produce their licence.

In addition, nothing that I read in the policy referred to would preclude stopping a driver to insure that they are properly licensed.

I was wrong, then!

The security keyword that you provide for your driver's licence is part of the information that police obtain when they query you.

I'll be darned, I've never known this to happen. Of course, I've never been apprehended without having my license on me (which isn't to say that I've never forgotten my wallet; in fact earlier this year I found myself in Squamish with no means to buy lunch, very sad).

It had always been my assumption that the key word was only known to the licensing authorities.


I think the way to have prevented it would have been to produce your driver's licence as the law requires you to.

I have the same outlook that she did, many motorcyclists did not have a proper class of driver's licence or were GLP drivers operating contrary to restrictions. The law does allow a stop simply to check licence and insurance.

I believe that the ability to take a photo as part of the officer's notes is from common law principles rather than case law.

Thank-you for an interesting discussion!

I have a few things in follow-up...

1. As disappointing as  it was for me to learn,  I think the case law is clear that a random stop to check driver credentials with no other justification is allowed in Canada.  (Ladoceur and others), and so I also don't believe (5) on the new standard for police stops changes anything on that.  However I still would be very interested to see any reference supporting "The courts have held that it is permissable to take a photo as a part of police notes when investigating an incident." from the original article, particularly if that shows there is common law that allows a police officer to demand a photograph of a person under (7)(b) of this new standard, without reasonable cause (such as some evidence of deceipt).  I'd basically just like to know if I have a right to refuse that photograph should that ever happen again, and I'm probably not the only one. 

2. There are good reasons beside giving a fake name that someone would be reluctant to have their picture taken.  One is having a picture taken that would be likely to cause bias against them if viewed out of context (pre-shower helmet-head, in a state that you would never allow yourself to be seen in public).

3. Regarding,
"I'd like to think that we're moving forward to a time when there will be greater cohesiveness between the authorities and the populace. But that's not going to be gained when either side fail to recognize the fundamental rights of the other."
one thing I did once that went a long way toward this was the BikeSafe progam. This program started in the UK, and has been adopted by a number of US states and other countries.  The one I did was a full day with (motorcycle) state troopers, going over things (that I still think about) like target fixation, road scanning techniques, etc in the classroom, then a few hours out rding through some of the highest accident areas of the city 1 on 1 with a motorcycle cop on your tail, then afterward he delivered a critique on  your riding.  One of the most senior officers in the state came and spoke to the class, talking about their desire to cut down on motorcycle accident statistics, and she really got everyone's attention when she said this course was a tool she was using as an alternative to writing more tickets.  Most positive and respectful experience I have ever had with law enforcement, and really different attitude (on both sides) than what I have seen in BC.

Search of Interest


Thank-you for pointing that article out to me, that is for sure a powerful story of respect and professionalism, and also eerily similar to the BikeSafe experience!  I only speak from my personal experience, and that is a very small sample size.


I think that there are a lot of people out there who try to make a difference and the status quo is so entrenched that it can be very daunting. Few seem to be able to see outside the confines of their silo these days and are unwilling to do anything but the routine, even when it is clearly a good idea to try.

Grant time

Just after New Year seems to be when a lot of grant money becomes available. I am going to recommend to our Seniors Association that we apply for a grant to have a professional come in and give a course on updates to the MVA.

Those of us that are driving fanatics do keep up on the changes yet a lot don't. I am sure if they were offered a free course with a lunch thrown in for free would have no trouble getting people to attend.

Producing your driver's license

Can someone point me to the statue that requires a driver to produce their driver's license? I can only find sections in the motor vehicle act that require driver's to state their name and address (and that of the owner).


It's at the bottom of the original article under References.

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