Q&A - Impersonation

Q&A ImageIt's drivers licence renewal time. You organize and drop by the nearest ICBC Driver Service Center to pay your renewal fee, have your picture taken and leave with your temporary new licence with the promise that you will receive your picture licence in them mail shortly. For most of us, that's the scenario. For an unlucky few the clerk informs them that they have a number of outstanding traffic tickets that will have to be paid before the renewal can take place.

What!!!? I haven't received any traffic tickets since the last renewal you say. The clerk produces copies of these tickets with your details on them, only you are certain that you were never there and are not responsible for the violations. I'm sorry is the reply, but you have two options, pay the tickets and renew or don't pay the tickets and stop driving until the whole matter is resolved. It's becoming apparent that someone has impersonated you (personation is the proper name according to the Criminal Code) to avoid difficulties with the police and these tickets are the result.

The process of back tracking on these tickets is a lengthy one. You complete legal forms confirming that you have been personated by someone and that the tickets in question belong to that person instead. ICBC sends an information package to the officer that issued the ticket and asks them to investigate and respond within 90 days. There are three possible outcomes: the officer agrees that the tickets were issued to someone other than you, they confirm that the tickets were issued to you or their investigation is inconclusive and they were unable to decide one way or the other. The ICBC ticket unit takes the appropriate action depending on the circumstance and the matter is closed.

How did this happen? Surely the police can do a better job of making sure who they are dealing with than this. Well, let's take a look at the situation at the roadside and see.

It was not at all uncommon during a patrol shift to deal with a driver who could not produce a driver's licence. What's the problem, I can just give you all the information you need. I agree with this, they can give you all the information that you need and in some cases I'm sure that this situation has been carefully considered as the driver is well aware that they are prohibited or suspended from driving or don't have a valid driver's licence and are avoiding a vehicle impound.

I would deal with this situation by starting the game of 20 questions with the driver and ask them for every bit of information that "their" driver's licence contained, including their security keyword. Most often, part way through this process the driver would hang their head and admit that they didn't know the proper answers because they were lying to me. I would ticket them for the original violation, for failing to correctly state name and address and add whatever else might crop up from the investigation.

Sometimes the scenario played out differently. The driver was able to give all of the information and this information matched them, including height, weight, hair and eye colour. A telephone call to the phone number given by the suspect (if they had one) would go unanswered. The ball was now back in my court. Is this an honest driver who just forgot to bring their driver's licence along with them or is it a situation where you are being lied to very believably right from the start? Do you issue the ticket and carry on, or do you persist, possibly at the risk of trouble for yourself as you cannot legally justify doing more?

I was quite embarrassed once when I went to trial with a prohibited driver about a year and a half after the incident. No one from the vehicle involved had any ID, I was hours from the nearest town and I went with what I considered to be the best possibility at the roadside and it turned out to be not good enough, the case was dismissed on not being able to positively identify the driver.

After a bit of self education, I learned that the courts had upheld the practice of taking a photo of a suspect as part of your notes. It could only be used in conjunction with that incident, but it was what I needed to be effective. I bought a 35 mm camera at a garage sale and that was my unlicensed driver identifier from then on. If you didn't produce your driver's licence at roadside, I would ask you to stand beside the licence plate at the rear of the suspect vehicle and I took a picture. If you did not want this to happen, fine, but be prepared for a long wait because I would take this as a sign that there was something to hide and you would not be going anywhere until I was certain you were who you said that you were.

Even after all of this there were people who managed to fool me. About once a year I would end up investigating a personation complaint. Now pretty much all that I had to do was refer back to my stack of photos and decide if the person complaining to me was the one in the picture or not. Sometimes it was that person, but when it wasn't, they always knew who it was in the photo.

Most often the suspect was either a close friend or a sibling. Having intimate knowledge of the driver that they were personating allowed them to answer all the questions and know that they looked enough like the impersonated driver that they could get away with all but a very careful examination at the roadside.

Currently, the police are not able to view driver's licence photos on the computers in their police vehicles at the roadside. Until this happens, personation is going to be more than a passing problem for police and drivers who get caught up in this scenario at licence renewal time. Even then it will not be foolproof as some people have successfully personated themselves to ICBC and their photo is in the driver database, wrongly identified.

What might be done differently to ease the burden on the driver who has been impersonated is to have ICBC issue a 90 day temporary driver's licence to that driver while the investigation of their allegation is being carried out. If the investigation indicates that personation did occur, the matter can be resolved. If not, then a 90 day delay in collecting the fines or refusing renewal for non-payment is not significant. Appropriate charges for the driver doing the personation or the renewal driver for starting a false investigation by alleging a personation when there has not been can still proceed then.

Here's the article that spawned this Q&A: Ticket Dispute Solution Requires Some Work - Hergott Law

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