Everyone who drives a vehicle in BC must have insurance. If you don’t, you can be charged with driving without insurance. Learn your rights and the steps you can take.
Understand your legal rights
Driving without valid insurance is an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. If you’re unable to show your vehicle insurance paperwork to a police officer when asked, you may be charged with any (or all) of the following three offences:
- Driving without insurance. This is the most serious of the three offences, with a usual penalty of a $598 fine.
- Failing to produce an insurance document. Less serious, with a usual penalty of an $81 fine.
- Failing to display a decal on your licence plate. The usual penalty is a fine of $109.
The ICBC website at icbc.com shows the current fine amounts for these offences.
You don’t receive penalty points against your driver’s licence if you drive without insurance.
If you are charged with driving without insurance, you will get a piece of paper saying what you’ve been charged with. You will get one of:
- a violation ticket,
- an appearance notice, or
- a summons.
Usually, police give you a violation ticket. But if you have a bad driving record or previous driving offences, the police may give you an appearance notice, or you may get a summons to court at a later date — normally within six months of the incident.
The paperwork tells you exactly what offences you’re charged with, the penalties for them, and whether you must appear in court. For a violation ticket, you don’t have to appear in court — if you don’t want to fight the ticket, you can pay the fine shown on the ticket. We explain your options shortly.
But for an appearance notice or a summons, you must go to court on the date shown on the notice or summons. If you don’t go to court, a warrant can be issued for your arrest. For more details, see our information on if you receive an appearance notice or summons (no. 210).
You may have had vehicle insurance when the police stopped you, but you didn’t have your insurance documents with you or you didn’t have a decal on your licence plate. If so, you should take the insurance documents and decal to the Provincial Court registry in your community. Explain that you want to plead “not guilty” to the charge of driving without insurance.
In most cases, if you can prove the vehicle was insured, the charge of driving without insurance will be withdrawn. But if you were also charged with failing to produce the insurance document or failing to display the insurance decal, you will still have to deal with those charges. The fact that the vehicle was actually insured doesn’t matter for these charges. You’ll have to decide whether to plead guilty to these charges and pay the fines, or whether to fight the charges.
If you don’t want to fight the charge, you can plead guilty. This means you admit you committed the offence.
If you received an appearance notice or summons, see our information on pleading guilty to a criminal charge (no. 212).
If you received a violation ticket, you can plead guilty by paying the fine. If you do, you don’t have to go to court. There are many ways to pay ticket fines: see the ICBC website at icbc.com for details. The fine is reduced by $25 if you pay it within 30 days.
You won’t be able to renew your car insurance or your driver’s licence until you pay the fine or otherwise deal with the ticket.
If you ignore a violation ticket and don’t pay the fine or dispute the ticket within 30 days, you will be automatically convicted. If you had planned to dispute the ticket, but could not do so (and it wasn’t your fault), you can go to the Provincial Court registry and ask to have your case go ahead.
If you want to fight the charge and you received an appearance notice or summons, see our information on defending yourself against a criminal charge (no. 211).
If you received a violation ticket, you can dispute the ticket. You have 30 days from the date of the offence to dispute the ticket.
You can dispute the ticket in person or by mail. We explain the details in our information on traffic tickets (no. 194).
A hearing date will be set. At your hearing, the police officer who stopped you will testify (tell the court what happened). You will get a chance to question the officer. After, you can choose to testify yourself. You may also call other witnesses. A judicial justice will decide whether you’re guilty or not guilty. Our information on traffic tickets explains the process more fully.
After a hearing or trial on a charge of driving without insurance, if you are found guilty, the court can fine you any amount from $300 to $2,000 (instead of the usual $598 fine). The court can prohibit you from driving for a certain time.
Although the court could send you to jail for up to six months, it would be extremely rare and only if you had many convictions for the same offence.
If you have a good driving record, tell the court, because this may help you get a lesser penalty.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in May 2018
Time to read: 5 minutes