BC: Traffic Tickets – The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch


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Script 194 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.Traffic tickets can be serious. If you’re convicted, you may get a large fine or points against your driver’s licence (called driver penalty points). These points can increase your cost of driving. If you don’t pay the fine, the government may take the money from your bank account or paycheck. It may also refuse to renew your driver’s licence and car insurance. And your car insurance may cost a lot more. So if you get a traffic ticket, take some time to decide whether to fight it.

Two Ways You Can be Charged With a Traffic Offence

1. Summons or Appearance Notice for more serious offences
If you are charged with a more serious traffic offence, such as careless driving or hit and run, you will get written notice of the offence in the form of a Summons or an Appearance Notice. A Summons is mailed to you or personally delivered to you. An Appearance Notice is given to you by a police officer at the time of offence. These documents describe the offences you are charged with. They also tell you when you have to appear in court. If you receive a Summons or Appearance Notice, you should talk to a lawyer for some initial advice. Then decide whether you want to hire a lawyer.

First court appearance
At your first appearance in court, you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty, or if you need more time to decide what to do. Ask the crown prosecutor for a copy of the police report before deciding what to do. If you plead guilty, the judge will ask for the facts of the case from both the crown prosecutor and you. If you plead not guilty, you will get a trial date. At the trial, witnesses and police officers will tell the judge what they think happened. You will get a chance to do the same, by giving evidence. The judge will then decide whether you are guilty.

You must attend the court hearing. If the Summons or Appearance Notice was personally given to you and you don’t attend the hearing, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

If you plead guilty, or the judge finds you guilty at trial, the judge can fine you up to $2,000, order you not to drive (for as long as the judge considers appropriate), and send you to jail for up to 6 months. Penalties are stronger for more serious offences.

2. Violation Ticket for less serious offences
The police will give you a Violation Ticket (an ordinary traffic ticket) for less serious offences. It is used for many provincial offences, including overtime parking, driving without insurance, and several offences under the Motor Vehicle Act. Read the ticket carefully, because it should show the offence you are charged with. The ticket will normally show a penalty beside each offence.

If you don’t want to fight the ticket
If you don’t want to fight the Violation Ticket, you can pay the fine as described below. If you pay the fine, you don’t have to go to court, but you are convicted of the offence. If the fine is over $50, it is reduced by $25 if you pay it within 30 days.

If you don’t fight the ticket within 30 days, you will be automatically convicted. You may receive penalty points against your driver’s licence and not be allowed to drive for a certain time. You won’t be able to renew your car insurance or your driver’s license until you pay the fine.

If you want to fight the ticket
If you want to fight the Violation Ticket, tell the government office shown on the ticket in person or by mail, before the due date on the ticket. Say that you want to have a trial. You will be notified by mail of the trial date and location, and can fight the ticket at trial.

At the trial, witnesses and police officers will tell the judge what they think happened, and you can do the same, by giving evidence. The judge will then decide whether you are guilty.

If the judge finds you guilty, the judge will normally fine you the same amount that is shown on the ticket. In some cases, the judge may increase the fine – for example, if you have a poor driving record. If you can show real financial hardship, the judge may reduce the fine unless the Motor Vehicle Act sets a minimum fine for that offence. You might also receive penalty points against your driver’s licence. If you are guilty, penalty points are automatic – you can’t fight them in court. You may also not be allowed to drive for a certain time.

You can pay fines in person at banks, other financial institutions, most Autoplan brokers, driver licensing offices, ICBC claim centers, government agent offices, and courts. You can pay by cash, certified check, money order, and credit or debit card. You can also pay online at many bank and financial institution websites. Or you can mail payment (by certified check or money order, but not cash), as follows:

For red-light camera ticket payments:
Ticket Payment Processing
Bag Service 6300 STN Terminal
Vancouver BC V6B 6G6

For all other payments:
Ticket Payment Processing
PO Box 3505
Victoria BC V8W 3N9

If you don’t pay a fine, the government can use a collection agency. This could hurt your credit rating. Money to pay the fine can be taken out of your paycheck or bank account. Also, you won’t be able to renew your driver’s licence and car insurance until you pay the fine.

If you want to fight just the amount of the fine, or ask for time to pay
You can do this without going to court. Fill out the following two forms available at any court registry:

  • “Violation Ticket Notice of Dispute”
  • “Violation Ticket Statement and Written Reasons”

Fill in both forms and file them at the court registry. By doing this, you admit you are guilty of the offense on the Violation Ticket. A judge will look at your forms and make one of the following decisions, which is mailed to you:

  • Not approve your request (then you must pay the fine immediately).
  • Reduce your fine (then you must pay the reduced fine immediately).
  • Give you time to pay.
  • Reduce your fine and give you time to pay.

For more information
Check script 187, called “The Points System and ICBC” and the following 2 websites:

The Points System and ICBC

Script 187 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.

This script explains driver penalty points and how they relate to the new driver risk premiums charged by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (called ICBC).

What are driver penalty points?
When you receive a traffic or “violation” ticket for speeding or some other driving offence under the BC Motor Vehicle Act, you normally get points on your driver’s record. You also get points for certain Criminal Code offences like impaired driving, criminal negligence, and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. Driver penalty points are like black marks on your driving record.

When are points added to your record?
Points are added to your record if you plead guilty to a driving offence or when a court convicts you of the offence. When you pay a traffic ticket, you’re admitting that you are guilty, so if you don’t agree with a ticket, you must fight (or dispute) it. You have 30 days from the date of the ticket to dispute it. If you don’t do so within 30 days, the offence and points are automatically added to your driving record. Refer to script 194 on “Traffic Tickets” for more information on how to fight a traffic ticket.

How many points do you get?
It depends on what the ticket is for. Most traffic tickets give you 2 or 3 points. For example, all speeding tickets get 3 points.

What are driver penalty point premiums?
Each year, ICBC looks at your record of driver penalty points and may bill you a driver penalty point (or DPP) premium. The bill is sent four weeks before your birthday.The DPP premium depends on the total number of points you get in a 12-month period, called the “assessment period”. ICBC reviews your driver’s record for this period, which starts about 17 months before your birthday and ends a year later, five months before your birthday. For example, if you have four points, the annual DPP premium is $175. It’s $230 for five points, $300 for six points, and so on. If you have 50 points or more, you get the maximum DPP premium of $24,000.

How are you billed for driver penalty point premiums?
ICBC bills you for a DPP premium only if you’ve had four or more penalty points added to your driving record in the assessment period. So if you only get an occasional minor traffic ticket, you won’t be charged any additional premium. Also, you don’t get points for parking tickets and other minor violations of city by-laws.

ICBC uses the points just once to calculate the premium and bill you. Once the points are added to your record, they aren’t used again for billing purposes, but ICBC keeps a record of each motor vehicle violation and point.

What are driver risk premiums?
Driver risk premiums are being phased in to replace the driver penalty point premiums. Phase I of the program was introduced in 2009. Under this new program, ICBC reviews your driving record for offences for the previous three years. . You will have to pay a driver risk premium if, during the previous three years, you have:

  • One or more driving-related Criminal Code convictions (e.g., impaired driving)
  • One or more Motor Vehicle Act convictions worth 10 points or more (e.g., driving while suspended)
  • One or more excessive speeding convictions
  • Two or more roadside suspensions

Note that the driver risk premium only counts offences that occurred on or after January 1, 2008.

The driver risk premium (like the DPP premium) is in addition to the usual ICBC insurance premium that you pay for any vehicle you own. And it’s different from the fine you have to pay for the traffic or violation ticket. It’s also different from any insurance cost increase or surcharge you have to pay if you are in an accident that was your fault. You are billed even if you don’t own or insure a vehicle.

How much are driver risk premiums?
The amount depends on the number of relevant convictions you get. For example, the premium for one excessive speeding offence is $320. It’s $905 for one Criminal Code conviction like impaired driving. And it’s $3,760 for two Criminal Code convictions.

How are you billed for driver risk premiums?
You will only get one driver risk premium bill a year. But because the assessment period is three years, one conviction during this period means you have to pay the premium each year for three years. For example, if you have one excessive speeding conviction, then you’ll have to pay $320 (the driver risk premium) each year for three years, for a total of $960.

Can you get billed a driver penalty point premium and a driver risk premium?
Both the new driver risk premium program and the old DPP premium are currently in existence and will continue to operate until the new program is phased in completely and the old program is discontinued. During the transition, you’ll only get billed under one program. You’ll be billed whichever premium is the highest.

How how long do you have to pay?
You get a DPP or driver risk premium bill once a year. You have to pay the bill within 30 days of the invoice date. You can pay it in person at any bank (and usually by Internet banking), Autoplan insurance broker or ICBC claim centre or driver licensing office. Or you can mail a cheque to ICBC at ICBC Revenue Accounting, 151 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 3H9.

What if you can’t or don’t want to pay your DPP or driver risk premium bill?
If you don’t pay the bill within 30 days, ICBC will charge you interest. ICBC can also refuse to renew your vehicle insurance until you pay. Also, you won’t be able to renew your driver’s licence if you don’t pay a DPP or driver risk premium bill.

You can avoid paying a DPP bill if you’re willing not to drive for a year. If you give up your driver’s licence to an ICBC driver licensing office for the whole one-year billing period, you won’t have to pay the driver penalty point premium. Surrendering your licence will also reduce the amount of a driver risk premium bill.

Or you can reduce a DPP bill by giving up your licence for 30 days or more during the billing period. When you want your licence back, you can visit a driver licensing office and pay the reduced bill, plus any additional licensing fees. But this works only if you’re not required to take a driver re-examination and don’t have any outstanding prohibitions.

If you choose this option, be sure to actually take your licence in person to the driver licensing office and get a receipt for it. If you just put your licence away and decide not to drive, you’ll still owe the same money as before, plus interest, because there would be no proof that you gave up your right to drive.

You may be able to reduce a DPP bill in other cases too
ICBC will reduce the DPP bill if you’ve been prohibited or legally banned from driving for 60 days or more in the billing period. Also, you can apply to ICBC Customer Service for a refund or reduction if, for a minimum of 30 days in a row during the billing period, you:

  • Lived in another province and legally held a driver’s licence there,
  • Were not in Canada or the US,
  • Were in jail, or
  • Had medical reasons for not driving.

You would have to prove your case to ICBC.

Where can you find more information?

  • See the ICBC website at www.icbc.com.
  • If you have any questions about your driver penalty points or how much you owe for the DPP or driver risk premium, call ICBC Customer Contact at 604.661.2800 in the Lower Mainland, or 1.800.663.3051 (toll-free) elsewhere in BC.
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