The BC government recently introduced a bill that would allow driver’s licences to be cancelled when people fall behind on their child or spousal support payments. The legislation, called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, would enable the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) to immediately revoke the licence of anyone owing $3,000 or more in back child support. Attorney General David Eby called the bill a “serious tool”. Our Kyla Lee was critical of the plan, calling it a “tax on the poor”.
Whatever your opinion of the idea, it highlights the fact that ICBC wields tremendous power over citizens. A power that external bodies attempting to recover outstanding fines want to use. ICBC can prevent you from renewing your licence when your old one expires. It can also refuse to issue first-time licences and stop you from renewing your insurance. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is one of the groups seeking to use this influence over debtors. The government-sponsored program is already one of a number of organizations that are able to use ICBC’s power to prevent you from renewing your licence but it is now seeking to extend those powers to be able to take away a licence immediately.
Other groups, include local authorities, are also seeking to make use of ICBC’s power over licensing. The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently appealed to the BC government to use the insurer’s leverage so it can put pressure on people to pay parking tickets. Currently, local governments are virtually powerless to enforce parking fines and the City of Vancouver, for example, is reportedly owed about $6 million in unpaid tickets.[pullquote]”This could lead to the bizarre situation where you are banned from driving before you’ve ever sat behind a wheel”[/pullquote]
Which fines can you negotiate with ICBC and which ones can you not?
There are already a number of third-party organizations that use ICBC’s jurisdiction over licensing in order to get people to pay outstanding fines and debts. A lot of these fees are non-negotiable and there is no recourse to appeal. If you have received a fine from one of these external organizations – ie. one that isn’t ICBC – you either pay it or lose your licence. These fines can result in people owing a lot of money, with no way of paying off the debt or having it reduced. On top of that, the loss of a driver’s licence could mean they lose their job and therefore their means of paying it off.
It is possible, however, to negotiate either a reduction or a payment plan for any fines that are issued by ICBC. All negotiations must be made with the relevant ICBC department and we recommend you hire a lawyer to do this for you. At Acumen Law, we know these processes inside out and have successfully helped clients get back on the road.
The list of fines you must pay in order for ICBC to renew your driver’s licence is too long to go into in depth but they can generally be divided into several categories. This is by no means an exhaustive list and is meant as an overview of the most common reasons people who contact us have had their licences withheld.
Motor vehicle-related debt from violation ticket fines, court fines
These are typically issued for things like running a red light at an intersection or driving without insurance. Unfortunately, you cannot negotiate this kind of debt with ICBC, you must pay the full amount of you want your licence. You can, however, please to ask for a lesser fine in court. Provided you have the circumstances to justify it, this can result in a reduction of the fee or a payment plan. We recommend hiring a lawyer to speak on your behalf for the best chance of success.
If you receive a court fine resulting from a motor vehicle-related Criminal Code of Canada conviction – serious offences such as operating a vehicle in a dangerous manner or causing someone’s death by driving – you must also pay up if you want to renew your licence although people who commit these offences are likely to be subject to other prohibitions already.
ICBC can also hold onto your licence if you do not pay fines related to immediate roadside prohibitions (IRP) and other drunk driving-related penalties.
Family Maintenance Enforcement Program
As previously discussed, FMEP already has the power to stop people who owe outstanding child maintenance from renewing their driver’s licence. The organization is now looking to extend this power to be able to have people’s licences withdrawn immediately.
Golden Ears & Port Mann Bridge tolls
Tolls were removed on Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges just outside of Vancouver in September last year but drivers reportedly still owe as much as $33 million in unpaid fees. Despite the fact the bridges are now toll-free, if you still owe money to the bridges’ operator, TransLink, you could find you are unable to renew your licence.
TransLink infraction fines
If you get fined while using public transport in Metro Vancouver, for entering a fare paid zone without paying for example, and you don’t pay it, you may not be able to obtain or renew your driver’s licence or vehicle insurance.
This could lead to the bizarre situation where you are banned from driving before you’ve even sat behind a wheel. A teenager who is fined on the Skytrain for example and does not pay it could find themselves blocked by the ICBC when they seek to apply for their licence for the first time.
Why you should hire a lawyer
It’s hard to believe but most of the unpaid fines that could prevent ICBC from renewing your licence are not actually set by ICBC. That means if you owe these organizations money, there is no chance of negotiating. Your best bet is to hire a lawyer before it gets to this stage. If you have court fines or have to pay a penalty as the result of an IRP, your only option would be to have the fine overturned or reduced on appeal.
If you are experiencing trouble with ICBC or you face the prospect of not being able to renew your licence, give us a call.