Section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 stipulates that anyone who has use of, allows or permits another person to use, a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place to have a minimum of third party insurance cover in place.
This driving without insurance offences page covers everything you may need to know in order to understand the offence and defend any allegations made against you. There is a lot of content, but please scroll down to the section or sections relevant to your circumstances.
Driving With No Insurance & The Law
It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle without a valid certificate of insurance in place that covers you to drive that vehicle on that particular occasion.
No Insurance Offence Penalties:
|Fixed Penalty||6 Penalty Points|
|Points for No Insurance||6 – 8|
|Maximum Fine for No Insurance||Unlimited|
|Disqualification||Possible Discretionary ban|
Driving With No Insurance Offence Code: IN10 stays on your driving record for 4 years from the date of the offence
Caught Driving With No Insurance? – This Video Explains Everything You Need To Know
Caught Driving With No Insurance?
The Magistrates Court treats driving uninsured very seriously. This is because of the implications were you to have an accident without having a valid policy in place to cover third parties.
All the prosecution need to prove therefore, for you to be found guilty of driving uninsured, is that you were driving a motor vehicle and were on a public road when the alleged offence occurred.
The burden of proof passes to the Defendant (you) to prove that you were insured at the time you were driving. Because this is a documentary offence, you are expected to be able to make your policy documentation available.
It would be virtually impossible for the prosecution to prove that you were not insured.
This is because, they would have to contact every policy provider in the country. Additionally, they would need to use their insurance database in order to establish that there was no valid policy of cover in place.
Driving with no insurance is one of the only road traffic offences where the defendant has to prove anything.
Your Complete Guide To Driving With No Insurance & The Law
We have updated this page to give away more information about our advice and approach to dealing with no insurance cases.
Whilst we are reluctant to enable other lawyers to become better at dealing with these cases based on us sharing our expertise, we believe that it is in the best interests of the public looking for information and guidance and our potential clients, to give away as much advice as possible to enable you to be able to see how good we are at dealing with these types of cases and to enable you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you have a potential defence and whether or not you need our help.
As is normally the case there is a big difference between having the correct understanding of the law and being able to get others (the police / Crown Prosecution Service / magistrates court) to agree.
We often speak to individuals who, by doing their own research and gaining an understanding from our website, have gone to court and raised sensible legal arguments in relation to their own cases which have then fallen on deaf ears.
This doesn’t mean that the argument wasn’t correct, it normally means that the individual wasn’t listened to.
We wish that there was more equality of arms for unrepresented defendants in the courtroom and that people did not always have to employ lawyers to raise a perfectly legitimate arguments on their own behalf, but unfortunately lawyers often only want to talk to other lawyers in the court room and many people that we have spoken to who tried to represent themselves with perfectly legitimate arguments have failed simply because the court did not listen to what they were actually saying, not because what they were saying was wrong.
It’s also important to be able to talk using the correct legal terminology rather than simply applying common sense. Common sense and a correct interpretation / application of the law as it currently stands are not necessarily one and the same thing.
Contractual / Civil Law Overlap in Criminal Allegations of Driving With No Insurance
It’s our firm belief that we are absolutely the leading experts in assessing and if appropriate defending driving with no insurance allegations.
We constantly encounter scenarios where there is a real gap in knowledge and understanding on the part of other lawyers / prosecutors as well as police officers in relation to this particular offence. Perhaps more than any other offence.
It has always been perceived that no insurance offences are black and white. You either have insurance or you don’t. If you don’t have insurance then arguing that you did not mean to drive without insurance is no defence and therefore you have no choice but to plead guilty.
It is correct to suggest that there is no need for the prosecution to prove that you had a guilty mind, that you meant to commit the offence.
This is what we call a strict liability offence. However, this does not make no insurance offences black-and-white or simplistic. It’s quite the contrary.
Examples of the most common insurance contract scenarios we encounter;
You have insurance but the police officer suggests that it is not ‘valid’ because of reasons to do with you or the vehicle.
We often speak to clients who have been accused of driving with no insurance because (despite having what seems to be a valid insurance policy in place at the time that covers them to drive that particular vehicle) the officer has suggested that the policy would not be valid. The officer is normally incorrect.
Insurance is nearly always valid for the purposes of the no insurance legislation until it actually been voided/cancelled.
So, for example, if an officer was to call your insurance company at the roadside in order to point out their concerns (for example somebody driving without the correct licence or perhaps with a modification that the officer thinks the insurance company would not be aware of) then your insurance company may well agree with the officer that the insurance would not be valid.
This will sometimes result in the cancellation of your insurance policy with immediate effect. The cancellation would, however, only have effect into the future and not retrospective effect. Therefore there is a valid argument that at the time the person was driving they were still insured.
Often the police officer and an insurance company are talking at cross purposes in this type of scenario.
There may well be a contractual term in the policy that suggests that your insurance would not be valid or it would be a breach of contract to drive without the correct licence, or perhaps with a modification that the insurance company were not aware of, however this does not necessarily mean that your policy of insurance is void in relation to third party liability.
In order to satisfy your responsibilities in relation to the offence of driving with no insurance an individual has to be insured to the minimum standard.
The minimum standard is third party cover.
There are specific provisions in the road traffic act that stipulate for the purposes of the minimum level of cover certain conditions put into insurance policies are automatically void.
Most lawyers and law enforcement officers that consider the Road Traffic Act of 1988 fail to look beyond the offence of driving with no insurance under section 143 when considering whether or not somebody would be insured to the minimum standard.
To be a good lawyer you have to look beyond this and also consider the contractual responsibilities of insurance companies.
It’s very rare that an insurance policy that is in place at the relevant time and has not yet been cancelled by your insurance company would be automatically void and that this would therefore enable the insurance company to renege on their responsibilities to meet the bill in relation to any third party damage claim.
Void insurance conditions for the purposes of meeting third party liability
Have a look at section 148 road traffic act 1988. This stipulate that any condition in the policy which suggests that the policy would be automatically void as a result of the following factors;
(a) the age or physical or mental condition of persons driving the vehicle,
(b) the condition of the vehicle,
(c) the number of persons that the vehicle carries,
(d) the weight or physical characteristics of the goods that the vehicle carries,
(e) the time at which or the areas within which the vehicle is used,
(f) the horsepower or cylinder capacity or value of the vehicle,
(g) the carrying on the vehicle of any particular apparatus, or
(h) the carrying on the vehicle of any particular means of identification other than any means of identification required to be carried by or under [F2 the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994],
is to be treated as void for the purposes of third party liability. Therefore if there was to be an accident and damages were to be claimed by a third party an insurance company would be obliged to meet that claim in accordance with section 148.
That does not mean that the insurance company could not then sue the policyholder for breach of contract retrospectively (we are not civil litigation lawyers).
However it means that there is valid insurance in place that must cover any claim in relation to third party liability, thus the minimum standard, therefore satisfying an individuals responsibilities under section 143 to be insured to the minimum standard and therefore a defence to an allegation of driving with no insurance.
Never take a suggestion that despite having a policy that is active at the relevant time it would be automatically void without speaking to us first.
We estimate that over 90% of the people we speak to in this scenario do have a valid defence. We normally manage to get these cases dropped without the need for a trial.
Special Reasons No Insurance
For some no insurance offences there may well be exceptional circumstances that led you to drive without insurance. These are ‘special reasons’ which can reduce your penalty or even negate it completely in some instances.
If you don’t have a defence then you will probably have a special reasons argument to avoid the points and to try and persuade the court to give you an absolute discharge.
Special reasons can be found on the basis that you had an honest and reasonable misapprehension that you were insured even if the insurance isn’t valid or has already been cancelled. See More about using special reasons here
Examples; Police officers will often suggest (ignoring or in ignorance of this section of the road traffic act) that your insurance is not valid because you don’t have an MOT, because the vehicle has been modified without the insurance company knowing (stretched tyres, different exhaust, Turbo added etc), this suggestion would rarely be correct and always warrants further investigation.
Think about the example with vehicles driven by young people that have a black box installed. These often stipulate that young drivers can only drive between certain hours and often within certain geographical restrictions. Looking at section 148 this would be a void condition for the purposes of third party liability.
The officer suggests your insurance is void because of a problem with your driving licence, for example driving not in accordance with your licence (no L-plates or supervision) or driving whilst disqualified.
Section 151 road traffic act 1988 deals with this scenario. It’s very similar to section 148. It stipulates that insurance is valid until voided and the insurance company would be obliged to satisfy any claim to the minimum standard even if the driver was in breach of a specific contract term stipulating that you have to have a valid driving licence at the time you are driving and you have to be driving in accordance with the terms of that licence.
Again your insurance company would be obliged to meet any claim for third-party liability, but from a civil law point of view the insurance company may then be able to sue the policyholder for breach of contract and their loss would be the value of any claim that they were forced to meet as a result of the stipulations and of the road traffic act.
The wording is complicated but see the following;
151 Duty of insurers or persons giving security to satisfy judgment against persons insured or secured against third-party risks.
(1)This section applies where, after [F1a policy or security is issued or given for the purposes of this Part of this Act,] a judgment to which this subsection applies is obtained.
(2)Subsection (1) above applies to judgments relating to a liability with respect to any matter where liability with respect to that matter is required to be covered by a policy of insurance under section 145 of this Act and either—
(a)it is a liability covered by the terms of the policy or security F2…, and the judgment is obtained against any person who is insured by the policy or whose liability is covered by the security, as the case may be, or
(b)it is a liability, other than an excluded liability, which would be so covered if the policy insured all persons or, as the case may be, the security covered the liability of all persons, and the judgment is obtained against any person other than one who is insured by the policy or, as the case may be, whose liability is covered by the security.
(3)In deciding for the purposes of subsection (2) above whether a liability is or would be covered by the terms of a policy or security, so much of the policy or security as purports to restrict, as the case may be, the insurance of the persons insured by the policy or the operation of the security by reference to the holding by the driver of the vehicle of a licence authorising him to drive it shall be treated as of no effect.
Breach of contract is not the same as driving with no insurance. The civil law and the criminal law are very different.
Normally we are dealing with hypothetical scenarios where someone has been stopped but there has been no accident the question is what if that person had had an accident, would the insurance company have been forced to indemnify them?
The police have suggested that your insurance is invalid / voided and the insurance company have given a statement in agreement with this suggestion
Sometimes we deal with cases where the officer has suggested that the insurance is automatically void despite on the face of it, the individual being insured.
Often the officer has made this suggestion for one of the reasons outlined above and the insurance company will have given a statement in the proceedings to support that contention.
Again specialist motoring offence lawyers never forget the overlap between civil law and criminal law. If we reach the conclusion that the police and the insurance company are wrong and that had there have been an accident the insurance company would have been obliged to indemnify the driver as a result of their contractual obligations, then we are effectively dealing with a situation where there is a contract dispute and whether or not you have committed a road traffic offence of driving with no insurance depends on whether or not the stance of your insurance company is correct in relation to the special rules applying to the insurance and general contract principles.
If the insurance company are wrong then they are in breach of contract and causing you to be in trouble with the criminal law as a direct result. Assessing contractual obligations and whether or not a contract would be binding is not a matter for the criminal courts. It is a civil law issue.
Sometimes we have to point this out to the court if on the face of it the stance being taken amounts to a potential breach of contract. If you follow this to its logical extreme it would suggest that proceedings should be issued in the civil courts in order for a determination to be reached as to whether or not the insurance company are in breach of contract by failing to honour the terms and conditions of the contract by giving a statement to the police to suggest that you would be uninsured in the circumstances.
They are effectively stating that their interpretation of the contract means that you would not have been covered.
We’ve not had a case where we’ve had to test this principle to that logical extreme, but it is certainly fair to say that the correct venue to assess a breach of contract argument would not be in the magistrates / criminal courts.
It is our view that if such a dispute arises the criminal proceedings should be put on hold whilst civil proceedings are instigated for a determination as to whether or not the insurance company are in breach of their contract by making that suggestion in the criminal proceedings.
The burden of proof in no insurance cases
Historically the police and the Crown Prosecution Service have always enjoyed the benefit of section 101 Magistrates Courts Act 1980 when it comes to no insurance allegations.
This section stipulates that in relation to various types of offences where the defendant relies on a document e.g. insurance certificate, qualification, licence etc. in order to establish a defence, then the burden of proof reverses.
Normally the burden is on the prosecution to prove every element of an alleged offence beyond reasonable doubt. If this principle was to apply to no insurance offences then the police and the Crown Prosecution Service would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the vehicle was not insured at the relevant time.
The motor insurance bureau database is not always accurate. Placing the burden of proof on the prosecution and the police to show that you were not insured beyond reasonable doubt would therefore be onerous.
The principle behind section 101 magistrates courts act 1980 is that it would be easier for the defendant to prove they were insured then it would be for the police and prosecution to prove that they weren’t.
However, there is case law that undermines this reversal of the burden of proof when someone is able to show that on the face of it they were insured.
Social and Domestic Insurance Policy Used For A Business Journey
So for example, if someone has a social and domestic insurance policy covering the use of that vehicle by them on that particular date and it is suggested by the prosecution that the nature of the usage was not in accordance with the specific terms and conditions of the policy, (so a social and domestic policy where it is suggested by the officer that the vehicle is being used for business purposes at the time the driver is pulled over) the burden reverts back to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the insurance policy would not have covered the individual to do what they were doing, rather than the burden being on the driver to prove that it would have covered them.
Therefore if you can establish prima facie evidence of insurance cover the burden goes back to the Crown prosecution service to prove that the policy would not have covered the driver in those particular circumstances.
The police do not seem to have appreciated this change / shift in no insurance offence case law.
This often means that they do not go to the necessary lengths to establish proof in relation to what it is the individual is doing at the relevant time and in order to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they would not have been covered if the matter was to proceed to trial.
What does it mean to ‘use’ a motor vehicle without insurance
This often causes confusion. The normal assumption is that the prosecution have to prove that the vehicle was being driven by somebody at the relevant time in order for that person to be guilty of ‘using’ the vehicle without insurance.
It’s not that simple. ‘Use’ can mean ‘to have use of’ the vehicle. Therefore we will occasionally see cases where the vehicle is parked outside a house on the road and the owner and registered keeper of the vehicle inside the house is accused of ‘using’ the vehicle with no insurance, which carries between six and eight penalty points and a hefty fine.
In this scenario the police could have chosen to prosecute for keeping the vehicle without insurance which does not carry penalty points. Under the compulsory insurance rules a vehicle has to be insured or declared off-road (SORN) otherwise the keeper of the vehicle is guilty of an offence.
The police tend to choose this option if they have received reports that the vehicle is being used but they don’t actually catch the driver in the act. Also the owner / keeper (don’t always assume they are one and the same person) could be accused of ‘using’ the vehicle with no insurance even if they were simply a passenger in the vehicle when pulled over.
This would again be on the basis of ‘having use of’ the vehicle at the relevant time.
Keeping a vehicle without insurance
This is a non-endorsable offence that is normally prosecuted by the DVLA rather than the police. It does not carry penalty points and again is strict liability.
A vehicle has to be insured or declared off-road otherwise an offence occurs. Again, it doesn’t matter whether or not you meant to do it.
The prosecution do not have to prove that you did mean to do it in order for you to be found guilty. We do not advise in relation to these offences. We are not able to build up any expertise where there is no risk of disqualification / penalty points.
People don’t generally want to instruct lawyers where the only risk is financial. Clearly it makes no sense to pay a lawyer more in fees than the fine itself.
Unfortunately if you do have an allegation of keeping a vehicle without insurance we are unable to offer any particular expertise and it probably would not be worthwhile instructing a lawyer to act on your behalf in any event unless you feel particularly strongly and accept that you are likely to end up out of pocket even if you defend yourself.
Permitting somebody to drive without insurance
It is an offence under section 143 road traffic act 1988 to permit somebody to drive a vehicle without insurance. In order for you to be convicted the prosecution have to prove that you did give somebody permission to drive your vehicle with no insurance and that the vehicle was driven by that person on a road or in a public place.
This type of offence tends to arise in two different scenarios. The police will often allege this offence when you nominate somebody else as being the driver of your vehicle at the time alleged and you are unable to prove that they were insured.
Nominating A Non UK Resident As The Driver
The most common scenario is when you nominate someone who is not resident in the UK and you are unable to produce a policy to show that they would have been covered to drive your vehicle. There is something of an irony to this allegation when an individual has nominated somebody from abroad.
The police do not generally believe that the individual concerned would have actually been driving. However it is difficult for the police to prove that the individual nominated was not the driver. The absence of identification evidence explains why the request for driver information was made in the first place.
You Are Required To Prove The Driver Was Insured
Over the years the police have developed a practice of requiring proof that the person concerned was in fact insured. If you have nominated this person as being the driver and you cannot prove that they had insurance at the time then the police will often pursue an allegation of permitting them to drive with no insurance rather than charging you with failing to name the driver based on the assumption that the initial nomination was incorrect.
The rationale behind this is most likely to do with the burden of proof. If you were to be charged with failing to provide the driver then the prosecution would have to prove the person you nominated was not driving at the time.
Whereas if you are charged with permitting that person to drive with no insurance and then (due to the reverse burden of proof in relation to the documentary defences – see above) you would have to prove on the balance of probabilities that they were insured.
The position on the part of the police seems disingenuous, but effectively what they are saying is that they will accept that the individual concerned was driving at face value but they still require you to prove that the individual concerned was road legal.
Permitting somebody to drive with no insurance carries 6 to 8 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification and is almost identical to driving the vehicle without insurance yourself in terms of the relevant sanctions available.
Permission Wasn’t Given
One of the most common defences to permitting somebody to drive with no insurance is to argue that the permission was never given, for example if somebody takes your vehicle without permission or someone else within the household has given permission without your knowledge. This would be a defence.
Also, if when giving permission you make it a prerequisite that the person concerned has to be insured and they confirm that they are, but later it transpires that they weren’t, you can argue that you did not give them permission to drive without insurance and that you only gave them permission to drive with insurance.
It would then be for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt otherwise for you to be convicted.
Many people get caught out with the belief that their fully comprehensive insurance covers them to drive another vehicle owned by someone else, with their permission.
This is because, lots of fully comprehensive insurance policies don’t provide this type of cover automatically.
Comprehensive cover inclusions can also be dependent on the age of the policy holder and the vehicle being driven.
Therefore, it goes without saying that you should read your insurance policy documentation carefully. You need to understand any restrictions that may apply.
Hence, you will be sure that every time you drive your vehicle or someone else’s that you are properly insured.
Special reasons can be found on the basis that you had an honest and reasonable misapprehension that you were insured even if the insurance isn’t valid or has already been cancelled.
This would normally be with relation to the circumstances in which you were driving at the time; Namely that you were driving under the genuine misapprehension that you were insured.
Magistrates have the discretion not to impose any penalty points on your licence if you successfully argue that there are special reasons involved.
If you have been misled by your insurance company or somebody else regarding the nature and specifics of your cover, you can establish ‘Special reasons’.
Assuming of course that this led you to believe that you were properly insured when you were driving.
You may also be able to use a ‘special reasons argument’ if your insurance company cancelled the policy without good reason and failed to notify you in advance of the offence occurring.
In order to successfully argue ‘special reasons’, you will need to support your argument giving evidence under oath.
It is also necessary to provide documentary evidence in order to support your defence. (see our comprehensive information page about using special reasons arguments)
There are not very many legal defences for driving uninsured.
The one real defence is to either argue that you were not driving, or that you were insured.
It is not a valid defence to ‘believe that you were insured’.
This is because, driving uninsured is a strict liability offence.
This additionally means that whether you meant to commit the offence or whether it was an oversight on your part – if you did not have a valid insurance policy, you are guilty.
If you are driving in the course of your employment and can demonstrate that your employer was responsible for insuring you, and additionally, that you believed that there was proper cover in place then you may well have a legitimate defence.
Do you need advice about an uninsured driving offence?
We can help you to successfully defend your no insurance allegation;
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Latest figures show 1/2 million motorists prosecuted between 2011 – 2014 for no car insurance offences
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