Updated: May 11
What happens if you get caught driving without insurance in Ireland?
Penalties include a fine and possible imprisonment. But it also includes a disqualification from driving.
These are all potential threats.
First of all, jail.
As with drink driving, jail is really only an option for people coming to court for their second, third or subsequent prosecution for no insurance.
In other words, if you’ve been previously convicted of no insurance you are at risk of a custodial sentence.
A sentence here can range up to 6 months.
For most people though this will be their first ever prosecution for no insurance and the potential for jail is extremely low.
But the sanction is there for repeat offenders.
The exception obviously is where a person is being prosecuted for no insurance as well as some other more serious offence, or where the consequences of the driving resulted in serious injury or damage.
Second of all, a disqualification.
If you have been driving without insurance a Judge is supposed to disqualify you from driving unless exceptional circumstances exist.
The disqualification period is 2 years.
Jail is really only an option for people coming to court for their second, third or subsequent prosecution for no insurance.
This really is very serious. Almost everyone needs their car to remain on the road.
What is an exceptional circumstance?
The typical example given is a sudden family emergency where you must rush somebody who has fallen badly ill to hospital.
That circumstance is regarded as an exception.
But few others are.
In almost all cases no such exception exists.
Now it comes down to advocacy.
If this is your first time appearing in court charged with no insurance, you may be able to benefit from a discretion that the Judge has.
The Judge has a discretion not to disqualify you from driving.
This discretion exists for first-time offenders only.
At this stage your solicitor needs to address the court.
They need to tell the Judge why they should not disqualify you from driving.
This aspect requires some work as the Judge has a discretion: they can choose not to disqualify you or they can impose a disqualification.
They absolutely do not have to let you leave court without being disqualified just because you asked them not to.
Asking them not to disqualify you is not a right, it’s a favour.
You’re asking for a favour and like any favour the Judge needs very good reasons why they should grant it.
And if they don’t grant it?
If they don’t exercise their discretion?
You will be disqualified from driving for 2 years.
You can appeal this decision to disqualify you.
This appeal will then take place in the Circuit Court, which is a higher court and will be heard by a different Judge.
Recent evidence suggests that Judges are becoming increasingly tired of people coming to court with “weak” or “non-existent” excuses as to why they drove without insurance.
There is pressure on Judges to come down hard on people who drive without insurance.
So, it’s serious and you need to prepare well for it.