Fail to Surrender Insurance Card

By Frank Alfano

How to Defend a Fail to Surrender Insurance card TrialThere are times when it’s not worth hiring someone. That’s not entirely true as prevention is better than cure, but to be fair, I’m not sure I’d hire me for this one. 

I want to start our blog with the Fail to Surrender Insurance Card. Specifically, we had a driver get pulled over, and he surrendered an expired insurance card. They had insurance but forgot to replace the slip with the new insurance slip. The police officer verified that the Defendant did have insurance. That didn’t stop him from getting charged with Fail to Surrender Insurance Card contrary to section 3(1) of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act.

Now, we’ll discuss in a minute the law on the subject and the approach I would take

The Law on the Issue

The Compulsory Automobile Insuract, s. 3(1) says:

Operator to carry an insurance card

(1) An operator of a motor vehicle on a highway shall have in the motor vehicle at all 


(a) an insurance card for the motor vehicle; or

(b) an insurance card evidencing that the operator is insured under a contract of automobile insurance, and the operator shall surrender the insurance card for reasonable inspection upon the demand of a police officer. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 3 (1).

s. 1 has the following relevant definitions:

Insurance Card

“insurance card” means,

(a) a Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card in the form approved by the Superintendent,

(b) a policy of automobile insurance or a certificate of a policy in the form approved by the Superintendent, or

(c) a document in a form approved by the Superintendent; (“carte d’assurance”)

•               Highway, motor vehicle or Operator are not in issue and therefore not reproduced here.

Elements of the Offence


The prosecution needs to prove the following:


= Date, time, jurisdiction (City where this occurred)

= Driver who is Defendant was driving a motor vehicle

= On a Highway (Public roadway)

= Police initiated a stop

=demand was made for the document

= It either was not surrendered, or the slip which the driver offered lacked some validity

Some of these can branch off into other things, and we could spend hours going over them in detail. I will focus on significant points.


Anticipated Evidence


           In Chief


The officer should say that he asked for an insurance card, and the driver surrendered an expired insurance card. This evidence will be in addition to the usual date, time, jurisdiction and other such requirements.


Of salient importance is that he asked, and he got one. We don’t care about the date it says it expired. If he doesn’t say he asked for it, then it’s a motion for no evidence as it is only required by the demand and not just any demand, one made to a driver.


If she wasn’t an operator or on a highway, the same thing, while the focus is on what is outlined below, always bear in mind the elements.


The Cross-Examination


Follow this exactly!!!


• Officer, you told us that you were provided with a card but expired, correct?



• The card had the insurance company’s name on it, correct?



• The card had the policy number from the insurer on it, correct?



• The card had the named insured on it, correct?



• The card had the Vehicle Identification number on it, correct?



• That was the same motor vehicle being driven by the Defendant, correct?



• The card had the standard insurance regulation language on it, correct?



• The card also had the contact information for the insurer, correct?



• Despite the expiry date, the card provided you with sufficient information regarding the fact that the vehicle was insured, correct?



• Had you had any doubts; you could have verified coverage with a phone call, correct?



• In addition to the options I’ve just outlined, you now have the technology to confirm coverage on your police computer, correct?



• You can run a plate, and it can tell you if it’s confirmed or not confirmed, correct?



• You charged the Defendant with failing to surrender insurance card NOT driving without insurance, correct?



• You let the Defendant drive away, right?



• So, you had no concern that the vehicle was insured because you let them drive away, correct?



• So, let me make sure I have this correctly. You stopped the Defendant, asked for documents, 1 of which was an insurance card, you got one, it had the insurance company, the insured, the vehicle, you were satisfied there was insurance as a result of your investigation, and you let the car drive away. Correct?


* While the example above focuses on an expired card, often we have cards from a previous card (for in between getting a new car and the old one). You can modify the cross accordingly for that situation. Was a card surrendered, did it have a policy, etc.



(Closing Argument)


The act requires that an operator who I’ll refer to as a driver of a motor vehicle on a highway surrender upon demand of an officer, an insurance card. We must take a modern approach to statutory interpretation. The approach must be contextual and purposive. The legislation intended to make it easy for the officer to verify coverage on vehicles. The purpose of the legislation was met. Defendant provided the card to the officer, which contained all the information he/she required to satisfy themselves the motor vehicle in question was insured. To convict this Defendant in THESE circumstances renders meaningless the purpose of the statute. 


Is the interest to make sure proof of insurance is provided and verified or ensure perfection in documents?  Indeed, it must be that the purpose is to make it easy for an officer to verify the coverage, which was done. The ultimate point is that the officer made a demand for the card, received a card, the card satisfied him the vehicle was insured, and as a result, he let the Defendant drive away, something he wouldn’t do had there been an issue.


Respectfully I ask for an acquittal as it is the only just result.

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