I was shopping in the United States and was given a speeding ticket in Washington state. I hold a B.C. driver's licence and am insured in B.C. Do I have to pay the U.S. ticket? Are there any consequences if I don't pay? – Tasnim in Surrey, B.C.
Not all Canadians are as successful south of the border as Justin Bieber, or as lucky. Supposedly he's been stopped by traffic police and let off – three times.
It won't surprise you that according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon, a Canadian driver who receives a speeding ticket in Washington has three options: pay by mail, request a remediation hearing, or head down and contest it through the courts. You may have left your inhibitions at the border, but you still have responsibilities.
But what if you did choose to do nothing?
"We create a record for that driver in our system and add the citation to their record. When it's reported to us that it's unpaid, we suspend that individual's driving privilege here in Washington. If the driver was to return and get pulled over, they would run a status check and find out that individual was driving with a suspended driving privilege, which is essentially equivalent to driving without a licence," says Washington State Department of Licensing spokesman Brad Benfield.
What happens when you're caught with a suspended driving privilege may depend on the discretion of the law enforcement officer who pulls you over.
"I can't talk for our county sheriffs or city police, but the troopers we do give a lot of discretion. If the suspended driver operating the vehicle is travelling with other people they may be allowed to continue on, but that particular individual may no longer drive in Washington state. If travelling alone, that individual may need to have someone come and pick them up, or have their vehicle towed. We will not, however, just leave someone on the side of the road," says Coon.
You could encounter trouble crossing the border if you're operating a vehicle and have a suspended driving privilege in the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection "strongly advise you to pay your traffic tickets, particularly moving violations. While unpaid tickets would not subject you to arrest unless a warrant is issued, you may be subject to a more intensive inspection if your record is not clear."
Even if you don't plan on heading south again, there are consequences to an unpaid U.S. ticket. "In prior years it was, 'How are they going to get me?' but a recent law allows the courts to use collection agencies if you fail to pay your fine. You'll receive notification that your fine has been submitted to a collection agency, who will recoup the monies," says Coon.
According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), B.C. does not have a reciprocal agreement with Washington for traffic violations, so a cross-border speeding ticket would not affect your driver's record or insurance in B.C. A criminal driving offence, however, is another matter.
ICBC adds: "When information is received from the U.S. that a driver has been convicted of an offence equivalent to a Canadian Criminal Code driving offence, the offence would be added to the driver's record in B.C. and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles would take action against the driver equivalent to the punishment for that offence in B.C."
It's a good time to wheel out the old cliché: if you do the crime, you should pay the fine.
If the reasons above haven't convinced you, take note that the delinquency can also affect your credit record if the collection agency reports it. On top of everything else, it would be a shame if you were refused at the checkout on your next shopping trip.