Nova Scotia

Man, son fight driving suspensions without convictions

A Dartmouth man is accusing the provincial Registrar of Motor Vehicles of an abuse of power after he and his son both had their driver's licences suspended, even though they weren't convicted of driving infractions.

Dartmouth man says Registrar of Motor Vehicles mistreated the family

Paul and Coady Craig both had their driver's licences suspended, even though they weren't convicted of driving infractions. (CBC)

A Dartmouth man has won a partial victory in his battle with the provincial Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

Coady Craig's MLA received an email this morning saying his new driver status was extended in error, and that the condition would be lifted immediately. But Craig still can't drive any other vehicle for at least another year.

The development comes hours after his family's story was first broadcast on the CBC.

Craig's father, Paul Craig, accused the provincial Registrar of Motor Vehicles of an abuse of power after he and his son both had their driver's licences suspended, even though they weren't convicted of driving infractions.

Paul Craig said the dispute over the suspension and reinstatement of their driver's licences began last July, when the family decided to change insurance companies. The transfer was delayed by one day.

Coady Craig was unaware of the change and drove his father's Jeep. He was hit by another driver and received a ticket for failing to provide valid insurance.

Four months later, the ticket was dismissed when the family explained their situation in court. Both father and son thought the incident was over.

In December, when Coady Craig applied to have the newly-licensed driver status taken off his licence, he was told his licence was suspended because of the insurance ticket.

"I never received a letter, a call, email, anything of the sort," he said.

The family said they took a copy of the court ruling to the provincial Registrar of Motor Vehicles but that didn't change the suspension.

"A court of law decided but this gentleman, because of the power he has, his say is more than that. That is an abuse of power," said Paul Craig.

"The biggest problem is there's nobody to hold him accountable. At the end of the day, this kid did nothing wrong. The accident wasn't his fault. The ticket itself and the infraction was thrown out of the courts without prejudice."

Father's licence also suspended

Paul Craig said he then complained to Driver and Vehicle Compliance Services on behalf of his son, only to receive a registered letter 24 hours later, notifying him that his licence was also suspended.

"If you stick up for your child, they're going to punish you," said Craig. "They're completely autonomous, they can do what they want."

The men had a one-on-one meeting with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who gave them their licences back. But Coady Craig's licence came with conditions — he could only drive his father's car and he has to keep the newly-licensed driver status on his licence for two more years.

That newly-licensed driver status was reversed Friday.

Coady Craig, who is a furniture mover, was offered a job as a driver that he had to turn down.

"It's a lot more responsibility but a lot more money too, so it's a really big step. Guaranteed work rather than working seasonal, which I was very exciting for and worked as hard as I could to get," he said.

"That single-vehicle restriction, I can't drive company vehicles because I'm restricted to the Jeep."

Registrar 'following the act'

Paul Arsenault, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, couldn't comment on the Craig case because of privacy laws.

He said in general, there are two separate processes that are allowed in the Motor Vehicle act that can lead to the suspension of a licence. One covers police charges.

"There is another provision in the act which allows, where the registrar is convinced that there is no insurance in place for the vehicle, that allows this same type of suspension to occur," he said.

This provision is exclusive of any court processes, and isn't influenced by convinctions for tickets, or tickets being thrown out.

Arsenault said his office processes about 16,000 collisions a year. If anyone involved in those crashes – regardless if they're at fault – doesn't have insurance, they are sent a letter by the office telling the drivers they have two weeks to provide proof of insurance.

The Craig family said they never received notification. But Arsenault said it's up to drivers to make sure their home address is current. If drivers don't provide proof of insurance within two weeks, they are suspended.

"All the act is concerned about is at the time of the collision, was the vehicle insured, yes or no," said Arsenault. "The act says that we have to suspend them."

Arsenault said the rules have been in place for many years, and it's up to the provincial government to change them.

In 2010, a man from Mount Uniacke also complained about the registry because his licence was revoked after receiving a ticket but he, too, was never convicted. It took Lee Wilbur two years to get his licence back.

After that case, the province created the Motor Vehicle Appeal Board to appeal certain decisions made by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

The Craigs say they can't use the appeal board because they don't have the money to hire a lawyer.