Driving Without A Licence | Driving Without Insurance

Some common road traffic offences on the roads in Ireland are set out below together with the penalties and any possible defences.

Driving without insurance is a serious criminal offence

Driving without a licence

This offence is contained in Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 and basically states that you cannot drive or allow another to drive your vehicle in a public place without the driver holding a valid driving licence.

driving” includes managing and controlling (Section 3, Road Traffic Act, 1961)

“‘public place’ means—
(a) any public road, and
(b) any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge;”; (Section 49, Road Traffic Act, 1994)

It must be a mechanically powered vehicle so if your vehicle is broken down or no longer capable of being mechanically propelled then it is exempt.

The only defence to this offence is that the driver holds a valid learner permit for that class of vehicle.

It is a defence for an employer who is prosecuted for employing a person without a licence to show that the driver had an effective learner permit.

It is important to note that both the driver and owner are liable on conviction and the penalties include 2 penalty points on payment of the fixed charge; if you don’t pay the fixed charge penalty the penalty is 5 points on conviction in court.

Driving without insurance

This is covered by sect. 56 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 which was substituted by sect. 34 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.

34.—The Principal Act is amended by substituting for section 56 the following:
“56.—(1) A person (in this subsection referred to as the user) shall not use in a public place a mechanically propelled vehicle unless—
(a) either a vehicle insurer or an exempted person would be liable for injury caused by the negligent use of the vehicle, by him or her at that time, or
(b) there is in force at that time an approved policy of insurance whereby the user or some other person who would be liable for injury caused by the negligent use of the vehicle at that time by the user, is insured against all sums, subject to subsection (2) of this section, without limit, which the user or his or her personal representative or such other person or his or her personal representative becomes liable to pay to any person (exclusive of the excepted persons) by way of damages or costs on account of injury to person or property caused by the negligent use of the vehicle at that time by the user.

It is noteworthy that this offence can be proved even if you are only parking the vehicle as the offence states that ‘a person shall not use in a public place..’ so this does not require ‘driving’ for the offence to be proved.


If you are the owner of the vehicle which is the subject of the legal proceedings it is a good defence to show that the vehicle was being used by the driver without your consent.

If you are the driver of the vehicle and you do not have a valid insurance policy for that vehicle, it can be a good defence to show that you were acting on the express instructions of the owner (perhaps your employer).

Of course it is a good defence to show that you had in fact a valid insurance policy which you can produce later in the Garda station or court.

There are stiff penalties for driving without insurance including 6 months in jail or a fine up to £5,000.

If you are brought before a court on this charge and it is your first offence, the court has the discretion not to impose a consequential disqualification if it decides that you have a special reason for driving without insurance.

But a second or further offence for this charge will lead to an automatic disqualification for at least 2 years.

This offence will also lead to 5 penalty points for you and even if it is your first offence and the court uses it’s discretion not to impose a disqualification you will still get the 5 penalty points on your licence.

The Burden of Proof re Driving Without Insurance

It is worth noting that once a Garda asks you for production of your insurance certificate and you fail to do so, the evidential burden of proof shifts to you to prove that you had insurance in place at the time of the alleged offence. See below.

Section 56 (4) of the Road Traffic Act, 1961:

(4) Where, in a prosecution for an offence under this section, it is shown that, a demand having been made under section 69 of this Act,—
(a) the person on whom the demand was made refused or failed to produce a certificate of insurance, certificate of guarantee or certificate of exemption then and there, or
(b) such person, having duly produced such certificate consequent upon the demand, refused or failed to permit the member of the Garda Síochána to whom such certificate was produced to read and examine it,
it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown by the defendant, that the vehicle was being used in contravention of this section.

This is part of the road traffic offences series.

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