Suppose that Bob steals Alice's wallet, which contains her driver license, from her purse. She does not notice that he did this.

Alice, thinking that her wallet is still in her purse (she has no reason to suspect otherwise), then gets in her car and drives. She is pulled over, cannot find her license, and is ticketed for driving without a license (assume this is in a jurisdiction where it is an infraction to not have the original government-issued document on one's person while driving). She is then required to pay a fine.

Later, evidence is found proving that Bob had stolen Alice's wallet, and he is convicted for theft. In addition to any other claims Alice may have against Bob for the theft, can she sue him for the amount of the fine that she had to pay due to his crime?

  • 2
    It seems it would be easier to appeal the fine than sue the thief. Nov 19, 2023 at 6:24
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    If such a law exists, it certainly is the drivers obligation to check whether they have a license when starting to drive the car. "I thought I did" is never a good defense. Did someone manage to steal Alice's purse while she was driving?
    – nvoigt
    Nov 19, 2023 at 9:17
  • 1
    @nvoigt if Alice was a bus driver, that actually might be possible...
    – Trish
    Nov 19, 2023 at 9:38
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    ""I thought I did" is never a good defense." To the contrary, for the vast majority of crimes "I thought I did" is a good defense. Strict liability offenses for which it is not a good defense are the rare exception and are usually petty in nature like traffic violations with smaller fines.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 19, 2023 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


Probably not

Bob did not cause Alice to drive without a licence. Alice chose to get in the car without first checking she had her licence with her. Bob's not responsible for that. In general, seeking protection from lawful punishment from a third party is considered to be against public policy: you do the crime, you do the time - not Bob.

If the law obligates Alice to ensure she has her licence, then that's on her. If it requires her to have it, but it's a defence to have a reasonable excuse, then Alice should argue that in court. If she doesn't, or she does and loses, then Alice's excuse that Bob stole her licence is not reasonable.

Obviously, it depends on the judge, but failing to check you actually have your licence would not be considered reasonable in . As well as your plastic licence, you can also get an electronic one on your phone, and who goes anywhere without their phone?

I know from personal experience that not checking that a vehicle has insurance and registration is not reasonable. Company car that the person responsible had forgotten to renew. I drove it without checking. The authorities took the view that I should have checked - it can be done online and takes less than a minute. Basically, it was my obligation to know it was registered. They did kindly only make me pay the fine for not being insured.

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