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Can The Police Really Charge Me With Careless Driving When I Wasn’t Driving Carelessly At Any Time?

Question:

I was on highway 401 driving from Toronto to Kitchener. Good roads with little to no traffic. I had a TON of space between myself and the next car and was at the speed limit. I was tired of the music that I was listening to so I popped out the cd I was listening to and put in a new one. While I was looking down at the radio the traffic up ahead of me had stopped. By the time I noticed I braked hard and almost made my stop before hitting the car in front of me. I barely hit it and there was almost no damage. The other driver called the police. When the police arrived they only spoke with the other driver and didn’t get my side of the story. The officer charged me with careless driving. I wasn’t driving carelessly. I had a TON of space between my car and the other guy’s car. I wasn’t speeding. I didn’t swerve between lanes. There were NO injuries and next to nothing for damage. Just some marks on the bumpers which to be honest isn’t even worth putting through insurance. Is this right? Can the police really charge me with carless driving when I wasn’t driving carelessly at any time?

Response:

It sounds like you’ve been charged with Careless Driving under section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act:

130. Every pers is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2009, c. 5, s. 41.

Unfortunately, even small fender-bender collisions such as yours where there is minimal damage and no apparent injuries can result in a Careless Driving charge being issued. Were you driving carelessly? Not necessarily so. Careless Driving cases are one of the most common cases that we assist defendants with. The majority of these matters can be resolved without the need for a full trial. It is also very rare that we require a client to take time away from work or school to attend court.

The first thing to know is that this is a very serious charge to be issued. Although the collision was very minor, a Careless Driving conviction carries very serious consequences. A conviction will result in a record of conviction being added to your driving record along with a 6 demerit point penalty. Depending on your class of licence and any other demerit points issued against you in the last two years, the conviction could result in a driver’s licence suspension. Generally a Careless Driving conviction will also result in no longer qualifying to remain on a standard insurance policy and having to seek out a high risk insurance policy. These policies are very expensive and it may take 3 to 4 years until you qualify for standard insurance coverage again.

Fortunately, these cases are ones that we can almost always avoid going to a conviction as charged. I will need to speak with you in more detail to document the specifics of what occured. A momentary inattention doesn’t necessarily mean that you were driving carelessly. Once we have the matter filed with the court any of the MTO or insurance repercussions will go on hold until the case is resolved and no record of the offence will be visible on your driving record while the matter is before the court.

Any witness statements and police notes will need to be disclosed by the Prosecutor in advance of trial. Generally once those notes have been reviewed we should have a good idea about the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence against you. The first goal will be to see if we can find a sufficient legal argument to have the ticket withdrawn completely. If there is no legal argument to have the charge thrown out completely, then most cases similar to yours can be negotiated down to a lesser minor offence. There is always the possibility that the matter could go to a full trial that may require you to attend court, but those cases are very rare.

Fortunately the cost of legal work for cases such as the one you describe is relatively minor and is cost effective in protecting your interests. We don’t charge a fee to review the basics of a case and provide general information. You can then decide whether you would like to proceed or not in retaining our assistance in your matter without any obligation. I can be reached to discuss your matter in more detail through our toll-free number at 1-844-647-6869 or by email at info@otdlegal.ca.

Posted under Careless Driving, Traffic Ticket Defence

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