Driving a vehicle in Ontario can either be for fun, to fulfill responsibilities like driving to work, or it can be necessary for you employment especially if you are a commercial motor vehicle driver. Being able to legally drive is an incredible freedom that allows you do to a wide variety of activities that would else wise be impossible or much more difficult without that freedom.
Two of the key requirements in being able to legally drive in Ontario are having a valid driver’s licence and also having valid insurance coverage for the vehicle that you are driving. Failing to have either can result in you being charged by the police and facing severe consequences at court. A conviction may also impact your driver’s licence and insurance costs. If you lost your licence or could no longer get affordable insurance, how would that impact your day-to-day life or employment? These are important issues for you to be aware of. This week we’re going to take a look at insurance related offences.
Let’s take a look!
Insurance Requirements For Ontario
In Ontario, the main laws surrounding vehicle insurance are found within the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act. The vehicle that you are driving needs to be properly insured by a valid insurance policy and you must carry proof of that valid insurance. If you are stopped by the police, you may be requested to provide proof of your insurance coverage.
There are two main insurance charges that are commonly issued. The first is failing to provide proof of insurance to the police when requested to do so. The second is the much more severe offence of driving without valid insurance.
Fail To Surrender Valid Insurance Card
If you are stopped by the police while driving a vehicle, you may be requested to provide proof of your vehicle’s insurance. Generally people may refer to this as your vehicle’s ‘pink slip’ or ‘insurance card.’ The insurance card includes information such as your insurance company, policy number, the valid period of insurance coverage, as well as identifying information for the insured vehicle.
Section 3(1) of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA) states that:
Operator to carry insurance card
3 (1) An operator of a motor vehicle on a highway shall have in the motor vehicle at all times,
(a) an insurance card for the motor vehicle; or
(b) an insurance card evidencing that the operator is insured under a contract of automobile insurance,
and the operator shall surrender the insurance card for reasonable inspection upon the demand of a police officer. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 3 (1).
If the police officer requests your proof of insurance. You must provide it to the police officer or risk being charged with “fail to surrender valid insurance card.” Sometimes a police officer may use discretion and provide you a 48 time period within which to valid proof of your insurance. If you provide proof of valid insurance within that 48 hour time period, no charge is filed with the court against you. However, the police officer is not obligated to use this discretion and you may simply be issued a ticket for the offence at roadside.
“highway” has the same meaning as in the Highway Traffic Act; (“voie publique”)
“insurance card” means,
(a) a Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card in the form approved by the Superintendent,
(b) a policy of automobile insurance or a certificate of a policy in the form approved by the Superintendent, or
(c) a document in a form approved by the Superintendent; (“carte d’assurance”)
“motor vehicle” has the same meaning as in the Highway Traffic Act and includes trailers and accessories and equipment of a motor vehicle; (“véhicule automobile”)
“police officer” means a chief of police or other police officer or a person appointed under section 223 of the Highway Traffic Act for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of that Act; (“agent de police”)
The court fine for a conviction of “fail to surrender valid insurance card” is a relatively minor total-payable fine of $65.00 (this is comprised of a set fine, victim fine surcharge, and $5.00 court cost). A conviction would also result in a record of conviction be entered against your driving history that would be visible for insurance for 3 years from your conviction date. That record of conviction may impact your insurance costs depending on how your insurer evaluates risk assessment and insurance costs. At court, these matters are prosecuted by a Municipal Prosecutor.
Operate Motor Vehicle – No Insurance
This is a much more serious offence that falls under Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act section 2(1)(a). The previously discussed offence does not question whether or not you had valid insurance at the time, only that you failed to provide proof of that insurance to a police officer when they asked for it. CAIA s.2(1)(a) states that the vehicle your were driving was not covered by a valid insurance policy:
Compulsory automobile insurance
2 (1) Subject to the regulations, no owner or lessee of a motor vehicle shall,
(a) operate the motor vehicle; or
(b) cause or permit the motor vehicle to be operated,
on a highway unless the motor vehicle is insured under a contract of automobile insurance. 1994, c. 11, s. 383; 1996, c. 21, s. 50 (3).
Essentially, if you are driving a vehicle (whether or not you are the vehicle’s owner), you need to ensure that the vehicle is insured. Generally these two offences are given the following wordings:
- CAIA s.2(1)(a) – Operate Motor Vehicle – No Insurance
- CAIA s.2(1)(b) – Permit Operate Motor Vehicle – No Insurance
It is this second section that may surprise many Ontario car owners. If you own a vehicle that is not insured, it is your legal responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is not driven by anyone. You can be held just as legally liable for someone else driving your uninsured vehicle, as if you had gotten behind the wheel and driven it yourself.
“automobile insurance” means insurance against liability arising out of bodily injury to or the death of a person or loss of or damage to property caused by a motor vehicle or the use or operation thereof, and which,
(a) insures at least to the limit required by section 251 of the Insurance Act,
(b) provides the statutory accident benefits set out in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule under the Insurance Act, and
(c) provides the benefits prescribed under section 265 of the Insurance Act; (“assurance-automobile”)
“contract of automobile insurance” means a contract of automobile insurance made with an insurer.
“lessee” means, in respect of a motor vehicle, a person who is leasing or renting the motor vehicle for a period of 30 days or more; (“locataire”)
“regulations” means the regulations made under this Act; (“règlements”)
It is also equally against the law to provide false proof of insurance to a police officer under Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act section 2(3)(b):
(3) Every owner or lessee of a motor vehicle who,
(a) contravenes subsection (1) of this section or subsection 13 (11); or
(b) surrenders an insurance card for inspection to a police officer, when requested to do so, purporting to show that the motor vehicle is insured under a contract of automobile insurance when the motor vehicle is not so insured,
There is no stipulation here that you knowingly provided false information to the police officer. Only that the proof of insurance that you provided was not valid. This could be due to purposely providing an expired or fake insurance card. It could also be for providing an insurance card that you believed to be valid, but the policy had elapsed for an issue such as missed auto-withdrawal payments from your bank account. Generally the wording for such an offence is “Produce False Proof of Insurance.”
The court penalties for a conviction under sections 2(1)(a), (2)(1)(b), or 2(3)(b) of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA) are very severe:
is guilty of an offence and is liable on a first conviction to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $25,000 and on a subsequent conviction to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000 and, in addition, his or her driver’s licence may be suspended for a period of not more than one year.
The court fines here are incredibly large. As bad as the fines may seem according to the above penalty section, it is important to note that they are also subject to an additional 25% victim fine surcharge. This would mean a total-payable fine of:
- First offence: $6,250.00 to $31,250.00
- Second offence: $12,500.00 to $62.500.00
On top of these very large court fines, the court could also issue a suspension of your driver’s licence for up to 1 year. A conviction would also result in a record of conviction being placed against your driving history that would be visible to your insurer for 3 years from your conviction date. A conviction under one of these sections of the CAIA could also mean being removed from standard insurance coverage and being forced to seek out very expensive ‘high risk’ insurance. If you are unable to find high-risk insurance that you can afford to pay, that could mean not driving until such time as you are able to again qualify for regular insurance coverage. Given the serious nature of these charges, they are prosecuted at court by a Provincial Crown Prosecutor.
What Should I Do If I Get An Insurance Related Charge?
The first thing you should do is make sure that you are making informed decisions. To make informed decisions, you are going to need to seek out information regarding what you are charged with and what your legal options are. The easiest way to do that is to contact our office and speak with one of our staff. Hiring a licenced and experienced paralegal means that you have someone in the court room that knows the law and the legal process. They will fight on your behalf to have your charge(s) either thrown out or reduced. If no agreeable resolution can be reached with the Prosecutor’s Office, then they will argue your defence at trial. Paralegals are generally your most cost-effective way to deal with charges before the court.
Our friendly staff are here to help you. We help people just like you every day in courts across Ontario and Quebec. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to go through your case history and details with you. We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at email@example.com, or by text at 226-240-2480. You can also submit an online consultation request any time of day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.