Last week we looked at some of the causes of a suspended driver’s licence in Ontario. This week we’re going to look at the actual penalties that can result from a charge of Driving Under Suspension contrary to Highway Traffic Act section 53.
On a daily basis, the Ontario police stop and charge drivers for operating a motor vehicle while their licence has been suspended. Sometimes a driver may be unaware that their licence is suspended. Other times a driver may be aware of the suspension but not realize how severe the penalties are for driving on a suspended licence. Yet other times the driver may be aware of both the suspension and penalties yet drive out of a disregard for the law or believing that they won’t be caught.
Let’s take a look at the relevant section of the Highway Traffic Act:
“53. (1) Every person who drives a motor vehicle or street car on a highway while his or her driver’s licence is suspended under an Act of the Legislature or a regulation made thereunder is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000; and
(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $5,000,
or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 53 (1); 1997, c. 12, s. 7 (1).”
One of the penalties not immediately evident from the above information is that a conviction for Driving Under Suspension will also result in a further mandatory 6-month driver’s licence suspension. This suspension is applied consecutively to any other suspensions applied against the driver’ licence.
It is important to note that the fines listed are the base fines issued by the Court and are subject to the 25% victim fine surcharge. In total, a first offence faces a total-payable fine ranging from $1,250.00 to $6,250.00, and a second offence ranges from $2,500.00 to $6,250.00.
Whether or not a given Crown Prosecutor in a given jurisdiction will seek jail time varies. Some Crowns will seek jail on a first offence, while others will not seek jail time until a second or third offence. Prior convictions can also sway a Crown’s position. The details of the offence may also play a role if aggravating circumstances such as death or injury are present.
“(1.1) Despite subsection (1), every person who drives a motor vehicle or street car on a highway while his or her driver’s licence is suspended under section 41 or 42, even if it is under suspension at the same time for any other reason, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $25,000; and
(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000,
or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both. 1997, c. 12, s. 7 (2).”
Prior convictions are determined to be subsequent if they are within 5 years of the current offence as detailed under section 53, subsections (2) and (2.1):
“(2) Where a person who has previously been convicted of an offence under subsection (1) is convicted of the same offence within five years after the date of the previous conviction, the offence for which he or she is last convicted shall be deemed to be a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (1) (b). R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 53 (2).
(2.1) Where a person who has previously been convicted of an offence under subsection (1.1) is convicted of the same offence within five years after the date of the previous conviction, the offence for which he or she is last convicted shall be deemed to be a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (1.1) (b). 1998, c. 5, s. 25 (1).”
Beyond the various penalties that can be issued by the Court, one of the downstream consequences of a conviction can be the impact on insurance. A record of conviction for Driving Under Suspension can result in increased insurance costs that could readily exceed the fine issued by the Court, or being cancelled from standard insurance carriage and having to seek out high-risk insurance coverage. If the cost of obtaining automobile insurance becomes prohibitively expensive, this could prevent you from being able to legally drive with insurance well beyond the 6-month suspension due to the conviction itself.
The best advice is to always guard your licence and your ability to drive. See our previous article on grounds under which driver’s licences become suspended in Ontario. If you are stopped and charged by the police for driving while your licence is suspended, seek out legal advice to know your options and rights. Generally the cost of the legal work involved is significantly less than the penalties that will be incurred should you be convicted.
If you have been charged and require assistance, we can help you with a no cost initial review of your matter to help you weigh out the costs and benefits of your various options without obligation. Our staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.