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How To Fight An Ontario Cell Phone Ticket

Ontario cell phone tickets now have even more serious penalties for new charges issued as of January 1, 2019.  It’s rare to find an adult in Ontario (let alone a teenager) that doesn’t own a cell phone and that means people driving vehicles that are in possession of these modern technological wonders.  We use them to keep track of our events and meetings, to send and receive emails, to play games and watch movies, and sometimes even to make an actual phone call.  The siren’s call of a new text or email alert on the phone has become a conditioned response to pickup the phone to see what has happened.  However, if you’re driving that can cause some very serious problems.  The police are actively looking for drivers who are using their cell phones and have recently just concluded a law enforcement blitz to catch these drivers.

Let’s take a look!

Ontario Provincial Police’s Cell Phone Blitz

According to news reports, the OPP’s recent blitz on enforcing the laws surrounding cell phone use while driving netted over 1500 charges being issued over this year’s March Break.  144 of those charges occurred in the OPP’s western region that includes the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  Since the start of 2019, the OPP alone have issued over 2000 cell phone related charges.  

Most drivers are familiar with marked police vehicles either parked at the side of the road or actively patrolling the streets.  However, Ontario police have actively been using unmarked police cruisers that can look like any other vehicle on the road.  The Police in at least London and Burlington have even gone so far as to costume themselves as homeless individuals seeking spare change at intersections to catch drivers on their cell phones.  In January 2019, the OPP used a helicopter to issue 59 cell phone charges over a two day period near Chatham and Blenheim. 

Ontario’s city and provincial police are certainly persistent and very creative when it comes to catching drivers using their cell phones.

What Is The Law In Ontario About Driving With A Cell Phone?

In Ontario, the law surrounding the use of a cell phone while driving falls under section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act:

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.  2009, c. 4, s. 2; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.

The definition of “motor vehicle” includes a street car, motorized snow vehicle, farm tractor, self-propelled implement of husbandry and road-building machine.  It is important to note that this law not only prohibits using a cell phone while driving, but also prohibits even “holding” such a device.  This could include picking up your cell phone to briefly check the screen for an update or briefly picking up the phone if it has slid onto the floor after an abrupt stop.

Next thing you know, a police officer is running into the road on foot, activating the emergency lights and siren of their police cruiser, or radioing in from an airborne helicopter to have you pulled over.  Shortly thereafter, you’ve been charged by the police wondering what penalties you’re facing and what you can do to fight them.

What Are The New Cell Phone Penalties in 2019?

Any new cell phone penalties issued as of January 1, 2019 are subject to the new (and higher) court and licencing penalties upon conviction.  These penalties include:

  • A record of conviction
  • A court fine
  • Demerit Points
  • Mandatory licence suspension
  • Novice Driver Escalated Sanctions
  • Increased insurance costs

Once you are convicted by the court, the record of that conviction is sent to the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario (MTO).  That record of conviction is then entered against your driving history.  Generally, most third parties such as an employer or an insurance company will see that record of conviction for 3 years from the date that you were convicted.  However, it is important to be aware that the court will always be able to see that record of conviction regardless of how much time passes.  This could result in the court being less lenient with you in the future should you be charged by the police again. 

A court fine for a standard “ticket” under this section begins with a set fine of $500.00.  On top of this is a $5.00 court cost and $110.00 victim fine surcharge.  This results in a total-payable fine of $615.00.  However, if your charge has been issued by way of a “summons” the offence notice will not list a specific fine.  The fine for charges issued by way of summons are subject to a range of fine that must be determined at court:

Penalty

(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000;

(b) for a first subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000; and

(c) for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $3,000. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.

It is important to keep in mind that these fines are also subject to the victim fine surcharge.  This means that for a first, second, or third offence, you could be facing a maximum total-payable fine of $1,250.00, $2,500.00, or $3,750.00 respectively.

When Ontario’s law regarding the prohibited use of cell phones first went into effect in 2009, a conviction would not result in any demerit points.  This was later changed to include a 3 demerit point penalty against the defendant’s driver’s licence.  The consequences of demerit points depend on whether you have a full licence or a novice-driver licence.

The consequences of accumulating demerit points for a fully licenced driver are:

2 to 8 points:
You will be sent a warning letter.

9 to 14 points:
Your licence could be suspended. You may have to attend an interview to discuss your driving record. At this meeting, you will need to provide reasons why your licence should not be suspended.

If you have to attend an interview, you will get a letter (Notice of Interview) to notify you of the time, date and location of the meeting. If you do not attend, your licence could be suspended.

The fee for a demerit point interview is $50 and must be paid in person at any ServiceOntario Centre. You can pay the fee when you receive the Notice of Interview or within 10 business days of attending the interview. Failure to pay the interview fee will result in the cancellation of your driver’s licence.

15+ points:
Your licence will be suspended for 30 days.

When your licence is suspended, you will get a letter from the Ministry of Transportation. It will tell you the date your suspension takes effect and that you need to surrender your licence.

If you do not surrender your licence, you can lose your licence for up to two years.

If you have a novice driver licence such as a G1, G2, M1, M2, M1-L or M2-L licence, the consequences for accumulating demerit points are:

2 to 5 points:
You will be sent a warning letter.

6 to 8 points:
Your licence could be suspended. You may have to attend an interview to discuss your driving record. At this meeting, you will need to provide reasons why your licence should not be suspended.

If you have to attend an interview, you will get a letter (Notice of Interview) to notify you of the time, date and location of the meeting. If you do not attend, your licence could be suspended.

The fee for a demerit point interview is $50 and must be paid in person at any ServiceOntario Centre. You can pay the fee when you receive the Notice of Interview or within 10 business days of attending the interview. Failure to pay the interview fee will result in the cancellation of your driver’s licence.

9 or more points:
Your licence will be suspended for 60 days.

When your licence is suspended, you will get a letter from the Ministry of Transportation. It will tell you the date your suspension takes effect and that you need to surrender your licence.

If you do not surrender your licence, you can lose your licence for up to two years.

A conviction for any offence having occurred as of January 1, 2019 now also includes a mandatory licence suspension:

  • for a first offence, for three days;
  • for a first subsequent offence, for seven days; and
  • for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, for 30 days.

Novice drivers convicted of driving while using a cell phone are subject to escalated sanctions penalties as follows:

  • For a first offence: your driver’s licence is suspended for 30 days.
  • For a second offence: your driver’s licence is suspended for 90 days.
  • For a third offence: you will lose your novice licence.  You will need to re-apply for your licence and start all over, taking all tests and paying all fees. You will also lose any time discount you earned, any time you were credited, and any fees you have paid.

Sometimes the biggest financial cost of a conviction for driving while using a cell phone comes not from court penalties or legal representation, but from increased insurance costs.  A conviction could result in a large increase to your insurance costs for multiple years, but being fortunate enough to remain under a standard insurance policy.  However, a conviction could also result in being cancelled from standard insurance coverage and being forced to seek out very expensive ‘high-risk’ insurance.

Can I Fight A Cell Phone Ticket In Ontario?

Yes.  It is important to fight any serious offence that you are accused of by the police.  The consequences of a conviction will generally far outweigh any legal costs incurred to protect your interests at court.  Some paralegal firms are intimidated by the work involved in arguing these charges at court and may advise that they can not be fought.  However, these charges are regularly fought in Ontario’s courts to be reduced to a lesser offence or where possible be thrown out entirely. 

You need an experienced team that knows the law and is not intimidated by the work involved to run a full trial.  Despite the work involved to argue these matters at court, they are surprisingly cost-effective defences to pursue.  Put the experienced team at OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services in court for you.  The majority of these defences can be argued without the need for you to ever attend court or file a single court document.  That means no lost time from work or school commitments, and no stress in having to appear at court.

Our friendly team is here to help you.  We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to go through your case history and details with you as well as provide you with the basic information that you will need to make informed decisions.  We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at info@otdlegal.ca, 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.

Posted under Appeal, Demerit Points, Distracted Driving, Traffic Ticket Defence

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