One of the most unimaginable scenarios that can derail your life is being involved in a collision that results in a fatality. Being charged by the police in such a scenario can lead to serious consequences such as large court fines, suspension of driver’s licence, a record of conviction, and even imprisonment. You could be charged under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario or more seriously under the Criminal Code of Canada. Being convicted of such an offence at court may also impact to what degree you are later held financially liable for damages to other parties in a civil lawsuit.
You are almost certainly going to be in need of legal representation to protect yourself and your interests.
OBSTRUCTED LICENCE PLATES
Non-criminally, the most common offence issued in a fatality collision would be Careless Driving under section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA):
(1) Every person 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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death
(3) Every person 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 who thereby causes bodily harm or death to any person. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
While this is the most common HTA offence to be charged with when a fatality has occurred, there are multiple other offences such as Red Light Fail To Stop, Disobey Stop Sign, Fail To Yield From Private Driveway, and many others. It is also possible that multiple charges could be issued including Fail to Remain At The Scene of an Accident.
The most common criminal offence issued in a fatality collision is Dangerous Driving under section Criminal Code of Canada section 249:
Dangerous Operation of Motor Vehicles, Vessels and Aircraft
249 (1) Every one commits an offence who operates
- a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place;
- a vessel or any water skis, surf-board, water sled or other towed object on or over any of the internal waters of Canada or the territorial sea of Canada, in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature and condition of those waters or sea and the use that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be made of those waters or sea;
- an aircraft in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature and condition of that aircraft or the place or air space in or through which the aircraft is operated; or
- railway equipment in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature and condition of the equipment or the place in or through which the equipment is operated.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES IF I’M CONVICTED?
Usually a conviction will have three main areas of penalty:
- Court penalties
- Licencing penalties
- Impact to insurance
For a standard Careless Driving conviction where no bodily harm or death has occurred, the penalties would be as follows:
On conviction under subsection (1), a person 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 driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
For Careless Driving where there has been bodily harm or death, the court penalties increase dramatically as follows:
On conviction under subsection (3), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
It is important to note that court fines are subject to a victim fine surcharge:
- The provincial government adds a victim fine surcharge (VFS) to every non-parking fine imposed under the Provincial Offences Act. It is deposited into a special fund to help victims of crime.
- The amount of the VFS is usually 20 per cent of the imposed fine. For example, a $100 fine would result in a $20 surcharge. Fines over $1,000 carry a surcharge of 25 per cent.
A conviction for Careless Driving would also result in a 6 demerit point penalty being placed against your driver’s licence by the MTO. Commercial motor vehicle drivers would also receive the highest possible CVOR penalty of 5 CVOR points. Novice drivers (i.e. G1, G2, M1, M2) would face a mandatory suspension or cancellation of their driver’s licence under escalated sanctions penalties:
- 30-day licence suspension for the first occurrence
- 90-day licence suspension for the second occurrence
- Licence cancellation and a requirement to re-apply for a G1/M1 after the third occurrence. Any fees paid, credit received for time spent in the program or BDE credit would be forfeited when the licence is cancelled. Please note that in the case of a hybrid driver, only the novice-class licence is cancelled on the third occasion; their full-class licence is maintained.
Dangerous Driving is a criminal offence and a conviction will result in a criminal record. A criminal record may have unforeseeable and far-reaching consequences that can impact employment and travel outside of Canada. The court penalties for a conviction are broken down into whether the dangerous driving resulted in bodily harm or in death:
Dangerous Operation Causing Bodily Harm
Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
Dangerous Operation Causing Death
Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes the death of any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
A conviction for Dangerous Driving will also result in the loss of driving privileges for one year. A conviction for either Careless Driving or Dangerous driving will generally result in being cancelled from standard insurance coverage and being forced to seek out very expensive ‘high risk’ insurance coverage. For many Ontario drivers the cost of high-risk insurance coverage may be unaffordable leading to an even longer period of not being able to legally drive. Whether through loss of licencing or unaffordable insurance costs, being unable to drive can have a huge impact to employment and meeting your personal and family responsibilities.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I’M CHARGED BY THE POLICE?
The first important step is to seek out the necessary information to ensure that you are making informed decisions. The information that you have and the decisions that you make at this early stage can have a very large impact on how your case is resolved at court. A good legal defence can mean the difference between a conviction, a plea to a lesser offence, or having the charge(s) against you thrown out completely at court. Collisions involving a fatality are very serious legal matters with consequences that will impact your life for years to come.
If you have been charged by the police, contact OTD Legal Services as soon as possible and our friendly staff will be happy to assist you. Our team can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text at 226-240-2480. Any time of day or night, you can also submit an online consultation request and one of our staff will then contact you during regular business hours to help you.