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Operate Motor Vehicle No Insurance Offences In Ontario

Whether you are a regular driver or a commercial motor vehicle driver, automobile insurance protects you as well as anyone harmed by personal injury or property damage should you get into an accident.  Imagine trying to suddenly budget to replace your vehicle due to it being written off due to a collision.  Or worse yet, imagine facing a civil lawsuit for a lifetime’s worth of lost earnings from someone who has either been killed or been permanently disabled due to you colliding with them.  Automobile insurance plays an important role in our modern society.  Accordingly, driving without insurance carries very large penalties.

Let’s take a look at these charges!

AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS

In Ontario, automobile insurance is mandatory.  Before being able to register or renew your vehicle’s registration, you will be required to provide proof of the vehicle’s insurance.  This includes coverage of at least $200,000 in third party liability.  The financial repercussions of causing major property damage, or seriously injuring or killing someone without the protection of insurance could be devasting.  While it is not required that you also carry insurance to cover damage to your own vehicle, failing to do so could result being unable to repair or replace your vehicle in the event of a collision. 

The primary piece of relevant law for most drivers is the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA).  The three most common types of insurance related charges that we see are:

  • Fail To Surrender Insurance Card
  • Operate Motor Vehicle — No Insurance
  • Providing False Proof of Insurance

WHAT LAW APPLIES?

The requirement to be insured when driving an automobile in Ontario falls under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA).  The two most common insurance related charges are Fail To Surrender Insurance Card under CAIA s.3(1) and Operate Motor Vehicle – No Insurance under CAIA s.2(1)(a).  Less commonly the police may issue a charge for Fail To Disclose Particulars Of Insurance under CAIA s.4(1).

FAIL TO SURRENDER INSURANCE CARD

Under section 3(1) of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act drivers are required to carry proof of vehicle insurance and surrender that proof to police upon their request:

“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).”

This offence does not allege that the vehicle was not insured at the time of offence, only that proof of that insurance was not surrendered to police upon their request.  The most common scenarios are that the driver has forgotten their insurance card at home or that they have printed a receipt for insurance for an Internet-based insurance company that the Officer has not accepted as valid proof.

On very rare occasions, the Officer may write something to the effect of “48HRS TTP” on the top of the ticket.  This allows the driver 48 hours of time to produce proof of their insurance to the police.  Doing so should avoid the Officer filing the ticket with the court.  Failing to provide proof of insurance will result in the ticket being filed with the court, or in a worst-case scenario, the Officer opting to instead issue the much more serious offence of Operate Motor Vehicle – No Insurance should they discover that the vehicle was in fact not insured.

The total fine for a conviction under this section is generally a minor fine of $65.  While the offence carries 0 demerit points, a conviction would result in a record of conviction being entered into your driving history that would be visible for a period of 3 years to third parties such as an employer or insurer.  

OPERATE MOTOR VEHICLE – NO INSURANCE

Section 2(1)(a) of the CAIA deals with operating a motor vehicle without 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).”

As mentioned earlier, being in a collision without valid insurance can have enormous consequences for everyone involved.  Proportionately, the consequences of being convicted at court are very severe:

“(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,

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.  R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 2 (3); 1996, c. 21, s. 50 (4); 2002, c. 22, s. 33.”

The fines listed are also subject to the mandatory 25% victim fine surcharge.  Many defendants are unaware of this and can be shocked to discover that their total-payable fine for a first offence actually falls between $6,250.00 and $31,250.00 (or $12,500.00 and $62,500.00 for a subsequent offence!).  Most Ontarians would be hard pressed to fit even the minimum total-payable fine into their monthly budgets, let alone anything above the minimum fine.

The court can also opt to suspend the defendant’s driver’s licence card for a period of up to one year.  This suspension is fortunately not a mandatory suspension and can be argued at court.  A conviction for driving without insurance may result in your insurer refusing to further insure you or having to seek out extremely costly high risk insurance

FAIL TO DISCLOSE PARTICULARS OF INSURANCE

Less commonly, the police may issue a charge under CAIA s.4(1) for failing to disclose the particulars of your insurance to another party impacted by your driving:

“4 (1) An operator of a motor vehicle on a highway who is directly or indirectly involved in an accident shall, on the request of any person directly or indirectly involved in the accident, disclose to the person the particulars of the contract of automobile insurance insuring the motor vehicle.  R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 4 (1).”

Under this section of law, you are required to provide the following information:

“(2) For the purposes of subsection (1),

“particulars of the contract of automobile insurance” means,

(a) the name and address of the insured,

(b) the make, model and serial number of the insured vehicle,

(c) the effective date and expiry date of the contract,

(d) the name of the insurer,

(e) the name of the insurer’s agent, if any, and

(f) the policy number of the contract.  R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 4 (2).”

A conviction under this section of the CAIA would result in a record of conviction; albeit one without any demerit points.  That record of conviction would be visible for a period of 3 years to third parties such as an employer or insurer.  The maximum fine that can be issued by the court is $400 plus the victim fine surcharge and $5 court cost.

FAIL TO SURRENDER INSURANCE CARD VS. OPERATE MOTOR VEHICLE NO INSURANCE

The two most common sections that we see Ontario driver’s charged under are:

1)  CAIA s.2(1)(a) or s.2(1)(b):

“Compulsory automobile insurance

  1. (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).”

2)  CAIA s.3(1):

“Operator to carry insurance card

  1. (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).

The main difference between these two offences is that the first section alleges that the vehicle was driven (or permitted to have been driven) without insurance.  Whereas the second section alleges that the driver of the vehicle failed to surrender a valid insurance card when demanded to do so by police, but not necessarily that the vehicle was not insured.

PROVIDING FALSE PROOF OF INSURANCE

CAIA s.2(3)(b) deals with providing false proof of insurance to the police. 

“(3) Every owner or lessee of a motor vehicle who, […]

(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,”

Insurance can be expensive, especially if you are a younger driver or have a poor driving history.  It can be tempting to try and avoid the cost of insurance by either doctoring an old insurance card or purchasing a fake insurance card off the Internet.  Some drivers have even purchased valid insurance only to immediately cancel the policy once they have received their new insurance card.  However…  Providing that false proof of insurance to the police can land you in serious trouble with the law:

“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. “

Much like the earlier section of the CAIA dealing with driving an uninsured vehicle, you would face the following fines if convicted at court;

  • First offence:  $6,250.00 to $31,250.00
  • Second offence:  $12,500.00 to $62,500.00

 

INSURANCE REPERCUSSIONS

The best and most accurate source of information on the insurance repercussions will be to speak with your insurance broker.  Generally a conviction for failing to surrender an insurance card will have little-to-no impact on insurance costs.  Whereas a conviction for operating or permitting to operate a motor vehicle without insurance can have a very large impact on insurance costs.

COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLES AND INSURANCE CHARGES

The CAIA does not specifically list elevated penalties for commercial motor vehicle drivers.  However, if a Crown Prosecutor felt that a commercial motor vehicle driver’s actions warranted an elevated fine they could seek to go into the higher range of fines above the minimum.  The above sections of the CAIA do not include a CVOR point penalty.  However, a conviction for an insurance related offence could impact a driver’s employability in the transportation industry.

THE COURT PROCESS

Given the vast difference in the severity of penalties between the two offences, an offence under CAIA s.2(1)(a) or s.2(1)(b) will be issued by means of a summons and will be prosecuted by a Provincial Prosecutor.  Generally these matters will span 3 to 5 court hearings before completing.  A mandatory first appearance court date will be listed directly on the summons.

An offence under CAIA s.3(1) will generally be issued on a standard ticket.  The set fine and total fine will be listed on the bottom corner of the document.  No court date will be listed.  However, your options on how to respond will be described.  Generally most cases of this nature will only require one court date which must be filed for.

What is the minimum car insurance coverage required in Ontario?

 

Every driver is required to at have at least the following minimum auto insurance coverage on their policy:

  • Third Party Liability – minimum of $200,000
  • Uninsured Automobile
  • Statutory Accident Benefits
  • Direct Compensation – Property Damage (DCPD)

 

WHAT TO DO?

If you have been charged by the police with an insurance-related offence, it is important to understand what you’ve been charged with and what legal options are available to you.  A conviction for failing to respond to the court in a timely manner or an uninformed guilty plea could result in life-altering repercussions.  OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services is happy to assist you with an initial no-cost, no-obligation consultation.  Our friendly staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-866-810-6243, email at info@otdlegal.ca, or by text at 226-240-2480.

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