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 and these charges!
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.
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.
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 1-844-647-6869, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text at 226-240-2480.