It is not uncommon for our office to receive an email or telephone call from a defendant upset for having just been stopped by the police and charged for “not having insurance.” Insurance related charges are issued every day in Ontario and they can indeed be very serious. However, there two main offences that are commonly issued under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA) and the two offences couldn’t be more different.
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:
“Compulsory automobile 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).”
2) CAIA s.3(1):
“Operator to carry insurance card
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).“
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.
The respective penalties for each section reflect the relative seriousness of each offence.
For an offence under CAIA s.2(1)(a) or s.2(1)(b) where the vehicle was driven without insurance, the court can apply very serious penalties:
(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.”
When considering a fine being issued by the court, it is important to understand that fines issued by Ontario courts are subject to a 25% victim fine surcharge. For a first offence, the total payable fine becomes $6,2500 up to $31,250. For a subsequent offence, the total payable fine becomes $12,500 up to $62,500.
In addition, the court may issue a driver’s licence suspension for a period of not more than one year. The social, employment, and financial consequences of a driver’s licence suspension can sometimes exceed the impact of the court ordered fine.
A conviction under CAIA 3(1) for simply failing to surrender an insurance card (but not necessarily have driven a non-insured vehicle) are proportionately less.
(3) A person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $400. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.25, s. 3 (3); 1996, c. 21, s. 50 (7).”
Again, this fine is subject to the 25% victim fine surcharge for a maximum total payable fine of $500. Normally however, a ticket for failing to surrender an insurance card would only carry a set fine of $50 plus the victim fine surcharge and court costs.
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.
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.
If you have an insurance related offence, it is important to understand what you have been charged with and what penalties you are facing. A licenced paralegal can help you understand your offence notice and what penalties you need to be concerned with. Some offence carry very minor penalties, while others carry very severe penalties.
If you have been charged with an insurance related offence, we offer a no-cost, no-obligation review of matters to help you understand your options to assist you in making an informed decision about how to best protect your legal and financial interests. Our office may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869.