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Radar Detectors 101

There are a lot of electronic devices that can be used to either help enforce the law or to skirt around it. 

In Ontario, one of the devices used by police to enforce the law is a laser or radar ‘gun’ to measure the speed of vehicles. It is illegal to have a speed measuring warning device (aka ‘a radar detector’) or have a device that interferes with the police measuring your rate of speed.  Modern Ontario life can be very busy and there is always the temptation to find a short cut to help get where you’re going quicker.  However, either type of device can get you into trouble with the law.

The OPP and our various regional police forces patrol Ontario’s roadways every day of the year.  Their job is to keep people safe and to enforce the law.  In Ontario, the main body of law covering the driving of motor vehicles is the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).  This body of law covers everything from how fast you can travel to what happens if you don’t obey the police while being pulled over for a traffic violation.  The HTA describes both offences and the penalties that can be imposed by the court if you are convicted.  The best way to avoid coming into conflict with the police is to know the law so that you can avoid unintentionally breaking the law.  Once you’ve been charged by the police, it’s too late and the burden to defend yourself at court is now yours (or your legal representative’s).

If you have a question that you haven’t yet seen an answer to and are curious about, you can submit a blog question.  We’ll either include an answer in a future article or we’ll send you a direct response with an answer.  If you have already been charged by the police, you are going to need more immediate answers to you questions and can submit an online consultation request.  We’re here to help you!  Every day of the week we help people just like you in the courts across Ontario and Quebec.  You’re don’t need to be alone when it comes to fighting to protect your rights and interests at court.  Hopefully this week’s discussion on radar detectors and devices that interfere with the police measuring your rate of speed will keep you on the right side of the law.

Let’s take a look!

What Is A “Speed Measuring Warning Device?”

A “speed measuring warning device” (aka “a radar detector”) is defined under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act action 79(1) as follows:

Speed measuring warning devices

79 (1) In this section,

“speed measuring warning device” means any device or equipment designed or intended for use in a motor vehicle to warn the driver of the presence of speed measuring equipment in the vicinity and includes any device or equipment designed or intended for use in a motor vehicle to interfere with the effective operation of speed measuring equipment.  1996, c. 33, s. 12.

Definition

Highway Traffic Act Section 1(1)

motor vehicle” includes an automobile, a motorcycle, a motor assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine; (“véhicule automobile”)

This definition includes any device that is either “designed” or “intended” to:

  • Warn you of a nearby speed measuring device, or,
  • Interferes with a nearby speed measuring device.

If you have a device that can do either of these things, then you risk running into trouble with the law.

Is It Legal To Use A Radar Detector In Ontario? 

No.  Under Highway Traffic Act section 79(2) it is illegal to do so:

Speed measuring warning device prohibited

(2) No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle that is equipped with or that carries or contains a speed measuring warning device.  1996, c. 33, s. 12.

Definition

Highway Traffic Act Section 1(1)

highway” includes a common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof; (“voie publique”)

It is important to note that this section of law does not specifically prohibit the ‘use’ of such devices.  You can be charged if:

  • Your vehicle is ‘equipped’ with such a device, or,
  • Your vehicle simply ‘carries or contains’ such a device.

Do The Police Have The Right To Search My Vehicle And Take My Radar Detector? 

Yes, they do.  This authority is provided under Highway Traffic Act section 79(3) as follows:

Powers of police officer

(3) A police officer may at any time, without a warrant, stop, enter and search a motor vehicle that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe is equipped with or carries or contains a speed measuring warning device contrary to subsection (2) and may seize and take away any speed measuring warning device found in or upon the motor vehicle.  1996, c. 33, s. 12.

Under this law, if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that your vehicle is either equipped with or carries a speed measuring warning device, then they can:

  • Stop, enter, and search your vehicle without a warrant, and,
  • Seize and take away any such device that is found.

What Happens To My Radar Detector If I’m Convicted At Court?

Under Highway Traffic Act section 79(4), if you are convicted at court your radar detector will (not ‘may,’ but will) be forfeited to the Crown:

Forfeiture of device

(4) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, any device seized under subsection (3) by means of which the offence was committed is forfeited to the Crown.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (4).

A conviction means that your device will be permanently gone.

What Is The Court Penalty If I’m Convicted Of Using A Radar Detector?

If you are convicted at court, you can be assigned a court fine within the following range:

Penalty

(5) Every person who contravenes subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (5).

It is important to note that this is just the base fine issued by the court.  This fine is also subject to an additional victim fine surcharge.  In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to a maximum total-payable fine of $1,250.00.  That’s a lot of money for having tried to avoid a speeding ticket!

Are There Other Penalties If I’m Convicted Of Using A Radar Detector?

Yes.  The court fine is only one of the penalties that would result if you are convicted at court.  You would also receive a record of conviction that would always be visible for court purposes.  You would also receive 3 demerit points on your driver’s licence.  A conviction could also result in your insurance rates going up.

Are There Any Exceptions For Having A Radar Detector In Ontario?

There is one exemption that is provided under Highway Traffic Act section 79(6) as follows:

Exception

(6) Subsection (2) does not apply to a person who is transporting speed measuring warning devices in sealed packages in a motor vehicle from a manufacturer to a consignee.  1996, c. 33, s. 12; 2017, c. 2, Sched. 17, s. 6.

Under this exemption, you must meet the following two criteria:

  • The device(s) must be in sealed package(s)
  • The device(s) must be in the process of being transported from a manufacturer to a consignee.

If you do not meet both of these conditions, you then risk being stopped and charged by the police along with the risk of having any such devices seized and potentially forfeited to the Crown.

Can I Sell Radar Detectors In Ontario?

No.  Doing so is prohibited under Highway Traffic Act section 79(7) as follows:

Sale of speed measuring warning devices prohibited

(7) No person shall sell, offer or advertise for sale a speed measuring warning device by retail.  1996, c. 33, s. 12.

Under this law, when it comes to radar detectors it is illegal:

  • To sell such devices
  • To even ‘offer for sale’ such devices

Doing so can result in being charged by the police.

What Are The Court Penalties For Selling A Radar Detector In Ontario?

The court penalties for selling (or even offering for sale) a radar detector are as follows under Highway Traffic Act section 79(8):

Penalty

(8) Every person who contravenes subsection (7) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

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

(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not more than $5,000.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (8).

Keep in mind again that these fine ranges are simply for the base fine issued by the court and are subject to the additional victim fine surcharge.  This could result in a maximum total-payable fine of $1,250.00 for a first offence or $6,250.00 for a subsequent offence.  That could certainly make the selling of such devices unprofitable.

What Should I Do If I’m Charged By The Police?

Hopefully you’re never charged by the police.  However, if you have been charged by the police it is important that you gather the information necessary to making informed decisions.  A hasty or uniformed decision can result in either a poorer outcome at court or an else wise avoidable conviction.  Hiring a paralegal is generally more cost effective than simply pleading guilty or attempting to represent yourself at court.  Paralegals are licenced and regulated by the Law Society just as lawyers are.  Paralegals are also trained and experienced to know the law and the court process.  The vast majority of the cases that we represent our clients on can also be completed without the client ever needing to step foot in a court room or file a legal document.  That can be a huge sigh of relief when faced with stressful thoughts about how to correctly fill out legal paperwork or what should be said or done in the courtroom.   Let us take care of that for you.

Our friendly staff are here to help you.  We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to answer your questions and go through your case history and details with you.  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 Speed Measuring Devices, Speeding

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