You’ve been stopped by the police. Maybe you were a little over the speed limit. Maybe you suddenly remember that forgot to speak with your insurance broker to renew your policy before it expired last week. Perhaps you’re being stopped, yet again, for not wanting to wear your seat belt. After waiting at roadside and speaking with the officer, you’ve been left with a ticket or a summons. The small piece of paper lists your personal information and the offence, but not much more. What do you need to be worried about? What are the penalties that you’re facing? How can you find out?
Let’s take a look at the two most common offence notices:
A ticket, also known as a part 1 offence, is generally issued for matters where the penalties that can be issued at court are limited. That does not however mean that they are minor offences or that they will not result in serious consequences. These matters are prosecuted at court by a municipal prosecutor. On the lower left-hand corner of the ticket will be a clearly displayed set fine and total-payable fine (this includes the set fine, applicable victim fine surcharge, and costs). On the front or back of the ticket will be listed your options on how you can respond to the ticket. These options can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the most common options are: 1) Plead guilty and pay the ticket, 2) Plead guilty with an explanation, 3) Request an early resolution meeting with the Prosecutor, and, 4) Request a trial date. It is important to understand the repercussions of which ever option you choose as the choice may result in irrevocable consequences.
A summons, also known as a part 3 offence, is generally issued when the offence and behaviour involved was more serious and the penalties that can be issued in these matters by the court are expanded greatly. These expanded penalties include much higher fines (into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars), licence suspension, and imprisonment. At court, these cases are prosecuted by a Provincial Prosecutor. A summons does not list an actual fine as the fine is determined at the conclusion of the case at court if you are convicted. This fine is determined by the presiding Justice of the Peace and may be influenced by submissions from the prosecution and the defence. Rather than listing various response options, a summons simply lists a mandatory court date and time. Failing to attend this court date may result in your being convicted and penalties being applied against you in your absence, or the presiding Justice of the Peace may simply put your matter directly to a trial date. If you fail to attend court, it is your responsibility to contact the court to find out when your next court date is as the court will not send you a notice.
If you are convicted, there are going to be two general groups of consequences to be mindful of: 1) penalties assigned by the court, and, 2) penalties from outside the court.
The most visible, and most commonly thought of penalty assigned by the court is a fine. Fines can range from under a hundred dollars for minor offences, and readily climb up into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for very serious offences. For example, being convicted for a first offence of OPERATE MOTOR VEHICLE – NO INSURANCE under CAIA s.2(1)(a) can result in a fine between $5,000.00 and $25,000.00 (plus the 25% victim fine surcharge). Other penalties that can be applied by the court also include suspension of your driver’s licence and even imprisonment.
Many defendants, quite naturally, are focused on the court process and penalties. However, there are consequences of a conviction that extend beyond court. Indeed, these other penalties may surpass those issued by the court itself.
Many offences under the Highway Traffic Act include a demerit point penalty. After a conviction, the court will update the MTO and the conviction will be entered into your driving record along with any demerit point penalty. Driver’s begin with zero demerit points on their licence and accrue demerit points as they are convicted of offences. Depending on the class of your driver’s licence, problems with the MTO will begin at differing demerit point levels. The general escalation of those problems begin with a warning letter, followed by an interview with the MTO where your licence could be suspended, followed finally by an automatic suspension of your licence. Novice drivers have a more limited number of demerit points available to them and may also receive an automatic licence suspension if convicted of certain specific offences.
Insurance cost increases are an important consequence of a conviction to be mindful of. These cost increases can easily eclipse any fines issued by the court and can span multiple years until you are able to have your insurance rate lowered. If the cost of obtaining insurance becomes prohibitive and you cannot obtain affordable insurance for your vehicle, you may be unable to drive a period of time much longer than any suspension issued by the court or MTO. While a current offence may not have an immediate large impact on your insurance, it is important to consider its relevance in protecting your future interests should you receive another ticket or summons in the future. A current offence that may have little-to-no impact on your insurance today, may compound with a future offence to result in a very large impact to your insurance rate down the road.
Other consequences can include adding unwanted family stress due to costly fines, loss of licencing, or imprisonment. Defendants can go through guilt, anger, or embarassment. Failing to pay your outstanding fine to the court can result in your licence being suspended. A poor driving record or a suspended licence can result in not being employable in certain fields or losing current employment. Commercial motor vehicle drivers need to be especially sensitive to any convictions impacting their employability. The list of consequences goes on and on…all from that small piece of paper given to you at roadside by the police officer.
In conclusion, sometimes what seems like a simple ticket or summons can have severe and long lasting consequences. For the average driver on Ontario’s roadways these consequences can be largely unknown due to a lack of familiarity with the law. After being charged by the police, it is important to know what penalties you face as well as what your legal rights and options are before deciding what to. It is important to make an informed decision to protect both your current and your future interests. OTD Legal provides a no cost, no obligation initial consultation to help provide basic information and can provide a reasonable flat-rate fee to cover the defence of your matter. We can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869. Our friendly and experienced staff will have you in good hands.