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Unpaid Court Fines In Ontario

Life can get hectic.  You receive a ticket from the police and are assigned a monetary fine.  Between the demands of work and family life, you forget about the fine and lose the paperwork.  Is this something that you should be worried about?  What’s the worst that could happen…?

WHEN ARE FINES ASSIGNED?

There are two common types of offence notices that are issued by the police at roadside.  The first is a ‘part 1’ offence notice which most people would commonly refer to as a ‘ticket.’  These are cases handled by municipal prosecutors and the ticket will clearly list the pending fine on the lower left corner of the ticket.  The fine is comprised of the set fine for the offence plus the victim fine surcharge and a $5 court cost.  This fine can either be immediately paid to the court to simply plead guilty to the offence, or the matter can be filed with the court to contest it in which case the fine is not immediately paid.

The second type of offence notice is a ‘part 3’ offence notice which is more commonly referred to as a ‘summons.’  A summons does not list an actual fine as the fine is determined by the court if you are convicted.  These offences will generally have a range of possible fines that the court can issue and are also subject to a 25% victim fine surcharge.

WHEN IS A FINE DUE?

For a part 1 offence, most courts will convict you for failing to respond after 45 days if you have not paid the fine or have not filed with the court to contest it.  The court will then assign a due date by which time the fine must be paid unless an appeal or reopening is filed to address the conviction.  This due date is at the discretion of the court and in some cases may be as little as 15 days.

If you contest your ticket at court, the fine is not immediately due to the court as you are not pleading guilty to it.  For all anyone knows at that early stage, the matter could get thrown out completely at court or you could be convicted of a lesser offence with a different fine.  If at the end of your case there is a fine due, then the court will provide a due date for your fine to be paid

For a part 3 offence, if you are convicted or the original or a lesser offence at the conclusion of your case,  the court will provide you with a due date and the size of the fine will be set by the court.  If the matter is withdrawn or dismissed, then no fine is due.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T PAY MY FINE?

Sometimes fines are not paid on purpose, other times they are not paid due to forgetfulness or error.  Regardless of the cause, an unpaid fine can cause big problems.  The first immediate problem is that the court will update the Ministry of Transportation regarding the unpaid fine.  This will then lead to the MTO suspending your driver’s licence.  The MTO would then mail out a notice stating that the driver’s licence has been suspended.

Sometimes a notice of suspension could get lost in the mail, or perhaps you might have moved and forgotten to update your new address with the MTO.  This could lead to driving on a suspended licence unknowingly.  Sometimes people receive their notice of suspension but continue to drive figuring that they won’t be stopped by the police or that the consequences aren’t very serious.

Being charged for driving with a suspended licence under Highway Traffic Act section 53 carries enormous penalties.

“Driving while driver’s licence suspended

53 (1) Every person who drives a motor vehicle or street car on a highway while his or her driver’s licence is suspended under an Act of the Legislature or a regulation made thereunder is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000; and

(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $5,000,

or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 53 (1); 1997, c. 12, s. 7 (1).

Same

(1.1) Despite subsection (1), every person who drives a motor vehicle or street car on a highway while his or her driver’s licence is suspended under section 41 or 42, even if it is under suspension at the same time for any other reason, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $25,000; and

(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000,

or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.  1997, c. 12, s. 7 (2).”

Keep in mind with these penalties that the listed fines are also subject to the 25% victim fine surcharge in calculating the total-payable fine.  Being convicted of driving on a suspended licence will also result in a further, mandatory 6 month suspension of your driver’s licence.

WHAT CAN I DO?

There are a few options available to you. 

If you have a ticket that has not yet gone to a conviction, the first option is to simply pay the fine and plead guilty to the offence(s).  Doing so will result in your conviction and may lead to licencing or insurance issues.

If you have gone to trial and been convicted by the court, you could decide to either simply pay the fine or, if appropriate, pursue an appeal to have the matter brought back before the court.  Paying the fine completes your involvement with the court.  An option in filing an appeal would be to ask the court to set aside the conviction and fine issued against you until your appeal is ruled on.  If the court imposed fine is not paid by the set deadline, you could always apply to the court for an extension of time to pay.  If your licence is suspended due to non-payment, you will have to address the outstanding fine before being able to reinstate your licence.

If you have been issued a ticket that went to a non-response conviction, you could opt to pursue a reopening or appeal of the conviction.  Doing so would let you apply to the court to have your matter brought back for your intended defence to be provided.  if you simply wish to pay the fine and reinstate your licence, you may have to pay a licence reinstatement fee with the MTO.  The Service Ontario website can provide you with details of reinstatement payment as well as how to pay your fine online.

If you have been issued a ticket or summons that has not gone to a conviction, you may contest the charge(s) at court to provide your defense and to potentially seek out a reduction of the charge(s) and penalties.  While your matter is before the court, your driving record remains clear of any record of conviction, the offence is not visible to third parties such as an employer or insurance company, and no penalties are due to the court by you.

HOW CAN I FIGHT MY CHARGE OR CONVICTION?

If you have just been charged by the police, are currently contesting a charge before the court, or if you are considering a reopening or appeal of a conviction, it is important to have the basic information required for you to make informed decisions.   Our friendly staff will be happy to assist you with a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation and can be reached via the toll-free number 1-844-647-6869 or by email at info@otdlegal.ca.  

Posted under Suspended Licence, Traffic Ticket Defence

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