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DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENCE IN ONTARIO

The ability to drive with a valid Ontario driver’s licence is vital to modern life. Driver’s licences can be suspended for multiple reasons, sometimes even without your immediate knowledge. If your licence has been suspended and you are stopped by the police, you can be charged with Drive Under Suspension. These offences carry very severe penalties if convicted such as high court fines, imprisonment, further suspension of licence, as well as having a potentially very large impact to insurance costs.
HOW CAN MY LICENCE BE SUSPENDED IN ONTARIO?
The most common reasons for a driver’s licence to be suspended are:
  • Unpaid court fines
  • A court-ordered driver’s licence suspension
  • Roadside suspension from police for charges such as Stunt Driving or alcohol-related offences
  • Discretionary MTO suspension after an interview
  • Mandatory MTO suspension due to demerit points
  • “Escalated sanctions” suspension for novice drivers (G1, G2, M1, M2)
  • Family Responsibility Office (FRO) suspension
  • Medical suspension
WHAT DOES THE HIGHWAY TRAFFIC ACT (HTA) SAY ABOUT DRIVE UNDER SUSPENSION?
Drive Under Suspension falls under section 53 of the Highway Traffic Act: “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[…]” The wording here is very simple: if your licence is suspended, you can’t drive.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A CONVICTION?
Generally, any conviction for an HTA offence will have three areas of penalty: court penalties, MTO penalties, and insurance costs. The court penalties prescribed under the HTA are as follows: “(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,
  1. for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $25,000; and
  2. 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).” It is important to note that these fines are subject to an additional 25% victim fine surcharge. A conviction would also result in a mandatory 6-month suspension of your licence. The penalties for a simple Drive Under Suspension can be summarized as follows:
Occurrence Min. Fine* Max. Fine* Imprisonment Suspension
1st $1,000 $5,000 Up to 6 months 6 months
2nd or later $2,000 $5,000 Up to 6 months 6 months
* Plus the mandatory 25% victim fine surcharge. If the original licence suspension was due to one of the reasons detailed under HTA sections 41 and 42, then the elevated penalties can be summarized as follows:
Occurrence Min. Fine* Max. Fine* Imprisonment Suspension
1st $5,000 $25,000 Up to 6 months 6 months
2nd or later $10,000 $50,000 Up to 6 months 6 months
* Plus the mandatory 25% victim fine surcharge. A conviction for Drive Under Suspension would be a permanent record of conviction on your driving history that would be visible to the court should you be charged by the police again. As the offence carries a mandatory 6-month licence suspension, no demerit points are applied to your driver’s licence for a conviction. Your insurer may consider you to be “high risk” if convicted resulting in significantly increased insurance costs.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M CHARGED BY THE POLICE?
If you are charged with driving on a suspended licence your next phone call should be to OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services. Your summons will list an upcoming ‘first appearance’ court date and you will need to seek out important information to help ensure that you are making informed decisions. A legal misstep or and uniformed decision can result in negative consequences that can impact your life for years to come. Attending court hearings can be a large source of stress and anxiety for most defendants. Fortunately, most matters before the court can be resolved without you being required personally to attend any court appearances. Your licenced paralegal is your voice, your advocate. Put their knowledge and expertise in the courtroom on your behalf. Our friendly staff are here to help you. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to assist you. Our office can be reached via our toll-free telephone number 1‑844‑647‑6869, email at info@otdlegal.ca, or by text at 226-240-2480. For ease, you can also submit an online request for a consultation.
I WANT TO KNOW MORE
The Highway Traffic Act is constantly evolving. The following is the full text of HTA s.53. However, for the most up-to-date information, you can either visit the official HTA website or contact one of our staff directly. “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,
  1. for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000; and
  2. 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,
  1. for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $25,000; and
  2. 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). Subsequent offence (2) Where a person who has previously been convicted of an offence under subsection (1) is convicted of the same offence within five years after the date of the previous conviction, the offence for which he or she is last convicted shall be deemed to be a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (1) (b). R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 53 (2). Same (2.1) Where a person who has previously been convicted of an offence under subsection (1.1) is convicted of the same offence within five years after the date of the previous conviction, the offence for which he or she is last convicted shall be deemed to be a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (1.1) (b). 1998, c. 5, s. 25 (1). Licence suspended (3) The driver’s licence of a person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) or (1.1) is thereupon suspended for a period of six months in addition to any other period for which the licence is suspended, and consecutively thereto. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 53 (3); 1998, c. 5, s. 25 (2).”