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Facing a Distracted Driving Ticket in Ontario? The Team at OTD Legal Can Help!
Have you been cited for texting or using your cell phone while driving or other forms of distracted driving? Our team of paralegals and lawyers is here to offer assistance. We provide dedicated defense services and advocate tirelessly for your rights.
Driving while using a cell phone can result in being charged for “Driving with Handheld Communication Device.” The penalties for distracted driving offences can include expensive fines, demerit points, and an increased insurance premiums. Distracted driving convictions may also result in license suspension.
Today, hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and smartwatches are ubiquitous, which makes our team’s expertise more relevant than ever. We understand the nuances of distracted driving tickets and are adept at navigating these complex cases.
If you find yourself facing a texting and driving ticket, contact us for a free consultation.
Canada’s Hands-Free Laws on Driving With a Cell Phone
These offences are defined under section 78.1 subsection 1 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA):
78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. 2009, c. 4, s. 2; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.
It is important to note that while this law states that it is illegal to actively use such electronic devices while driving, it is also illegal to even hold the device behind the wheel. This could include briefly holding or touching the device to plug it in to charge or briefly picking it up if it has fallen from its resting place. Furthermore, whether the motor vehicle is in motion or stopped anywhere on the roadway, it is still a violation of the Highway Traffic Act to use or hold a hand-held wireless communication device.
Court Penalties If You Have Been Charged With Cell Phone Use While Driving Or A Distracted Driving Offence BEFORE January 1, 2019
The previous court penalties for a distracted driving conviction were as follows:
(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $1,000. 2015, c. 14, s. 23
It is important to note that these are the base fines that are issued by the court. An additional victim fine surcharge is added to the court fine as follows:
- The provincial government adds a victim fine surcharge (VFS) to every non-parking fine imposed under the Provincial Offences Act. It is deposited into a special fund to help victims of crime.
- The amount of the VFS is usually 20 per cent of the imposed fine. For example, a $100 fine would result in a $20 surcharge. Fines over $1,000 carry a surcharge of 25 per cent.
Court Penalties If You Have Been Charged With Cell Phone Use While Driving Or A Distracted Driving Offence ON OR AFTER January 1, 2019
Changes to Ontario’s distracted driving law took effect on January 1, 2019. The main change was an increase in fines depending on how many previous convictions have occurred, along with the addition of mandatory license suspensions. The new distracted driving penalties are as follows:
(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,
- for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000
- for a first subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000
- for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $3,000. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16
(6.2) If a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the Registrar shall suspend his or her driver’s license,
- for a first offence, for three days
- for a first subsequent offence, for seven days
- for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, for 30 days. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16
(6.3) An offence under this section committed more than five years after a previous conviction for an offence under this section is not a subsequent offence for the purposes of subsection (6.1) or (6.2). 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16. This can most easily be summarized as follows:
Novice Drivers and Handheld Communication Devices
Novice drivers are drivers early stages of graduated licensing (i.e. G1, G2, M1, M). These licenses allow fewer demerit points to be accumulated and are subject to multiple conditions and restrictions. One such condition is that a novice driver who is convicted of Driving with a Handheld Communication Device will trigger the MTO’s ‘escalated sanctions penalty.’ These additional penalties are as follows:
- 30-day license suspension for the first occurrence
- 90-day license suspension for the second occurrence
- License cancellation and a requirement to re-apply for a G1/M1 after the third occurrence. Any fees paid, credit received for time spent in the program, or BDE credit would be forfeited when the license is cancelled. Please note that in the case of a hybrid driver, only the novice-class license is cancelled on the third occasion; their full-class license is maintained.
Novice drivers may already be on high-risk insurance or borderline high-risk insurance. Given their limited driving history and greater risk assessment, novice drivers will, therefore, experience greater insurance problems than a fully licensed and experienced driver if convicted of distracted driving.
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Drivers
Transport truck drivers and other commercial motor vehicle drivers have to be careful to avoid any demerit points or driving convictions, especially when it comes to texting and driving tickets. Any recorded conviction can directly impact a CMV driver’s current employment as well as their future employability. Companies also have a vested interest in contesting offences issued against their drivers.
Any driver who is convicted of an offence under the company’s CVOR number will result in a record of conviction against the company as well. This CVOR record of conviction can then impact the employer’s insurance costs as well as create problems between the company and the Ministry of Transportation.
Distracted Driving FAQs
Is It Necessary to Fight a Cell Phone Ticket in Ontario?
Contesting a cell phone ticket in Ontario is important due to the potential consequences, which include demerit points, significant fines, and a negative impact on your insurance rates. Considering these factors, it’s advisable to explore your legal options before accepting the charge or admitting guilt.
Demerit Points for a Cell Phone Ticket in Ontario
In Ontario, being convicted of driving while using a handheld device results in 3 demerit points. Accumulation of demerit points can lead to further penalties, including license suspension.
How Long Does A Cell Phone Ticket Stay On My Driving Record?
A cell phone ticket in Ontario remains on your driving record for three years from the date of conviction. This can influence your insurance premiums and potentially affect your driving privileges.
Strategies to Challenge a Distracted Driving Ticket in Ontario
Challenging a distracted driving ticket in Ontario requires a careful review of the circumstances of the ticket and the evidence against you. Legal representation from experienced professionals can greatly assist in identifying viable defenses and navigating the legal process effectively.
Handling Court Appearances for a Distracted Driving in Ontario
If you are unable to be present in court for your distracted driving ticket hearing, a legal representative can appear on your behalf. This ensures that your case is handled professionally and can often be a convenient option, especially for those with scheduling conflicts or apprehensions about court appearances.
Do You Plan To Fight My Ticket In Court? Or Just Plead Guilty?
At OTD Legal, the approach to defending traffic tickets, including cell phone use violations, is to actively fight the charge on your behalf. The objective is not to plead guilty but to seek a dismissal or reduction of the charge where possible, based on legal expertise and negotiation with the prosecution.
Distracted Driving Resources
Distracted Driving Videos
How To Fight A Handheld Device Ticket
How To Get Out Of A Distracted Driving Ticket
How Long Does A Distracted Driving Violation Stay On Your Record?
What Is Distracted Driving?
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Have You Been Charged with Cell Phone Use Or Distracted Driving In Ontario?
If you’ve been charged with distracted driving in Ontario, you should contact us as soon as possible. We have skill and experience in helping drivers just like you respond to accusations of cell phone use while driving or distracted driving and provide free, confidential consultations to empower you to fight your charges. Consultations are typically completed within a half hour and you will be provided a quote for our services and information on how we can help.
We help drivers all throughout Ontario from Georgetown to London and Windsor and everywhere in between. Consultations are primarily done over the phone or in person at our Head Office in Cambridge. Contact us online, call us directly at 1-844-647-6869, or text a copy of your ticket to 226-240-2480.