In our frequently asked questions series of articles, we’ve discussed a number of common questions that people just like yourself have been asking after having been charged by the police.  Being charged by the police can be scary and create a lot of questions.  You’re certainly not alone in even wondering what questions your should begin asking.  If you’ve been charged by the police, the best and easiest way to get answers and information is to simply contact our office and speak with one of our friendly staff members.

Being stopped and charged by the police means that you will have received either a ticket or a summons detailing what you’ve been charged with and what your immediate legal options and obligations are.  But which one should you choose?  What are the consequences of your choice?  Is there anything that you need to know before making your choice?  If you have a question that hasn’t yet been answered in our frequently asked questions article series, why not submit a blog question and we’ll answer your question in a future blog post!

Let’s take a look!

What Are My Options When I Get A Ticket?

When you are stopped by the police and charged for having committed an offence.  There are generally two types of offence notices that can be issued.  The first type is ‘a ticket‘ which is usually issued for more minor offences such a disobeying a stop sign, not wearing your seat belt, or minor speeding offences.  These charges are handled by a Municipal Prosecutor at court. 

The second type of offence notice is ‘a summons‘ which is generally issued for more serious offences such as driving under suspensiondriving without insurance, or stunt driving.  These offences are handled by a Provincial Crown Prosecutor at court.  A summons also lists your mandatory ‘first appearance’ hearing time, date, and location that either your or your legal representative must attend.

When it comes to a ticket, different court jurisdictions in Ontario can have different filing options and policies.  It is always best to very carefully read your ticket.  Failing to carefully read the information and options on your ticket can lead to either being unintentionally convicted or making a choice that doesn’t best fit your intentions.

Here are the most common options:

Plead Guilty

By choosing this option you are agreeing that you are guilty to the offence.  You will pay the total-payable fine listed on your ticket (comprised of the listed set fine, $5.00 court cost, and the victim fine surcharge).  That record of conviction will then go to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) who will then enter that record of conviction against your driver’s license. 

The MTO will also apply any appropriate demerit points against your license.  Depending upon your driving history, those demerit points may then trigger an MTO warning letter, interview, or license suspension.  There could also be an escalated sanctions penalty suspension or cancellation of your license if you are a novice driver. 

If you are a commercial motor vehicle driver, such as a transport truck driver, your employer may also receive a conviction and points on their CVOR.  Serious or repeated CVOR point convictions can result in employment problems or termination of employment. 

A conviction can also impact your insurance costs or result in having your current insurance policy cancelled depending upon your driving history and the severity of the offence.  If you are uncertain how a specific conviction may impact your insurance costs, your insurance broker may be able to assist you.

Plead Guilty With An Explanation

Choosing this option will have the court set a date that you can attend court and appear in front of a Justice of the Peace.  You will be able to go on the court record with a statement.  The court will then convict you of the offence.  The end result of this option is largely the same as simply pleading guilty and paying the fine.  However, if there is an important reason that you need a statement on the court record along with your conviction, this option will provide you that ability.

Early Resolution Meeting With The Prosecutor

With this option, the court will schedule a date either in-person or by telephone for you to meet with the Prosecutor.  Your Early Resolution Meeting Notice will provide specific information about that meeting and will also generally include information about how to file for a disclosure of evidence from the Prosecutor’s Office.  That evidence is not provided to you automatically.  It is your responsibility to file for a disclosure of the Prosecutor’s evidence. You may also be required to attend the court house in person to pick up that evidence.

Generally at an early resolution meeting, the defence and prosecution will review the evidence to determine how that evidence would likely be ruled upon at court by a Justice of the Peace.  Is it a case that should be withdrawn?  Can a mutually agreeable resolution be reached?  Or is the case going to be argued at trial?

If you are planning to take this option, you may wish to retain a paralegal firm like OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services.  Our staff can take care of any court filings on your behalf in arranging this meeting and filing for a proper disclosure of evidence.  Our licensed and experienced paralegals are also able to properly evaluate the prosecutor’s evidence in determining if a legal argument is present to have the charge(s) against you withdrawn, or if the case is better suited to a resolution agreement or being argued at trial.

Scheduling A Trial Date

This option tells the court that you want your matter set to a trial date.  This is again an area where different jurisdictions may have different policies and procedures.  Does this option mean that you don’t get a resolution meeting date?  Is one still possible?  If so, is it before the trial date or on the trial date?  These are important questions that you will need to know.  A licensed and experienced paralegal can help guide you through these issues.  

Much like requesting an early resolution meeting, the court will not generally provide you with the prosecutor’s evidence.  It is your responsibility to file for that information on your own behalf.  If you will be retaining a paralegal to represent you, they will take care of these court filings on your behalf. 

After receiving and reviewing the prosecutor’s evidence, your legal representative will be able to advise on whether or not it would be beneficial to have you present at that trial date.  If your presence at court would not be a net-benefit to the defence of your charge(s) then you may be advised that your attendance is not required.  However, if having you present at your court date would be of assistance, then your paralegal can ensure that you are aware of that reason and guide you through what will happen on your trial date.  Either way, having a paralegal as your legal advocate on your trial date takes away much of the normal stress that is involved.

How Long Does A Conviction Last?

That depends on how you’re asking the question.  A conviction at court has a lot of consequences.  A record of conviction could mean demerit points.  It could impact your employment or your insurance rates.  A conviction could also impact you if you have to appear before the court again in the future.  Convictions don’t ever completely go away.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is responsible for driver’s licenses and records.  If you are convicted by the court, that record of conviction is sent to the MTO and the MTO then updates your driving history.

Demerit Points

Any demerit points that are applied to your driving record are active for 2 years from your original date of offence.  Those demerit points are added to any other demerit points for other offences that occurred within two years of their offence date(s).  The accumulated demerit points in this two year window determine if you receive an MTO warning letter, interview, or license suspension.  Effectively, this prevents drivers from intentionally delaying their cases at court to try and avoid the consequences of their demerit points. 

For example…

If on your offence date you received a ticket whose demerit points would cause your license to be suspended, you could fight your charge at court.  As long as your matter is before the court, the offence would not be on your driving record and would not result in a suspension of your license.  If the offence could be withdrawn, the offence would not appear on your driver’s license in any manner and would cause no suspension.  If the offence could be reduced to a lesser offence whose demerit points would not result in a suspension, then only the lesser offence would go onto your driving history and you would not be suspended.  However, if the original offence did go to a conviction at court then your license would then be suspended.  Even if by the date of your conviction, the other demerit points no longer showed on your driver’s abstract.  This would be due to the MTO considering demerit points by offence dates, not conviction dates.

Third Parties

Third parties such as employers or an insurance company may need to look at your driving record.  While there is a 5-year driver’s abstract that can be requested from the Ministry of Transportation, generally most third parties only have access to your 3-year driver’s abstract.  This record shows convictions that have occurred within the last three years by conviction date.  Effectively, this prevents defendants from delaying their cases through the court system so that the record of conviction will show on their driving history for less time.

For example…

If a defendant was charged by the police and took their case to court, the offence would not show on their driving record during the time that the case was before the court.  If the charge was thrown out at court, no record of conviction would ever be present.  If the offence was negotiated to a lesser offence or went to a conviction of the original offence, then that record of conviction would be visible to third parties (such as an employer or insurance company) for 3 years from their final court date when they were convicted.

The Court

The court will always see your entire driving history and anything that you were ever convicted of.  Remember that speeding ticket you got 30 years ago when you were a teenager?  The prosecutor in your case will be able to see that along with any records of license suspension or reinstatement.  Some sections of law have a bracket of penalty for a first offence and a bracket of penalty for a second or later offence.  How long ago previous offences are taken into consideration in this determination is generally a question best asked of your legal representative who can advise you based on what charge(s) you’ve been issued.

Can I Ask A Question?

Absolutely!  That’s what we’re here for.  If you have a simple question and haven’t been charged by the police with an offence, then submitting a blog question is easy.  Send in your question and we’ll answer it in a future blog post.  Or if it’s not a question we can answer in a public blog post, we can either email you or call you back to get you a response.

If you’ve actually been charged by the police with an offence, then you’re going to need a much more timely response.  You may already have an impending court date set or you may be facing a filing deadline with the court.  Sometimes people contact us and don’t even know when their upcoming court date or filing is.  We can certainly help you with all of those questions as well as provide you with some general information that you will need to make sure that you are making informed decisions.

Do You Need To Defend Yourself Against An Ontario Traffic Ticket?

If you need to defend your driving rights against an Ontario traffic ticket you should contact us as soon as possible. We have skill and experience in helping drivers just like you respond to a variety of traffic tickets  and provide free, confidential consultations to empower you to fight your charges. We help drivers throughout Ontario including CambridgeGeorgetownLondonWindsor and from our home office in KitchenerContact us online or call us directly at 1.844.647.6869 or text us a copy of your ticket to 226-240-2480.