There are a number of different driving-related offences in the Criminal Code for which you may find yourself before the courts. These include driving while impaired, driving with over 80 milligrams of alcohol in your blood, refusing to provide a breath sample, failing to remain at the scene of a collision, failing to stop for police, and dangerous driving. If you are charged with and convicted of one of these offences – either through entering a guilty plea or after a trial – you will have a criminal record. There is a range of consequences the court may impose on you when you are convicted, including a license suspension, fines, probation, and even time in jail.
However, what many people don’t realize is that the Province of Ontario has its own rules about driving, separate and apart from the laws outlined in the Criminal Code.
The Highway Traffic Act outlines Ontario’s rules surrounding transportation and licensing, and its sanctions are enforced by the Ministry of Transportation. If you are convicted of a criminal driving-related offence, the Ministry will impose penalties on you that are completely separate to any penalties delivered by the Judge, and the Judge has no discretion to waive these. These penalties are automatic and often not appealable. The consequences for multiple driving-related convictions can be severe, including having your licence suspended for life. Therefore, it is extremely important to know and understand these consequences before proceeding with your case.
The suspension of your driver’s licence for a period of time is a common outcome of a conviction for a driving-related offence. The Judge will often order this suspension for a specified period of time. However, it is important to know that criminal convictions also result in the automatic suspension of your licence by the Ministry and the length of this suspension is not always the same as the Judge’s order. While a Judge often has discretion as to the length of time that your licence is suspended, suspensions by the Ministry are automatic and have pre-determined lengths. They are set out as follows:
For first-time offenders, your licence is automatically suspended for 1 year. If you are convicted of a second driving-related offence, your licence will be suspended for three years. If you are convicted of a third offence, you will receive a lifetime licence suspension. This can be reduced to 10 years if you are able to fulfil certain requirements set out by the Ministry. If you are convicted for a fourth time, you will be suspended from driving for life with no possibility of reinstating your licence.
Criminal convictions will remain on your driving record for a minimum of 10 years.
Educational and Treatment Programs
If you are convicted of an impaired driving-related offence, you will be required by the Ministry to participate in an education or treatment program, in addition to any other sanctions imposed by the courts. These programs can take up to one year to complete, and all components of the program must be completed before your license suspension expires. These programs can be quite costly (around $600 at a minimum).
If you are convicted of a non-impaired driving-related offence, the Ministry will require you to participate in a “driver improvement interview”.
In order to have your licence reinstated after a criminal conviction, you must complete all remedial requirements ordered by the Ministry, or your licence will remain suspended until you have completed the program.
In addition to any fines ordered by the court, suspended drivers must pay a fee to have their licence reinstated. Failure to pay this fee, or any of the fines ordered by the court, will result in your licence continuing to be suspended until the fees are paid in full.
Driving Under Suspension
If you drive while your licence is suspended, you may be charged under the Criminal Code and/or the Highway Traffic Act and face further penalties from the courts, as well as the Ministry. This is one of the main reasons that it’s important to know the consequences of your driving-related offence – so you can understand how and when your licence is valid.
If you are found guilty of driving while your licence is suspended, this is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act. You will face a fine of $5,000 to $25,000 for a first offence, and $10,000 to $50,000 for any subsequent offence within 5 years. You can also face a term of imprisonment for up to 6 months. Furthermore, your licence will be suspended for an additional 6-month period.
In addition, you may be found guilty of driving while disqualified under the Criminal Code. This will result in an additional suspension of 1 year for a first offence, and 2 years for any subsequent offence. This is in addition to any sanctions delivered by the courts, which could include jail time.
The lawyers at Hicks Adams LLP have extensive experience in defending clients in driving-related cases. If you need representation, or have questions about the consequences of a driving-related conviction, contact our firm online or at 416-975-1700.