Careless Driving. What Happens Now?
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Ontario’s Careless Driving Penalty Calculator
The 30-Second Ontario Careless Driving test will help calculate the penalties you will be facing from the prosecutor in court
Your ability to keep driving depends on what comes next. I’ll explain everything about your traffic charge and develop a strategy that will change everything – FREE!
Your ability to keep driving depends on what comes next. I’ll explain everything about your traffic charge and develop a strategy that will change everything – FREE!
Watch NextLaw discuss Careless Driving charges
Getting charged by the police is stressful
I think you’ll agree with me that getting summmoned by the police and getting a charge for Careless Driving is stressful.
And, It’s confusing
What makes it worse, there’s so much information online. It’s hard to find real answers.
A Careless Driving conviction can destroy your driving record.
The penalties for Careless Driving are severe. Even a first-time conviction can be life-changing.
There’s a minimum of 6 Demerit Points that will damage your driving record and insurance.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, penalties include: a fine of between $400 and $2,000, or a maximum of six months in jail, or both, and. demerit points, and. a possible licence suspension, of up-to two years.
Careless Driving penalties can destroy your driving record and your life. But, it doesn’t need to be that way.
How to fight this charge
In this post, I’m going to give the information you need to understand this charge. Knowledge is power. Being informed puts you in a better position to fight this charge in order to get the best outcome possible.
Just a quick note before you dive into this post.
Yes, I’m providing really valuable information here. If I were charged with Careless Driving in Ontario, this is the information that I would want to know. But to be clear, I am NOT giving you legal advice. Everyone’s case is different. If you want to speak with a lawyer about your case, give me (or any lawyer) a call. The call is free.
Why You Were Charged With Careless Driving
Understand the law
To know how to fight the charge, it’s important to understand the law that you have been charged with.
You have been charged with “Careless Driving”, under section 200 of the Highway Traffic Act.
- When you drive, there are lots of laws you need to follow. Many of those laws can be found under the “Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act”.
- In your case, you have been charged under section 200, which means a police officer believes you failed to remain at the scene of an accident.
- You can read the exact language of the charge here
Being charged does NOT mean you are guilty.
- Unless you have been convicted in court, your charge is an allegation that is not yet proven.
You will need to appear in court – When you were charged, the police gave you a summons to appear in court.
- You got what looks like a standard traffic ticket. Depending on how the officer laid the charge, it can be a simple ticket or it can be a summons compelling you to appear in court.
- On the summons, the police officer will have written the date, the time and the location of the court where you need to appear.
Your court appearance is NOT your trial date – The summons directs you to appear in court for a court date called the “First Appearance”.
- The “First Appearance” is NOT a trial. This court date is the first time you are appearing before the court for your Careless Driving charge.
- The legal process for your Careless Driving charge may take multiple court appearances before your case is resolved.
- The complete legal process may take days, weeks, months, sometimes over a year, to resolve.
Your vehicle may have been towed, and you are responsible for costs associated with the towing.
What is the Penalty for Careless Driving in Ontario?
The penalties for Careless Driving can be found in section 200 of the Highway Traffic Act. Bottom line, the penalties are severe.
You can see the penalties as they are in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act here
Here is a summary of the penalties for Careless Driving in Ontario.
- A fine not less than four hundred (400) dollars and not more than two thousand.(2000.00) dollars.
- Imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.
- Six (6) demerit points.
- Mandatory thirty-day license suspensions for novice drivers
- Possible license suspension for up to two (2) years.
- Dramatic increase in insurance rates
Jail is generally not a penalty for a Careless Driving charge and it is NOT a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada.
- The focus of this post is about Careless Driving as defined in the Highway Traffic Act.
- A conviction of Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act, while serious, will NOT result in a criminal record.
- There are, however, driving offences in the Criminal Code of Canada. Those charges are NOT the subject of this post.
I am often asked why the penalties with Careless Driving are so harsh.
- Many clients tell me, “I didn’t commit a crime”, or “I didn’t hurt anyone”. “Why then, is the court taking such a severe penalty?” … “I can’t afford it”. These are all fair comments and good questions.
- How can you fight this charge? Well, you need first to understand WHY the province wants to charge such high penalties. You need to understand the logic to the penalties to understand how to fight this charge.
The penalties are severe because “Careless Driving” in Ontario is considered a “Public Safety” offence. Here’s what that means.
- A typical car weighs about 4,000 pounds (or about 1,800 kilograms). That is a lot of weight to be moving on a set of wheels.
- Don’t think of it as a car. Think of your vehicle as a weapon. A 4,000- pound weapon. That can kill a person. That can put someone in a wheelchair. That can cause property damage.
- In the context of driving a 4,000 weapon, the lawmakers in Queen’s Park in Toronto, made a public policy decision. They simply do not want people driving a vehicle with Careless Driving. Doing so poses a real danger to society (remember, think of a 4,000-pound weapon).
- Because Careless Driving is considered a danger to the public, the lawmakers treat this charge differently, and more harshly than a typical traffic ticket. The charge is classified under either Part I or Part III of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This section deals with public safety threats.
- Severe penalties are given because the lawmakers only want people to drive that follow the rules of the Highway Traffic Act. If you have either driven “without due care and attention”, or “without reasonable consideration” for other persons using the highway, the province is going to punish you.
- Yes, the province will charge you with incredibly severe penalties. Yes, the lawmakers know this is harsh. Yes, the lawmakers know that you might not be able to absorb these penalties. And, if you are convicted with these penalties, then you lose your ability to feed yourself and your family. Yes, the lawmakers know that. But, that is the price you will pay when you pose a risk to the public.
Who Is Involved in Your Careless Driving Legal Process?
To get the best outcome for your Careless Driving, it’s important to know how our legal system works and who the people are that will be involved in your case.
Our legal system works like a “boxing match” or “MMA fight”.
Our court system is designed to have two people fighting it out with a referee there to make sure each side is following the rules.
There are 3 important people that matter in your legal process.
- Important Person #1: You – You have been charged. You are known as the “Defendant”. You can either defend yourself or have a lawyer defend you.
- Important Person #2: The Prosecutor – He or she represents the province of Ontario. If your case goes to trial, then the Police Officer will be asked to attend your trial to provide the evidence.
- Important Person #3: The Justice of the Peace – He or she is the “referee”.
These 3 important people each have an important role in your legal process.
Your Role – You have been charged with Careless Driving.
- Your job is to defend yourself against the charge. If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer’s job will be to defend you.
The Prosecutor’s Role – His or her job is to convict you of Careless Driving.
- The Prosecutor is NOT your friend. Yes, they may be nice. They may be pleasant to deal with. But, their job is NOT to be your friend.
- The Prosecutor needs to decide whether it makes sense to move ahead with your Careless Driving charge given the facts of the case.
- If the Prosecutor proceeds with the case against you, the Prosecutor needs to prove that you, in fact, drove while your driver’s license was suspended.
The Justice of the Peace’s Role – He or she is the “referee” in your fight.
- In traffic court, your case will be overseen by a Justice of the Peace.
- The Justice of the Peace is NOT advocating for you. Nor are they advocating for the Prosecutor. The Justice of the Peace is like a referee. They are there to make sure all the rules are being followed.
The Prosecutor Has a Lot of Power (I Can’t Emphasize This Enough)
Okay, as you read above, the Prosecutor is not your friend.
The Prosecutor’s job is to convict you of a Careless Driving charge.
Convicting You (Sorry, It’s Pretty Easy)
- It’s the Prosecutor job to prove you committed the offence of Careless Driving according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.
- Unfortunately for you, it’s relatively easy to convict you of this charge.
- Generally, the Prosecutor needs to prove that at the time of the offence, you left the scene of the accident. And, that you did not notify the authorities of the accident.
- The lawmakers want to send a strong message to the public that they don’t want people leaving the scene of an accident. So, they wrote the law in a way to make it easy to convict.
But, that’s not the end of the story (and this part is REALLY important)
- The Prosecutor needs to make 2 decisions.
- 1st Decision – Whether they have enough evidence to get a conviction (generally, pretty easy to do in these cases).
- 2nd Decision – Even if there is sufficient evidence, they need to decide whether “it is in the interest of justice” to pursue the charge given the circumstances.
- This 2nd decision is REALLY important because the law gives the Prosecutor the power to decide whether to move ahead with the charge.
- If they move ahead, then that means on conviction, you are going to have to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
- If, however, the Prosecutor decides it does NOT make sense to move ahead, the Prosecutor may then drop the charges as they are not in the public interest nor the interests of justice.
- Sounds good, right? It does sound good because it is good.
- However, the Prosecutor is the ONLY person who can decide to proceed with the charges.
- That is WHY the Prosecutor has a lot of power. The Prosecutor will determine whether to proceed with the charge (or not).
- The Prosecutor matters. A lot.
- If the Prosecutor decides NOT to give you a break, well, that is NOT good.
- But, it’s NOT over!!!! It may be possible to convince the Prosecutor why it does make sense to give you a break.
- Getting the Prosecutor to change their mind does happen. But, there are a lot of factors that go into making that decision.
- Obviously the facts of your case matter. But there are other factors that may play a huge role in the Prosecutor’s decision. These include the jurisdiction in which you were charged and who the Prosecutor is.
- Get free advice, call a lawyer. I strongly recommend you speak to a lawyer to understand your options. The good news is that you can get free consultations.
Sorry, These Careless Driving Excuses Won’t Work
Most excuses are NOT defences – Because a Careless Driving charge is a public safety offence, the lawmakers made it very difficult to “win” this case. That means, most excuses won’t get you off this charge.
Excuse #1 – “The accident wasn’t my fault.”
No, this is NOT a defence.
- Most clients tell me they didn’t know that they did anything wrong.
- Any police investigation needs to know, who, what, when, where and how the accident happened.
- It does NOT matter whether you did this on purpose. The Prosecutor only needs to prove that you drove “without due care and attention”.
Excuse #2 – “I can’t lose my drivers license and pay crazy insurance rates. I have to drive for work … for my family … for medical reasons … Losing my drivers license and/or insurance will be devastating. I will lose everything.”
No, this is NOT a defence.
- Yes, the penalty is severe.
- The lawmakers want to send a message to the public that you must follow the legal rules of the road in Ontario.
- Careless Driving penalties will send a strong message of deterrence so that other people won’t make the same mistake as you made.
Excuse #3 – “I got in an accident, but it was the other guy’s fault.”
No, this is NOT a defence. See logic above.
Excuse #4 – “The accident didn’t hurt anybody. I don’t understand the big deal.”
No, this is NOT a defence. The fact that no one was hurt, does not matter legally. See logic above.
Excuse #5 – “I didn’t commit a crime. The penalties are crazy.”
No, this is NOT a defence.
- The penalties are severe because the lawmakers want “responsible” drivers on the road.
How Do I Get My Careless Driving Charges Withdrawn? (Even if You’re Guilty)
Yes, it’s possible to get your charges withdrawn, even if you’re guilty.
- If there’s a big mistake with your charge, it may get withdrawn.
There are 2 types of mistakes that can happen with your charge. Fatal Errors, and Minor Errors.
- If your charge has a “Fatal Error”.
- These are errors that would impact the core of the charge itself.
- These mistakes cannot be fixed.
- Your charge would be withdrawn. Your case would be over!
- If your charge has “Minor Error”.
- These errors can be fixed by the court. And, the case against you continues.
Review your Disclosure – These errors are typically found in your disclosure. That’s why it’s so important to get your disclosure and read it over.
- Something missing? If you believe there is some evidence or information that is missing, then you should request to get that missing information. Speak to the Prosecutor to find out how to order the missing disclosure.
The Prosecutor, upon seeing the Fatal Error, may decide to withdraw the charge.
- Or, the Justice of the Peace, upon seeing a Fatal Error, may rule that the charge cannot stand.
Be realistic. It’s a small chance that your charge may have a “fatal error”, but it does happen. And it’s worth finding out.
What You Need to Know When Going to Court (the 3rd Paragraph May Surprise You)
Why You’re Going to Court
When you were charged with Careless Driving, the police officer gave you a summons with your court details. The date, time and the court where you need to appear. It’s important that you show up to this court date.
These courts include (but not limited to) Barrie, Belleville, Bracebridge – Muskoka, Brampton, Brockville – Leeds & Grenville, Caledon East, Cayuga – Haldimand,Chatham – Kent, Cobourg – Northumberland, Cochrane, Cornwall – Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry, Durham, Dryden, Elliot Lake, Espanola, Fort Frances, Goderich – Huron, Gore Bay, Guelph, Haileybury – Temiskaming Shores, Halton Region (Burlington – Halton Hills – Milton – Oakville), Hamilton, Kenora, Kingston, Kitchener – Cambridge – Waterloo Region, Lindsay – Kawartha Lakes, London, Mississauga, Napanee – Lennox & Addington, Newmarket – York Region, North Bay, Orangeville, Orillia, Ottawa, Owen Sound / Walkerton – Grey Bruce, Parry Sound, Pembroke – Renfrew, Perth, Peterborough, Picton – Prince Edward County, Richmond Hill, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, Simcoe – Norfolk, St. Catharines – Niagara Region, Stratford – Perth, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Toronto East, Toronto South, Toronto West, Welland – Niagara Region, Windsor, Woodstock – Oxford. You can find a complete address list here
Your first court appearance is called a “First Appearance” or an “early resolutionbecause it’s the first time you are appearing in court for your Careless Driving charge.
It’s important to understand what this court date is NOT.
- It’s NOT your trial date. If you decide to go to trial, then your trial date will be set at some point in the future. That date may be days, weeks, or many months in the future. But your trial will NOT happen on your first appearance.
- The police officer will NOT be there. If the police officer is there, it’s for some other reason. It’s not because they charged with you. The only time the police officer is required to attend your court appearance is at your trial date (if you choose to set your matter for trial).
Getting your disclosure – The ONLY reason for your first court appearance is to get your evidence. That evidence is included in a document called “Disclosure”.
- Because the penalties for Careless Driving are so serious (read above), our legal system is designed to give you everything you need to defend yourself properly.
- The only way to properly defend yourself is to get all the evidence that the province has to prove that you, in fact, did attempt to remain at the scene. Once you get the evidence, you can then decide on how you want to proceed with your case.
- The only way to guarantee that you get your evidence is to force you to go to court.
- First appearances or early resolution’s are usually set 4 to 6 weeks after the police officer charged you. This time delay allows the police to properly gather all the evidence needed to be included in your disclosure.
You, or someone on your behalf, needs to show up
- Someone needs to show up to your first appearance or early resolution. It could be you. Or, you can have someone appear on your behalf.
- You can hire a lawyer to appear. Or, you can have a friend or family member appear (but in this case, make sure you give the person a letter signed by you, giving that person permission to appear on your behalf).
What’s Going to Happen at your First Court Appearance
Meet the Prosecutor and get your evidence – You are going to meet with the Prosecutor. And, that Prosecutor is going to give you the evidence, which will be put into your Disclosure.
Your meeting with the Prosecutor may take only seconds. In other words, it’s not a real meeting, you are simply checking in. Or, it can be a real meeting where you have time to talk to the Prosecutor about your case.
- There are no specific rules about this meeting. At this stage, if you have a “real” meeting (where you have the opportunity to discuss your case) with the Prosecutor or not, is the decision of the Prosecutor.
After meeting with the Prosecutor, you have 3 options to consider for the next steps.
- Option #1 – You can enter a guilty plea. The case will end that day. Most of the time, the penalties (e.g. driving suspension), will start that day.
- Option #2 – Set a trial date. You can fight the charge and set a trial date.
- Option #3 – Get a delay (usually 3 to 6 weeks) to get legal advice.
There is NO downside to ask for this delay. It’s important to understand the charge you are facing, the evidence the court has against you and the penalties that you face. Take the time to make an informed decision.
Lastly, a new court date will be set. Assuming you did not enter a guilty plea, you will appear before the Justice of the Peace and a new court date will be set.
- That new court date will either be to give you the time to get legal advice. Or, you will have set a trial date.
- In either case, it’s important to get the proper legal advice to make an informed decision.
Pro Tips – How to Make Your Court Appearance Go Smoothly (Tip #4 is Important)
Tip #1 – What to bring to your court date
- If it’s your first appearance or early resolution, bring the court summons or ticket the police officer gave to you when you got charged. This is helpful in the event the court cannot find your file.
- If you have any evidence that contradicts your charge, bring that too and show it to the Prosecutor.
Tip #2 – Get there early
- The earlier you get to court, the earlier you will be able to leave. This is especially true with busier courts.
- Try to get there at least 30 minutes before start time.
Tip #3 – Confirm you are on the court docket
- With every court date, there is a list of everyone that needs to appear. That list is called a “court docket”. Confirm you are on the list. Sometimes you are not. If you are not on the court docket, don’t leave. Show the Prosecutor the summons and ask what you should do next.
Tip #4 – Get in line
- When you get to court, make sure you find the line. It’s common for people to show up early and not get in the right line. Or, wait around while other people form a line. And if you miss the line, this may add a few hours to your time in court.
Tip #5 – It may take hours
- Be prepared to be in court for hours. Hopefully, it will be quick, but you never know.
Tip #6 – Keep your emotions in check. Even if you’re angry.
- Getting charged with Careless Driving is stressful. But it’s important to keep your emotions in check. Everyone in the court has a job to do. You are now in a legal process and you need to ride it out.
Tip #7 – Make sure you stay after meeting with the Prosecutor.
- After you meet with the Prosecutor, you cannot leave. You must appear before a Justice of the Peace to formalize what was discussed with the Prosecutor.
Tip #8 – Okay, you got there late, but you need to get out of the court early …
- Speak to the Prosecutor and ask politely, if you can be seen first because you need to leave early. The Prosecutor may accommodate you if you have a good reason to leave early. For example, you may have young kids you need to attend to, or have a health issue, or have an emergency.
How Do I Fight a Careless Driving Charge in Ontario?
The most effective way to fight the charge is to hire an experienced lawyer. The results of your Careless Driving charges rest with analyzing your disclosure or evidence, speaking with the prosecutor and determining the next steps. An experienced legal professional knows best how to navigate the complex court system to minimize the penalties for your charges.
How Does Careless Driving Affect Insurance Increases?
A Careless Driving charge (section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act) is a very damaging conviction on your driving abstract. For insurance companies, this is a serious moving violation, and could result in dramatic increases or possible outright refusal of insurance.
How Long does Careless Driving stay on your record?
Generally, driving infractions will affect your insurance policy for up to 3 years. As far as your driving abstract, it will always remain.
How Do I Get Careless Driving Charges Dropped?
In order to get your charges dropped, there would have to be a fatal error in the province's disclosure or evidence. If this is the case, a legal professional would argue to have the charges dismissed.