Careless & Reckless Driving ChargesCareless Driving tickets are one of the most common violations handed out by police in Ontario. However, many drivers are still not completely clear on what exactly is considered to be Careless Driving or reckless driving. A reckless or Careless Driving charge in Ontario can encompass a wide range of incidents. According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act,
“Every person is guilty of the offence of Careless Driving and driving carelessly who drives a vehicle on a highway without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway”
The penalties for Careless or reckless driving in Ontario may include:
- 6 demerit points on your license
- A minimum fine of $400
- Imprisonment up to 6 months
- Possible license suspension up to 2 years
- Serious implications for your auto insurance
A Careless Driving charge can not only affect your insurance, but also your ability to drive. Therefore, it is in your best interest to fight your Careless Driving ticket with the help of an experienced legal team. Mavericks Legal Services can help you navigate the complex legal process that can often come with fighting your Careless Driving ticket in Ontario.
A cautionary note from Mavericks to those facing a Careless Driving charge in Ontario: There is a troubling but long-standing practice in Ontario to ‘over-charge’ where the police officer is unsure of the driver’s wrongful act. For instance, where a car accident investigation points to the driver making an unsafe lane change, or perhaps running a red light, the police officer may instead lay the far more serious charge of Careless Driving. (Careless Driving can lead to a six-month jail term and a two year drivers’ license suspension)
The reasons for this vary, but generally speaking the broad circumstances that are caught by the Careless Driving definition allow it to be laid even where a more appropriate charge exists in the Highway Traffic Act.
The result is that many defendants who decide to fight the Careless Driving allegation end up pleading guilty to the lesser offence that should have been laid in the first place. The predicament causes the driver to forgo his right to challenge the case. And its not just unrepresented defendants that are caught in this trap… Let Mavericks navigate these legal waters for you.
We see this all the time in the courts! Being convicted of any offence arising from a motor vehicle collision can have a compounding effect on your insurability and civil liability. We specialize in Careless Driving litigation – Call us first!
It is a common mistake to conclude that because the circumstances that may amount to Careless Driving are broad, that the legal definition of Careless Driving is also broad. This is untrue. The legal definition of Careless Driving sets out a precise description of conduct that will attract a conviction when applying the legal test for Careless Driving.
Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.
Upon conviction the driver is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. Careless Driving carries six Demerit Points.
Careless Driving is a Strict Liability Offence in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada’s classification of regulatory offences in R. v. Sault Ste. Marie. The defences available on a charge of Careless Driving may be gleaned from the leading precedents. One of which, R. v. Beauchamp sets out the test for Careless Driving this way: “It must also be borne in mind that the test, where an accident has occurred, is not whether, if the accused had used greater care or skill, the accident would not have happened. It is whether it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that this accused, in the light of existing circumstances of which he was aware or of which a driver exercising ordinary care should have been aware, failed to use the care and attention or to give to other persons using the highway the consideration that a driver of ordinary care would have used or given in the circumstances. The use of the term “due care”, which means care owing in the circumstances, makes it quite clear that, while the legal standard of care remains the same in the sense that it is what the average careful man would have done in like circumstances, the factual standard is a constantly shifting one, depending on road, visibility, weather conditions, traffic conditions that exist or may reasonably be expected, and any other conditions that ordinary prudent driver would take into consideration. It is a question of fact,depending on the circumstances in each case.”
Careless Driving is an anomaly among other strict liability offences. Generally, a strict liability case will place the onus upon the defendant to establish on a balance of probabilities that he exercised all reasonable care owing under the circumstances. Careless Driving is unique in that the actus reus or ‘guilty act’ contemplated by the legislation is essentially the inverse – that the driver ‘failed to exercise all reasonable care’. In other words, the elements that form the allegation of Careless Driving are the exact opposite of the elements in the defence available in the strict liability doctrine. It follows then to escape conviction the defendant would need only raise a reasonable doubt that he ‘failed to exercise all reasonable care owing under the circumstances’, as opposed to meeting the higher legal threshold of establishing on a balance of probabilities that he exercised all reasonable care to be acquitted. This notion is not reflected in the pre-Charter caselaw such as Beauchamp, noted above.
Careless Driving – Questions and Myths
The following myth is from an Ontario paralegal’s website:
‘By personally appearing in traffic court the defendant, (person who is charged with the traffic ticket) provides the “who” also known as the “identity evidence”. All the prosecutor has to do is ask the witness who came to testify against you, or police officer, “who caused the accident” whereupon the witness would point at the defendant (person who got the ticket), completing the identity evidence”. By appearing in traffic court sometimes the defendant actually helps to convict himself!’
This, of course, is not true – and if it were, everyone charged with Careless Driving would need a representative and the paralegal would be rich. In fairness though, we’ve heard this misconception before. It’s something police officers are taught. Below is a proper statement of the law from the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decison in R. v. Reitsma, 125 C.C.C. (3d) 1:
“The identification of an accused person for the first time “in the dock” is generally regarded as having little weight. In a dock identification the witness is obviously not required to pick out the person whom he claims to have seen from among a number of other persons of similar age and size and general physical appearance. In a courtroom identification there is also the danger of the witness anticipating that the offender will be present. That danger is accentuated when an accused is readily identifiable in the courtroom as the person accused of the crime. Identification of an accused for the first time in the dock is analogous to a police “show up” in which the only person shown to the identifying witness is the suspect, and for that reason it is open to the same criticism. Generally, anything which tends to convey to a witness that a person is suspected by the police or is charged with the offence has the effect of reducing or destroying the value of the identification evidence”
Rules When a Driver is Charged with a Driving Offence
20. (1) For the purposes of this Regulation, a driver is considered to be charged with a driving offence,
(a) if, as a result of the incident, the driver is charged with operating the automobile while his or her ability to operate the automobile was impaired by alcohol or a drug;
(b) if, as a result of the incident, the driver is charged with driving while his or her blood alcohol level exceeded the limits permitted by law;
(c) if, as a result of the incident, the driver is charged with an indictable offence related to the operation of the automobile;
(d) if the driver, as a result of the incident, is asked to provide a breath sample and he or she is charged with failing or refusing to provide the sample;
(e) if, as a result of the incident, the driver is charged with exceeding the speed limit by sixteen or more kilometres per hour. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 20 (1).
(2) The degree of fault of the insured shall be determined in accordance with the ordinary rules of law, and not in accordance with these rules,
(a) if the driver of automobile “A” involved in the incident is charged with a driving offence; and
(b) if the driver of automobile “B” is wholly or partly at fault, as otherwise determined under these rules, for the incident. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 20 (2).