Inquiry:   My son (age 24) received a ticket tonight when he was pulled over running a yellow light (to avoid sliding out on the ice). Subsequently, his insurance was cancelled as he was unemployed for a time and was unable to pay the premiums. Now he has a second ticket for driving without valid insurance. I know the mimum fine is $5000.00. My son has just started a minimum wage job and was going to declare bankrupcy so there is no way he could pay this fine. Is there any recourse for first offenders? Should he seek legal advice to go with him to court (legal aide)? What advice can you give him?

Response:  The $5,000.00 amount is unfortunately only the minimum ‘set fine’ amount.  All Ontario operate no insurance fines also have a 25% ‘victim fine surcharge’ added which makes the total minimum fine $6,250.00.  The actual range for the ‘set fine’ portion of OPERATE MOTOR VEHICLE – NO INSURANCE as per CAIA 2(1)(a) actually ranges from $5,000.00 to $25,000 for a first offence, and that fine range doubles on a subsequent offence.  The offence also carries a possible licence suspension up to one year.  To my personal knowledge, bankruptcy does not remove court fines although you would be well advised to do further research with a knowledgeable source on bankruptcy law.

You and your son may certainly wish to obtain legal representation in this matter given the severity of penalties involved.  The first step in contending with your son’s charge would be to respond to the charge and get a release of evidence for review.  In some cases, there may exist an outright defence to the charge or an error or omission in the Prosecutor’s evidence upon which the charge can be completely thrown out.  Barring a grounds to have the charge thrown out of court entirely, we could certainly enter negotiations to see if the Crown Prosecutor would be receptive to reducing the charge to a lesser offence with lesser penalties.  Generally as a worst case scenario, we could at a very minimum make submissions to the Court regarding the financial hardship that would be incurred by your son given his circumstances and the size of fine, to seek to have the size of fine reduced.  Generally the legal costs involved in defending such charges are out-weighed by the benefits gained by defending the matter at court.

If you would like to discuss your son’s case in more detail, we offer a no-cost initial review of cases via our toll-free number 1-877-733-2203.