Highway Traffic Tickets – Everything You Need to Know

What is a Part I Provincial Offences Ticket?

The Highway Traffic Act is the governing legislation with regards to the ‘rules of the road’ if you drive in Ontario.  It governs who can hold a driver’s license, what conditions can be imposed and what circumstances can result in the loss of your license.  The Provincial Offences Courts, which hear cases involving this Act, are quasi-criminal proceedings.  This means that if you are charged under the Act, the burden of proof rests on the Crown to prove you are guilty.  However, a conviction in this court does not give you a criminal record.  But, these convictions can do damage to your driving privilege and hike your insurance costs.  In this section, we refer only to traffic tickets, which are the most common charges tried under the Provincial Offences Act.

I Have a Ticket.  What Do I Do?

If you receive a ticket where on the face of it, there is a fine but no court date, this is a Part I charge under Provincial Offences Act.  This is less serious than the more severe Part III ‘summons charges.   Fines are usually lower, but do not be fooled into believing they will not hurt you.  Even speeding tickets can hike your insurance rates.  When you receive a ticket, you must chose if you will pay the fine, attend an Early Resolution or go to Trial.  If you wish to fight the ticket, file it right away as the there is a short time frame before you can be convicted.  Seek legal advice if you are not sure.  Many times, it is better to pay the fine.  However, with some Part I charges, as outlined below, or several tickets are issued, legal advice is necessary.

Legislation in this area changes all the time.  Our paralegals always keep up to date on these changes.  The offence of ‘distracted driving’ is one of these charges, but is often misunderstood.  What constitutes ‘distracted driving’ is defined by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in certain circumstances.  Even if your offending activity is not covered under the MTO’s ‘distracted driving’ definition, you can still be charged with something else like careless or dangerous driving.  Recent changes to the ‘distracted driving’ legislation is outlined below, as of January 1, 2019:

Hand-held devices prohibited (directly from Highway Traffic Act)

Wireless communication devices

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.  2009, c. 4, s. 2; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.

Entertainment devices

(2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Hands-free mode allowed

(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode.  2009, c. 4, s. 2


(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,

(a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle;

(b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;

(c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this subsection; or

(d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or circumstances.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.


(5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact ambulance, police or fire department emergency services.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.


(6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are met:

1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the roadway.

2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.

3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.


(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000;

(b) for a first subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000; and

(c) for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $3,000. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.


(6.2) If a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the Registrar shall suspend his or her driver’s licence,

(a) for a first offence, for three days;

(b) for a first subsequent offence, for seven days; and

(c) for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, for 30 days.  2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.


(6.3) An offence under this section committed more than five years after a previous conviction for an offence under this section is not a subsequent offence for the purposes of subsection (6.1) or (6.2). 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.

What Part 1 Ticket Charges Should I Worry About? 

Careless Driving

A conviction for careless driving, even under a Part I POA charge, is very serious.  A conviction carries six (6) demerit points from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).  If you are a G2 driver, this is enough to lead to an interview with the Ministry, if not a suspension of your license.  This will also impact your insurance premiums, where even with an otherwise clean driving record you can be placed in what is known as “facility insurance”.  “Facility” is the term insurers use for companies that will cover the bad drivers.  Rates in this category can be quite high.  Your insurance policy may even be cancelled.   It is strongly suggested that you seek legal advice, even if you are charged under a Part I ticket.

Fail to Stop for School Bus

This is an offence that is getting more serious as time goes on.  In PEI, for example, a conviction under this offence could result in a license suspension.  In Ontario, when you see a stopped school bus with its extended arm flashing, you must stop!  In larger traffic areas, pay close attention especially around the time that schools typically start and when classes get dismissed.  A conviction under this charge carries six demerit points, as well as a serious impact on your insurance.

Fail to report

If you are involved in an accident, you are obligated to report to the police and to your insurance company.  If other motorists are involved, contact and insurance information should be exchanged.  There are some exceptions such as if there is relatively minor damage and no injuries.  However, be careful.  Fines for this type of thing are typically low, with about three demerit points, but the impact on your insurance can be HUGE.   Seeking representation on this charge is important, even if it is solely for insurance implications.

Other Part I Traffic Offences 

These include a wide array of charges including speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, driving through a red light, driving through an amber light, following too closely, unsafe lane change, illegal use of HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, illegal turns, no seat belt, failure to use signals, etc.  These offences often carry zero to four demerit points, and may impact on your insurance but less so than the other offences.  All of these will be visible in your driver’s record for three years.  If there are several of these “minor” offences, there can be an issue with insurance.  These offences are worth a consultation, where we can help you deal with it yourself, advise your to pay the ticket or help plead it down.  A trial in these cases is rare, but can take place if the driver already has several demerit points or insurance rates are an issue.

Speeding offences can also be serious, depending on what speed you were driving and in what zone.  Speeding through a school zone or near construction sites is particularly risky and the consequences are more severe.

Non-Moving Violations

There is a class of other charges that carry zero demerit points, but might have minor implications on your insurance.  Some of these charges include: failure to surrender insurance card, expired validation sticker, expired plates, unattached plates, using unauthorized plates, etc.  We usually see these charges in connection to some of the more serious charges listed above.  It might be a good idea to consult on these charges.  Many times, you may be advised to pay the ticket, but in some cases representation might assist you if there are insurance issues involved.  This is particularly the case if there are two or more charges filed at the same time, as insurance companies consider the number of offences, regardless of of them being minor.

What Typically Happens in a Case Like This?

When you get a Part I Ticket, your choice is to: (a) pay the ticket (which is a conviction); (b) attend an early resolution meeting; or (c) go to trial.  This ticket needs to be filed as soon as possible in the provincial offences courthouse where it came from.  There is only a short time frame to do this, or failure to file can result in a conviction in your absence.

Once you file the ticket, an early resolution meeting is scheduled with the prosecutor.  You can attend this meeting or you can ask us to attend.  At this meeting, typically the prosecutor will give you an offer that includes an original charge, but dropping one or two of the other charges.  For example, if you were charged with careless driving, they may drop the charge of expired plate or expired sticker.  Sometimes, a single infraction will be dropped to one with less points.  Your legal representative may continue to negotiate with the prosecutor, or if there is no resolution, the matter can be taken to Trial.