Ontario Court of Appeal on Speeding

I got done for speeding a while back and went to trial (a year later) to plead guilty to a reduced speed, so to speak. The brush with the (quasi)criminal system — my first since being put in the slammer for parking tickets way back when I was a callow scofflaw — was interesting, if only because there was a steady parade of semi-sheepish drivers from all walks of life passing through the same system on that day.

The speeding law is one of the most frequent points of contact between the public and “the law,” I’d say. Which makes the recent judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal in York (Regional Municipality) v. Winlow, 2009 ONCA 643 (CanLII) more important than you might think at first glance.

Laskin J.A.’s judgment is as clearly written as usual. Here he sets out the basic facts and the issues:

[1] Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act imposes a scale of fines for motorists convicted of speeding. The dollar amount of the fine increases for every kilometre per hour over the speed limit. This system of fines has given rise to a practice in some Ontario municipalities, which is reflected in the facts of this case.
[2] Robert Winlow was caught speeding on Highway 400 in the Regional Municipality of York. The police officer who stopped him said that he was driving 30 kilometres per hour over the speed limit but ticketed him for only 15 kilometres per hour over the limit. However, when Mr. Winlow refused to pay the set fine and asked for a trial, the prosecutor sought an amendment to charge him with driving 30 kilometres per hour over the limit. The justice of the peace refused to amend the charge, and her decision was upheld on appeal in the Ontario Court of Justice.
[3] The Regional Municipality of York appeals with leave to this court and asks us to rule on these questions:

1. Is the particular rate of speed an essential element of the offence of speeding?

2. Depending on the rate of speed, is the fine for speeding fixed or does the court have discretion to reduce the fine?

3. Did the courts below err in refusing to amend the charge, and, more broadly and importantly, is the practice of “amending-up” permissible?

In sum, the Court answers the questions as follows: The rate of speed is not an essential element of the offence; the court does not have discretion to reduce the fine; and the practice of amending up is permissible. But you might enjoy reading the judgment, not only because you, too, speed, but also for the bit of statutory interpretation that Laskin performs, which includes a reference to the French version of the Act.


  1. A couple of errors in this decision, in my view.

    After a trial and before sentencing, under s. 57(3) of the POA, a judge may inquire into the economic circumstances of the accused.

    Under s. 59(2), if a accused cannot afford to pay the fine the judge can impose a less fine, which is contrary to what this court ruling claims.

    Moreover, under s. 69(15)(c), if the fine is in default a justice can order the fine be reduced or order that the fine need not be paid at all.

    And under s. 7, when a defendant who does not wish to dispute the charge but wishes to make submissions as to penalty, a justice may enter a conviction and impose the set fine or such lesser fine as is permitted by law.

    As for the cops reducing tickets, in my view this is illegal. The court decision claims it’s common, and it is, but the question is, why are they permitted to do this?

    You cannot be convicted of something you didn’t do. If you’re doing 140 kph in a 100 zone, and the cop’s ticket claims you were doing 120 in 100, the cop has falsified evidence.

    This court decision claims it’s a form of plea bargaining. Huh?

    A plea bargain requires to people to discuss the matter. An offer is made and an acceptance or rejection is made.

    Here, the cop comes back to the car with a ticket already filled out at the reduced speed. There is no discussion or plea bargaining involved.

    The ticket is a legal document. It is used in court as evidence. The cop has not only committed perjury, but also breached s. 86 of the POA by entering false entry in a document.

    Penalty for false statements

    86. Every person who makes an assertion of fact in a statement or entry in a document or form for use under this Act knowing that the assertion is false is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000.

    Finally, the current court offence notice in Ontario are not in compliance with law.

    A person who wishes to settle out of court is only required to pay the set fine, as articulated in s. 8 of the POA.

    The offence notice claims you must also pay the victim surcharge and court costs.

    Why would one pay court costs when you’re settling out of court?

    These additional costs only apply if you proceed to trial and are then found guilty.

    The province of Ontario has defrauded citizens out of tens of millions dollars, if not hundreds of millions, by willfuly and falsely instructing citizens on the offence notice that they must pay costs and surcharges even when settling the matter out of court.

  2. Another issue I have with this ruling is this.

    When you receive a ticket for a reduced speeding amount; the set fine is also lower than what it would be had you be issued a ticket for the actual offence you committed.

    If you plead not guilty and the prosecutor requests the ticket be amended up in court to the actual offence committed, this changes the set fine amount to settle out of court.

    If the court agrees to amend up, then the court must dismiss or stay the case as the accused was not given the chance to settle out of court as required by law; since the amended up charge carries a new and different set fine amount that was never offered to the accused.