Stunt Driving and Racing in Ontario: charges, defences, and penalties explained by a defence lawyer.
Over the years, our law firm has successfully defended many individuals charged with “stunt driving”. In our experience, this has become a very common offence due to the increase in traffic, the intolerance of speed on highways, and the strong policies towards policing and prosecuting such offences in Ontario. In addition to the frequency of charges, there is also a high rate of people challenging these allegations in Court. This is likely due to the very high penalties and other sanctions imposed if a person is convicted.
Being convicted of a stunt driving or racing offence can have a serious impact on a person’s life and well-being. It can affect employment, financial security, and even liberty by jail terms and restrictions on vehicle use. This article below provides a very basic understanding of what the offence is about and some of the things we look at as lawyers in defending them. Despite the helpfulness of this article, this in no way substitutes for proper legal representation through experienced lawyers.
If you are charged with any such offence, we recommend you speak to one of our lawyers (there is no charge for the initial consultation) at (416) 999-8389 or the author, Sean Robichaud, directly at (416) 220-0413.
What is the definition of stunt driving or racing under the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario?
Section 172(1) of the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario states:
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.”
Under the HTA, “Stunt” driving can mean:
- Burn outs, drifting, or donuts.
- Popping wheelies or doing stoppies on a motorcycle (or car if possible).
- Occupying a passing line for longer than is reasonably required to overtake.
- Driving with a person in the trunk of motor vehicle, or driving while not in the driver’s seat.
- Exceeding 50km/h of the speed limit (the most commonly known, and the most commonly charged offence).
- Driving without due car and consideration of others on the road, or in a way that might endanger someone by: intentionally preventing another person from passing, stopping, cutting someone off, or slowing down.
- Driving as close as possible to another vehicle, person, or cyclist.
- Jumping ahead and turning left before traffic commences through an intersection.
As we can see above, there are many more things included in what can be considered “stunts” or “racing” than simply exceeding the speed limit.
The Penalties of Stunt Driving and Racing in Ontario under the Highway Traffic Act.
Even if a person is not convicted of any of these stunt driving or racing offences, that person will still suffer from a) a 7 day administrative driving suspension, b) a 7 day vehicle impound, and, c) impound fees.
If convicted, those consequences become much worse and will include: a) a very hefty fine ($2,000.00 to $10,000.00), and, b) longer driving suspensions (up to 10 years in some cases). The Highway Traffic Act states, under s.172(2) that:
Every person who [commits the offence of stunting or racing] is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence may be suspended,
In addition to these crippling sanctions, a person has to worry about the costs associated with reinstating/reissuing licences, victim fine surcharges, impound fees, massive insurance rate hikes (or possible ineligibility), and the inconvenience of not driving for whatever period of time may be imposed. As inconvenient and costly as it may have been to be charged, it will pale in comparison to the costs and inconvenience of being convicted of these offences.
Defences to stunt driving and racing under the Highway Traffic Act:
There are many defences that can apply for stunt racing or driving. However, those defences are always very nuanced and specific to the individual. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all defence for a category of offence like stunt driving or racing. Depending on what the police are alleging you did, certain defences may or may not apply.
For example, in some contexts under this section, a person’s intentionality has little, if any applicability, to the defence. Many people believe, for example, that if they tell the Court that they “thought’ they were going under 50km/h then it is a defence – yet by itself, it is not. Without getting into complicated readings of subsections and legal definitions of “reasonable diligence”, it is enough to say that it really takes someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area of law to advise a person what defence may apply.
Depending on the specifics of the allegations for stunt racing, some of those defence may include:
- The accuracy of the radar device at the time of the offence;
- The identity of the driver;
- The mental intentionality of the driver in committing the alleged act;
- The diligence exercised by the driver at the time;
- The physical intentionality of the act;
- The context of the act, i.e., driving conditions, other drivers, location, etc.
Again, none of these defences fit every case that comes before us. Although everyone has some very basic common-sense understanding of what is right and wrong, it is only a lawyer or legal professional who can properly advise you on such things. Considering the consequences of a conviction, obtaining that opinion may be one of the best decision you ever make. It’s ironic at times that people will spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on their vehicles but will not put aside a small fraction of that to ensure they keep driving it.
Take this seriously and hire a lawyer to assist you in defending stunt driving or racing charges.
What do to? Hire a lawyer to assist you of course.
Even though these driving offences do not carry with them the same level of stigmatization as criminal offences, the sanctions are often much worse than many criminal offences. Even for impaired driving, a first offence typically results in a $1000.00 to $1500.00 fine and a one year driving suspension. For these offences above, it could be even worse.
The costs of lawyers fees can range considerably but often people are surprised to hear how affordable they may be. That is why our firm offers initial consultations at no charge so that people who are charged with offences like these can appreciate their options and the costs associated with defending the case before making a very important decision in their life.
Our lawyers are always happy to assist and can be reached at (416) 999-8389.