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Most charges prosecuted in the provincial offenses court are laid under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), which regulates the conduct of drivers on Ontario roads. The purpose of the HTA is to protect those who use Ontario's roads, and to that end, the HTA imposes a number of duties and obligations upon drivers and passengers. HTA offenses may be prosecuted by way of all three parts of the Provincial Offenses Act (POA), depending on the nature and seriousness of the offense. 


The POA guides the majority of the considerations for preparing or an HTA matter whether it is trial or pre-trial resolution discussions with the Crown. Where the offense as charged includes another offense, the defendant may be convicted of the included offense where it is proven, although the whole offense charged is not proven. This is particularly relevant in the context of HTA cases, where it may be possible to negotiate a plea agreement to a lesser offense, one that accords with the same facts but carries a less severe penalty. An example is speeding which is included in the offense of stunt driving and carries less serious penalties. 


For certain HTA offenses, the owner of the vehicle may be charged with an offense even if the owner was not driving the car unless the vehicle was in another person's possession without the owner's consent. Certain exceptions apply, including offenses related to seatbelts, speeding, careless driving, and reporting an accident. When litigating an HTA case, it is important to consider whether rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (Charter) have been engaged by virtue of a detention. A roadside stop of a vehicle for a possible violation of the Criminal Code (Code) or the HTA constitutes a detention of the driver; however, there is an implicit limitation on a person's rights to counsel that is justifiable under section 1 of the Charter. 


If you have been charged with an offense under the Highway Traffic Act, contact D.A. Commissioning & Legal Services to for a free consultation to discuss the best ways of fighting the charges to keep your record clean.