Frequently Asked Questions
What will Happen if I am Charged with Failure to Stop?
How to Defend a Fail to Stop?
What are the Penalties Associated with a Failure to Stop Conviction?
-Accident Causing Bodily Harm
-Accident Causing Death
Assaulting a Peace Officer
Sexual Assault Law in Canada
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Keeping Charges Private
Travel & US Waivers
Vulnerable Sector Screening
Elements of a Crime
What will Happen if I am Charged with Failure to Stop?
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and failed to remain at the scene, you will likely be charged with failure to stop after accident under section 320.16(1) of the Criminal Code as well as under section 200(1) of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.
Once arrested and charged, the arresting officer will decide whether to release the accused on their own recognizance, or to hold them for a bail hearing. Where there are concerns that the accused will reoffend, that they will not attend future court dates or where there are public interest concerns, the accused will be held for a bail hearing.
At the bail hearing the Crown will be required to show the court why the accused should be held in custody pending the outcome of the case. Generally, for failure to remain offences, bail will be granted.
Regardless of whether the accused is held for a bail hearing, there will be conditions attached to their release. Conditions associated with a failure to stop after accident charge may include refraining from operating a motor vehicle, remaining within the province of Ontario or refraining from contacting any victim in the case. Failure to abide by any of the conditions of one’s release may result in bail being revoked and/or additional charges being laid against the accused.
How to Defend a Fail to Stop?
When developing a defence strategy for a fail to stop after accident charge it is important to first receive and review full disclosure. The disclosure package is all the evidence the police and the Crown have gathered and will use to prosecute the accused. It is important to have a full understanding of the Crown’s case and the allegations being made prior to developing a defence strategy.
In some cases, there will be evidentiary weaknesses in the Crown’s case which the defence can exploit. It is important to remember that in criminal law, the burden lies with the Crown to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused committed the offence as charged. If they are unable to do so, the accused cannot be convicted.
To gain a conviction for a fail to stop after accident charge the Crown must prove the accused was the individual driving the vehicle at the time it was involved in the accident. This can be difficult in fail to stop cases because the driver, in most cases, is no longer on the scene. This means that police must rely on witnesses to provide information about who was driving at the time of the accident. Witness accounts can sometimes be inaccurate and in some cases defence counsel can exploit these inaccuracies to weaken or disprove the Crown’s case.
What are the Penalties Associated with a Failure to Stop After Accident Conviction?
The penalties for a conviction for a failure to stop after accident offence are outlined in section 320.19(5) of the Criminal Code. The Code states that where the Crown proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty will be 10 years imprisonment. Where the Crown proceeds summarily, the maximum penalty will be two years less a day in prison and/or up to a $5,000.00 fine.
Accident Causing Bodily Harm
The penalties for failure to stop after accident where there is bodily harm are outlined in section 320.2 of the Criminal Code. The Code states that where the Crown proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty for a first offence will be fourteen years imprisonment. The minimum penalty is a $1,000.00 fine. For a second of offence, the maximum penalty remains the same and the minimum penalty is 30 days imprisonment. For third or subsequent offences, the maximum penalty remains the same and the minimum penalty increases to 120 days imprisonment.
Where the Crown proceeds summarily, the maximum penalty that may be imposed is two years less a day imprisonment and up to a $5,000.00 fine. The minimum penalties are the same as those outlined in the paragraph above.
Accident Causing Death
The penalties for failure to stop after accident causing death are outlined in section 320.21 of the Criminal Code. The Code states that the maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment. The minimum punishment for a first offence is a $1,000.00 fine. For a second of offence, the minimum penalty is 30 days imprisonment. For a third or subsequent offence, the minimum penalty is 120 days imprisonment.
While the sentencing court must impose the minimum sentence, the court will rarely impose the maximum sentence. Maximum penalties are generally reserved for the most serious situations.
When determining the appropriate sentence, the court will consider many factors including the personal history and criminal background of the accused, the nature and severity of the accident and the damage caused, the circumstances surrounding the accident and other mitigating and aggravating factors.
Section 320.22 of the Criminal Code provides sentencing courts with a list of aggravating circumstances to be considered when sentencing an offender for a failure to stop after accident offence. The factors include:
- Whether the accident resulted in bodily harm or death to more than one person
- Whether the accident was caused by street racing
- Whether there was a passenger under the age of 16 in the car operated by the offender
- Whether the offender was being renumerated for operating the conveyance
- Whether the accused’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident was more than 120 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood
- Whether the offender was operating a large motor vehicle
- Whether the offender was prohibited from operating a conveyance either under Provincial or Federal law
The court will carefully consider all relevant factors present in the case as well as relevant case law to determine the most appropriate sentence. Both the Crown and defence counsel will be given an opportunity to make submissions regarding the appropriate sentence during the sentencing hearing.
What if I left the Scene of a Single Vehicle Crash?
An individual who is involved in a single vehicle crash is still required, under section 320.16(1) to stop at the scene, if another person was injured in the crash. This includes a passenger in the vehicle.
Will I go to Jail for Failure to Stop After Accident?
When determining whether or not to sentence an offender to jail, the sentencing court will consider all relevant factors in the case including the circumstances of the offence, the personal characteristics of the offender as well as their criminal history. Section 320.22 of the Criminal Code also provides sentencing courts will a list of aggravating factors to be considered.
Will I Lose my License if I am Convicted of Fail to Remain?
Yes. If you are convicted of failure to stop after accident you will have your license suspended under the Highway Traffic Act. You will also likely have your license suspended by the sentencing court.
What if I didn’t know I Hit Someone?
As outlined in the Code, an individual will be guilty of failure to stop after accident if they continue to drive after they knew or were reckless to whether they had been in an accident. This means that in most cases, arguing you were unaware you hit someone would not be a valid defence.
What if I did not cause the Accident?
A driver who is operating a motor vehicle and is involved in an accident of any kind must stop the vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. This rule applies regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
What if I have been Convicted of Failure to stop more than once?
An individual who is convicted of failure to stop after an accident will face a mandatory minimum 30 days in prison for a second offence. An individual who is convicted of a third or subsequent offence will face a mandatory minimum 120 days in prison.
Can I be Sued for a Hit and Run?
Yes. If you cause an accident and fail to remain on the scene, the driver of the other vehicle may sue you in civil court to recover money for the damage to their vehicle. If you are convicted of failure to stop after an accident, the other driver may use your criminal conviction against you in civil court, as the standard of proof in civil court is much lower.