How Your Fine Is Calculated

How much is the fine? How is it calculated? Unfortunately in Ontario very little is straightforward. Not even the math. This can work to your advantage. If the officer can't do the math, your traffic ticket is dead. But it's more like the walking dead. The traffic ticket doesn't know it (yet).

An incorrect fine amount can be a fatal error but only in certain situations (see Incorrect Fine Amounts below.) Before you rush out to kill a zombie traffic ticket, you must learn how the fine is calculated so you know the difference between correct and incorrect fine amounts. Otherwise the only fatal error, will be yours.

The amount of the fine is based on five components:

  1. How you were charged;
  2. The set fine or statutory amount;
  3. A victim surcharge added to every fine;
  4. Court costs; and
  5. Your arguments during sentencing.

If you have a summons there is no dollar amount written on it, just instructions to appear in court.

If you have a traffic ticket there are two amounts listed: the "Set Fine" and the "Total Payable". The "Total Payable" is the sum of the set fine, plus court costs, plus a victim fine surcharge.

For example, if you are charged with speeding 20km/h over the limit, the "total payable" is $95:

   $75 Set fine (20km x $3.75 per km)
+ $15 Victim Fine Surcharge
+   $5 Court costs
$95 Total Payable

Here is a complete list of the set fine amounts for speeding. An incorrect set fine amount is not a fatal error unless you force it (see Incorrect Fine Amounts below).

1. How Were You Charged

In Ontario, there are two aspects to being charged with an offence. First, you allegedly broke some law. For example, speeding is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act. Second, the physical act of charging you is covered under the Provincial Offences Act:

  • Part 1 Traffic Tickets (where an officer stops you and hands you a traffic ticket, no arrest)
  • Part 2 Parking Tickets (where a traffic ticket is left on your windshield)
  • Part 3 Serious Offences (you are issued a summons to appear in court, you may be arrested)

If you are charged under Part 1 you cannot be fined more than the actual fine amount or $1,000, whichever is lower and there is no possibility of imprisonment. It used to be $500 but the province decided you could afford to pay more and doubled the amount under the Good Government Act.

So for example, if you are facing a charge with a maximum fine of $50,000 but were charged under Part 1, then the most you can pay is $1,000. If you are charged under Part 3, which has no limit, then you could be fined $50,000. If the act allows for imprisonment, this is also possible under Part 3.

For a more detailed explanation of charging acts, see Step 3, What's the charge?

2. The Fine Amount

The amount of the actual fine is determined by one of two things: a set fine or the fine listed under the statue (the law you broke).

Set Fines

Set fines were initially established to be used as an out of court settlement and technically set fines should be used only if there is no trial. If you plead guilty, you pay the amount on your traffic ticket out of court. However both courts and prosecutors have been inconsistent with the application of set fines, often relying on them for administrative expediency during sentencing. In other words, if you request a trial and lose, you could still end up paying the amount on your traffic ticket. Unfortunately not everyone pays the same amount for the same offence. You could end up paying more or less. For a full discussion on what could happen if you are found guilty, see Step 5, Sentencing.

Not all offences have set fines. If they do, it is determined by the Ontario Court of Justice and listed here. The most common set fines can be found under Schedule 43. For example, the charge of speeding has a set fine:

Ontario Court of Justice
Schedule 43, schedule B
Kilometres SET FINE
a) 1-19 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $2.50 per kilometre
b) 20-29 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $3.75 per kilometre
c) 30-49 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $6.00 per kilometre
d) 50 kilometres per hour or more over the maximum speed limit No out of court settlement

Fines Under Statues

The law you broke may contain fine amounts. In most cases if a set fine already exists then the police officer who tickets you or the justice who sentences you will use that amount. However, if there is no set fine, the law you broke will contain instructions as to what penalty will be imposed.

Sometimes the amount is not specific but is expressed by a range:

Every person who is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $20,000.

In this example the justice can fine you any amount between $250 and $1,000 if you were charged under Part 1. He can fine you any amount between $250 and $20,000 if you were charged under Part 3.

The Highway Traffic Act, section 128(14) lists speeding fines which are different than the Court of Justice set fines above:

Highway Traffic Act s.128(14)
Kilometres SET FINE
a) 1-19 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $3 per kilometre
b) 20-29 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $4.50 per kilometre
c) 30-49 kilometres per hour over the maximum speed limit $7 per kilometre
d) 50 kilometres per hour or more over the maximum speed limit $9.75 per kilometre

Notice how the Ontario Court of Justice set fine amount and the amount under the the Highway Traffic Act are different. Although at first glance there may appear to be a discount if you pay the fine instead of requesting a trial, if you lose at trial you could end up paying less than the set fine amount, the set fine amount or the amount listed under the Highway Traffic Act. For a full discussion on what could happen if you are found guilty, see Step 5, Sentencing.

3. Victim Surcharge

Since 1996, on top of any fine amount, the province also adds a victim surcharge under the Victims' Bill of Rights. The surcharge applies to provincial and federal fines and is credited to a special Victim Justice Fund to assist victims of crime. The revenue is allocated to programs and services such as SupportLink, Victim Support Line, Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services and Victim/Witness Assistance Programs.

The surcharge amount is listed under Regulation 161 of the Provincial Offences Act:

Victim Fine Surcharges
Fine Range ($) Surcharge ($)
0 - 50 10
51 - 75 15
76 - 100 20
101 - 150 25
151 - 200 35
201 - 250 50
251 - 300 60
301 - 350 75
351 - 400 85
401 - 450 95
451 - 500 110
501 - 1000 125
Over 1000 25% of actual fine

The surcharge does not apply to parking tickets, only to Part I and Part III offences (see Provincial Offences Act section 60.1).

4. Court costs.

Court costs are covered under Regulation 945 of the Provincial Offences Act. You are charged $5 when an officer hands you a traffic ticket. The same amount is added to the total payable if you were given a summons. The other possible court costs are only added if you do not appear in court but are convicted anyway:

Type of CostAmount ($)
For service of offence notice or summons5.00
Failure to respond to Part 1 Offence Notice5.00
Failure to appear at Part 1 trial10.00
Failure to respond to a Part 2 Offence Notice3.75
Failure to respond to a Part 2 Notice of Impending Conviction16.00
Failure to appear at Part 2 trial12.75
Failure to appear at Part 3 trial30.00
Service of a parking infraction not under a municipal by-law3.75

Incorrect Fine Amounts

Is the amount of the set fine or total payable on your traffic ticket incorrect? If it was calculated incorrectly, this error will not be enough to get you charge dismissed at trial. Hold on. Slow down.

The key words are "at trial". If you go to court and point out that the fine is incorrect, the justice will simply correct the error. It is not a fatal error. But you can make it a fatal error.

How to Force a Fatal Error

In London (City) v. Young, 2008 the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that if the set fine or the total payable amount is incorrect, then it is a fatal error.[1] But, and this is the important point, the error is only fatal if you do not respond to your traffic ticket. You must actually ignore all of your options and choose to be found guilty by default. Don't pay the fine. Don't request a trial. You must do nothing.

The court ruled that under section 9 of the Provincial Offences Act the justice must examine your traffic ticket and if there is any error on the face of it, it cannot be corrected. Theoretically errors that could be corrected at trial can become fatal errors if they prevent you from being convicted. These should include an incorrect fine amount, misspelled name, incorrect driver's licence, incorrect address or incorrect citation of the charging act. If the justice does not have sufficient information to convict you then he must quash the traffic ticket.

This is a very different situation than if you challenge the traffic ticket. At trial, the justice can amend these errors. But she can't if you default on the traffic ticket. The default provisions of the Provincial Offences Act do not allow amendments.

Warning: this strategy does have some risk. The risk you take is that the justice may not be very good at math either. In fact, he may not even check to see if the fine amount is correct. Since you cannot argue anything or point out the error, you leave it up to the justice to do the right thing. There is no guarantee that he will.

However, if they don't kill the traffic ticket, you then have an opportunity to appeal based on an error of law: the justice should have quashed the traffic ticket based on POA section 9(1)b,

where the certificate of offence is not complete and regular on its face, the justice shall quash the proceeding.

You can argue on appeal that the error was fatal. It won't be hard to do. You simply show the court your math skills and state what the correct fine should have been.

More Information

For a full discussion on errors, how to make a motion to have your traffic ticket thrown out and how to take advantage of errors during your trial, see Quash the Trial.

For an explanation of errors on a traffic ticket and to find out which ones are fatal, see Fatal Errors.

1. See Tracey Tyler, No conviction if fine wrong, court rules, Toronto Star, May 31, 2008.