The justice will ask you if you have anything to say before sentence is passed. You should point out:

  • your economic circumstances (you are poor);
  • your driving record (it's clean as a whistle);
  • the amount of time and effort you have spent in preparing your defence (lost wages and time off work to come to court) which means you have already paid a severe economic penalty;
  • the minimum social interest at stake in seeing a harsh penalty (does the community really care if you were given a hefty fine);
  • a harsh penalty would not deter others from committing the offence;
  • the affect the sentence will have upon your dependants, including your spouse, children, parents and grandparents who you support; and
  • the likelihood that you would ever commit the offence again.

The justice is looking for mitigating factors that would make him consider a reduction of the sentence (fine). Some of the biggest influences are:

  • a sincere expression of remorse;
  • an apology; and
  • an expression of desperate financial circumstances.

The above factors are useful not only for offences that have a range of penalty but also for fines that have a minimum penalty or a statutory amount, such as for speeding.

Under section 59(2) of the Provincial Offences Act the justice can impose a fine lower than the minimum amount or even suspend your sentence:

59(2) Relief against minimum fine – Although the provision that creates the penalty for an offence prescribes a minimum fine, where in the opinion of the court exceptional circumstances exist so that to impose the minimum fine would be unduly oppressive or otherwise not in the interests of justice, the court may impose a fine that is less than the minimum or suspend the sentence.

You could get off with just a warning or a fine that is lower than what is on your ticket. The key point is that you have to establish that you deserve a break. A review of the law on this matter can be found in City of Toronto v. Doroz, 2011.

Set Fine Amounts

In the Fines section, the difference between set fines and statuory fines is explained.

Will you be charged the set fine amount or another amount? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this.

The most recent case in Ontario, R. v. O'Neill, 2008, interpretted the Provincial Offences Act (under sections 6 through 9) to only allow set fines for guilty pleas out of court. The justice ruled that technically set fines are no longer available once a trial begins.

However, in a bizarre twist, the justice went on to recognize that a trial justice has leeway to acknowledge other factors, like the ones listed above, that may require a harsher penalty or a lesser penalty including set fines!

For example, the prosecutor may recommend the set fine amount which is less that the amount of the charging act. Or he may make an application for a higher fine under section 15 of the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007. The potential for a harsher penalty only applies if you have had a previous conviction(s) for the same offence.

If the prosecutor does not recommend the set fine, you should argue that the set fines should apply. Unless of course you are in a desperate financial situation where you could argue for a fine even lower than that.


Another aspect of sentencing is that if you are ordered to pay a fine and then default on it, the judge may, in exceptional circumstances, under section 69(15) of the Provincial Offences Act, reduce the fine or dismiss it.

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