Can a Ticket For Driving In the HOV Lane Be Beat?
Conviction For Misuse of the HOV Lane Comes With a $110 Fine Including Victim Surcharge As Well As Three Demerit Points. The Strength of a Defence Strategy In Fighting a Charge For Misuse of the HOV Lane Requires a Thorough Review.
Understanding the Charge of Misuse of High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Including the Applicable Penalty Upon Conviction
With a few exceptions, when driving within what is referred to and commonly understood as a High Occupancy Vehicle Lane ("HOV"), the law requires that at least two people are occupying the vehicle. The implementation of HOV lanes was for the purpose of encouraging carpooling, reducing gridlock, bettering traffic flow, among other things, all as intended to reduce emissions while improving travel efficiency.
The legal requirements specific to the use of HOV lanes is found within O. Reg. 620/05 as the applicable regulation to section 154.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8. The Act and the regulation specifically state:
154.1 (1) Where a part of the King’s Highway has been divided into clearly marked lanes for traffic, the Minister may by regulation designate any lane as a high occupancy vehicle lane for that part of the King’s Highway and may make regulations,
(a) limiting the designation to specified months or times of the year, days, times, conditions or circumstances;
(b) limiting the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes to vehicles, or any class or type of vehicles, with a specified number of occupants, and prescribing conditions and circumstances for such use;
(c) regulating the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes, including prescribing rules of the road applicable to the use of the lanes, exemptions from any requirement in this Part or in a regulation made under this Part applicable to the use of the lanes and conditions and circumstances for such exemptions;
(d) providing for the erection of signs and the placing of markings to identify high occupancy vehicle lanes and the entry and exit points for high occupancy vehicle lanes;
(d.1) providing for the posting of signs on any part of a highway designated as having a high occupancy vehicle lane that is in a construction zone designated under subsection 128 (8);
(e) prescribing the types of the signs and markings referred to in clause (d), instructions to be contained on them and the location of each type of sign and marking.
(1.1) Where a construction zone designated under subsection 128 (8) includes a high occupancy vehicle lane or part of a high occupancy vehicle lane designated under subsection (1), the official authorized under subsection 128 (8) may authorize a temporary change of the commencement or end of the part of the high occupancy vehicle lane that is within the designated construction zone, and any such change shall not become effective until the highway or portion of it affected is signed in accordance with the regulations.
(3) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle lane or enter or exit a high occupancy vehicle lane except in accordance with this section and the regulations made under it.
2. (1) No person shall operate a motor vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle lane unless the vehicle has at least two persons occupying seating positions.
(2) No person shall operate a commercial motor vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle lane unless,
(a) the vehicle has at least two persons occupying seating positions; and
(b) the length of the vehicle or the total length of the vehicle and any vehicle being towed by it is less than 6.5 metres.
(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may operate a motor vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle lane with only one person occupying a seating position if the requirements of one of the following paragraphs are satisfied:
1. The vehicle is a bus.
2. The person is operating an emergency vehicle, as defined in section 144 of the Act, in the performance of his or her duties.
3. The person is operating the vehicle in the lawful performance of his or her duties as a police officer.
4. The person is operating a vehicle owned or leased by the Province of Ontario in the lawful performance of his or her duties as an officer appointed for carrying out the provisions of the Act.
5. The person is operating a vehicle engaged in road construction or maintenance activities in or near the high occupancy vehicle lane.
6. The person is operating a tow truck that has been requested to provide towing or repair services to a disabled vehicle in or near a high occupancy vehicle lane by a police officer, an officer appointed for carrying out the provisions of the Act or a person driving the disabled vehicle, and operating the tow truck in the high occupancy vehicle lane is necessary to attend at and depart from the location of the disabled vehicle.
7. The person is operating a motor vehicle to which are attached valid number plates that,
i. are issued by the Ministry,
ii. have green lettering on a white background, and
iii. display the words “GREEN VEHICLE” or “VÉHICULE ÉCOLOGIQUE”.
8. The vehicle is a taxicab or limousine that,
i. is being operated by a person who has a valid licence, permit or authorization issued by a municipality or airport authority to operate the vehicle for the purpose of providing passenger transportation services, and
ii. has mounted on the rear of the vehicle a valid plate bearing an identification number issued by the municipality or airport authority for the use of the vehicle for that purpose.
9. The vehicle is a motorcycle.
The penalty for misuse of the HOV lane is a set fine of $85.00 plus $25 as an applicable victim surcharge. Additionally, a convicted driver will also receive three (3) demerit points as imposed by the Ministry of Transportation.
Similar to fighting most traffic tickets where the initial burden of proof is upon the prosecution, a review of the evidence disclosed by the prosecution is necessary to determine the strength of the case against the accused person. In some circumstances, flawed evidence, lack of evidence, among other things, will be immediately obvious to a seasoned professional. In other circumstances, a deeper look at will be necessary. To help determine the best strategy, contact SPPC and DefendCharges.ca to review your options.
Although the fine for improperly driving in the HOV lane is relatively minimal, the three demerit points that will be imposed by the Ministry of Transportation may be of great concern to many drivers. Accordingly, a driver charged with improperly driving in the HOV lane should seek a professional review of the evidence available to the prosecution as well as a review of the applicable defence strategies.
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