As of September 01, 2015, this charge carries 3 demerit points along with a $490 total payable fine if convicted on a Part 1 ticket. If you're issued a Part 3 Summons (a court date and no fine amount indicated), the fine can go as high as $1,000 along with those 3 demerit points upon conviction.
A summons is usually issued if you already have a Hand Held Communication Device conviction on your record, it's a way for the officer to try and get you with a higher fine if convicted for the second time. You're only allowed to “touch” a hand held communication device (cell phone) in two circumstances:
1) Calling 9-1-1 in an Emergency Situation.
2) When the driver is lawfully parked or has safely pulled off the roadway and is not impeding traffic.
Here is the exact wording in the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario:
78.1 Hand-held devices prohibited – (1) Wireless communication devices – No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.
You can't touch a cell phone (even at a red light and stopped in traffic or at a stop sign) for any reason. Saying you were “just plugging in the power cord” or “just moving it to the cup holder” is an admission of guilt. We can't beat the charge if you admitted to the officer you “touched” the phone.
If you didn't admit to touching the phone, then it's your word vs. the officer's. We beat this charge on a regular basis at TRAFFIC STOP as many clients of ours were wrongfully accused of touching the cell phone when in fact they were touching something else, and the courts have agreed with us at trial.
Found below are the exemptions to the law, the one most applicable exemption to most of our readers is as follows “allowing touching a button” on a cell phone/hand held communication device while driving.
Regulation 366/09 of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario:
Exemption for pressing buttons – (1) A person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while pressing a button on a hand held wireless communication device to make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio if the device is placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle so that it does not move while the vehicle is in motion and the driver can see it at a quick glance and easily reach it without adjusting his or her driving position.
(2) A person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while pressing a button on a device that is worn on his or her head or hung over or placed inside his or her ear or is attached to his or her clothing and is linked to a hand-held wireless communication device to make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio or hand microphone or portable radio.
Novice Drivers Beware!
Are you a novice driver? (G1, G2, M1, M2) If you're convicted of a hand held communication device charge in court, you will face the same monetary fines as fully licensed drivers do, however you won't lose the 3 demerit points. Instead, you will lose your licence for 30 days for sanctioned regulations, and that's a hard lesson to learn. This will cause your insurance company to drop you, or your rates to skyrocket if they keep you.
Click on this link to learn more about Distracted Driving.