Myth: “I was pulled over on local streets by the Ontario Provincial Police and given a speeding ticket but since my town has its own police force don’t they have jurisdiction, making that ticket invalid?”
Without a doubt, this is one of the most common Ontario driving myths about traffic ticket issuances in Ontario. Scouring Canadian driving message boards it becomes clear that there has not been enough clarity on the subject of police jurisdiction in Canada and Ontario specifically. There are numerous fractions of law enforcement throughout Canada and this has made it somewhat confusing for Ontario drivers when they are issued a traffic ticket by a police officer that they did not think had control in that area. The idea that you cannot be issued a traffic ticket by a provincial police officer while in municipal/town/city limits is a MYTH.
Levels of Policing within Canada
In Canada, there are three main levels of police forces that shape the law
- Municipal – York Regional Police, Barrie Police Service, Toronto Police Service, etc.
- Provincial – Only used in Ontario, Québec, and Newfoundland – Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Sûreté du Québec/Quebec Provincial Police, and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
- Federal – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
Some towns/cities in Canada have their own police forces such as Toronto Police Services or York Region Police while other municipalities contract out to the provincial (in Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police) or federal police services (RCMP). There are also parts of Canada in the North as well as some Native reserves that have no local police and are patrolled solely by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Given this, the RCMP has the power to arrest and/or ticket for any offence anywhere in Canada regardless of any municipal or provincial police services in place in that region.
Certain offences are typically divided up and handled by these different levels/categories of police based on location, type of offence and seriousness of the situation. However, in Ontario, you can receive a traffic ticket from your local city/town police, the OPP, or the RCMP, anywhere in the province if they are the police officer that witnessed you breaking the law. For example, if you are pulled over for speeding within the City of Toronto, an RCMP or OPP officer can issue you a ticket and it is just as legal as if it were issued by an officer of the Toronto Police Service. Another example may be a Toronto Police officer pulling someone over for speeding in Ottawa. As it stands, a Toronto Police officer has full power to exercise the law should they see someone violating traffic ordinances throughout Ontario.
Jurisdiction of Ontario Police Officers
This false perception of the jurisdiction of police officers in Ontario is widespread and over time, it became a persistent chapter in the book Ontario driving myths. If you are pulled over by any municipal, OPP or RCMP officers in Ontario they can lay charges anywhere in the province and vice versa. Officers with the RCMP have the most power and can place charges or issue a ticket anywhere within Canada.
Though it is not clear where this Ontario driving myth came from, some ideas may include how the United States police system works. Hopefully, we have cleared it up a little bit for you. Police jurisdiction in Ontario is not a valid justification for dismissing any driving charge or ticket. The only thing that will help you following a traffic infraction is to know the law, learn your rights, and to have an effective and legal defense.
To learn about fighting traffic tickets, read our blog post on “Fight driving tickets and criminal charges.”