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Legality of Evading Toll and Red-Light Systems in Ontario

Under s. 191.3 of the Highway Traffic Act, you may not engage in any activity or use any device to evade, obstruct or interfere with an electronic toll system.  A police officer with reasonable grounds to believe you have such a device may also search your car and seize such a device without a warrant. 

Section 13 of the Highway Traffic Act requires your license plate to be kept free from dirt or obstruction generally and specifically that obstructs the plate from being read by a camera for photo radar, red light camera or electronic toll systems. 

The penalties for committing these sorts of offences range from $60-$500 and there are no demerit points attached to either offence. 

This means that the products, such as license plate covers, currently being offered for sale online to prevent or interfere with toll cameras are illegal.  As well, driving a car with a trailer that blocks the vehicle plate, is similarly illegal. 

Whether or not placing the license plate in a non-traditional location that leads to this result without the intent to evade or interfere with the camera systems is less clear.  These systems tend to look for the plate number in a given area of the vehicle though some vehicles locate the plate elsewhere.  It would be an interesting case to see if the prosecution could prove a person engaged in such a prohibited activity if the license plate was merely located in a different location as they would need to prove that the person engaged in an activity to evade the system. 

If a person installs the license plate in a non-traditional location for aesthetic reasons they may still be caught under this offence due to it being what is called an “absolute liability” offence.  This means that there is no intention requirement.  Since there is no intention requirement for an offence such as this, the mere fact that the act is committed is sufficient to prove the offence without any mental component being proved. 

The sections also contemplate the use of other devices with regard to electronic tolls, though seemingly not with regard to red-light cameras, namely “any device.”  This would seem to cover electronic “jammers.”  While the use of such jammers to cause interference with regard to tolls is more obviously written than with regard to red-light cameras, a criminal offence for mischief to data could also be preferred by police.  Regardless of the manner of prosecution, interfering with tolls and red-light cameras is not worth the risk.

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