What if a US resident gets a ticket in Canada?

What would happen if a US resident gets a Canadian traffic ticket such as a speeding ticket and decides not to pay?

We have interviewed several lawyers regarding this question. We also interviewed several US residents who got a Canadian traffic ticket. This article is a summary of those interviews.

Except for New York, Florida, Michigan, or Maine residents, nothing will happen to you, your driving license or vehicle, unless you decide to cross the Canadian border. If you are NY, FL, MI, or ME residents and got a traffic ticket either from Ontario or Quebec, those violations will show up against your US driving license, and your insurance may go up. Traffic violations from any other province or territory do not affect your US driving license. 

Several Canadian provinces and US states have reciprocal agreements. According to this agreement, authorities share traffic infringement or violation information between them. They also enforce those tickets or take adverse action against driving license and registration according to law.

Four US states have reciprocal agreements with two Canadian provinces.

  • New York with Ontario, and Quebec.
  • Michigan with Ontario.
  • Maine with Quebec.
  • Florida with Quebec.

Here is an example to clear up any confusion. Suppose you are a New York state resident. If you get a speeding ticket in Ontario and plead guilty, Ontario will share the information with New York, and points will show up on your New York driving license. 

Here’s another example. You are a Florida resident. If you get a Quebec traffic ticket during your Canadian tour and plead guilty, points will show up on your Florida driving license. 

If this happens, your insurance will go up.

However, if your driving license is not from these states — New York, Michigan, Maine, and Florida — even if you plead guilty and pay the fine, your state DMV will not know anything. It’s because no other Canadian provinces share traffic violation information with any other US states. 

We will discuss two scenarios. 

  • You are a New York, Michigan, Maine, or Florida resident.
  • You are a US resident other than NY, MI, ME, or FL.

Let’s discuss the second scenario first. 

You are a US resident other than NY, MI, ME, or FL.

Let’s say you are a New Hampshire resident. You got a Canadian speeding ticket. As your state does not have a reciprocal agreement with any Canadian provinces, nothing will happen to your driving license even if you don’t pay the ticket and ignore it. If you plead guilty and pay the ticket, your DMV will not know anything about this incident, and your insurance would not go up.

Our honest advice is to you; please pay your Canadian traffic violation ticket, even if you live in a state that does not share traffic violation information.  

If you don’t pay the ticket, your fine will increase significantly due to non-payment of the penalty and compound interest. This record will never go away. If you don’t address your Canadian traffic ticket, it may come back to bite you in the future. For example, the following two scenarios could happen.

  • You decide to visit Canada in the future.
  • You permanently move to New York, Florida, Michigan, or Maine.

You decide to visit Canada in the future:

Depending on the type of traffic tickets, you only pay fines or appear in court. If you fail to appear in court on your due date, the local authority may issue an arrest warrant against you. But, as you are a US resident in the US, nothing will happen.

If you have to pay a fine and don’t pay, the Canadian authority will suspend your Canadian driving privileges, and they will place a note on your file so that you can’t cross the border again.

Therefore, if you decide to go to Canada, even after 20 years, you will not be allowed to enter Canada until you settle your debt. Payment is cheap compared to the denial of entry into Canada.

We interviewed one of our New Hampshire readers who got a traffic ticket in Quebec. Police gave him the ticket for speeding. He was going 15km over the speed limit. 

He came back to the US and ignored the ticket. A few months later, he got a letter asking him to pay the fine. 

He ignored the letter. 

A few days later, he got another letter demanding the payment and warned him that his Quebec’s driving privileges would be suspended if he does not pay. 

Again, he ignored the letter. 

Finally, he got another letter saying his driving privilege has been suspended in the whole of Canada. 

Few years passed, and he forgot about the incident entirely. However, after 15 years, he wanted to go to Alaska on an epic road trip. Nevertheless, Canada denied his entry due to his past unpaid ticket. They asked him to pay the fine if he wants Canadian entry.

You permanently move to New York, Florida, Michigan, or Maine:

Suppose you have an outstanding ticket from Ontario or Quebec and move to NY, FL, MI, or ME permanently. DMV in those states could deny you to give a driving license until you pay the outstanding fines in Canada.

You are a New York, Michigan, Maine, or Florida resident.

As we said before, only four US states and two Canadian provinces have reciprocal agreements.

  • New York with Ontario, and Quebec.
  • Michigan with Ontario.
  • Maine with Quebec.
  • Florida with Quebec.

Therefore, if you are a NY resident got a speeding ticket in Ontario, the ticket points will show up in your New York driving license. Similarly, if you are a Michigan resident and got a speeding ticket in Ontario, points will show up on your Michigan driving license. 

Your insurance will go up. If you don’t pay the fine, your DMV will suspend your driving license. It will increase your car insurance further. Moreover, the DMV can suspend your car registration too.

Traffic Tickets from other Canadian provinces and territories:

If you get a traffic ticket from a province or territory except for Quebec or Ontario (even if you are a resident of NY, FL, ME, MI), nothing will happen to you or your driving license. However, as we mentioned earlier, you will face problems if you ever try to go to Canada.

What if you get a parking ticket or toll violation?

Parking tickets and toll violations are different from traffic violations. 

If you rent a vehicle in Canada and get a parking ticket, it will go against your car, not against your driving license. If you don’t pay the parking ticket, the rental company may charge your credit card.

Another scenario. You visited Canada with a US license plate vehicle. If you are a resident of NY, MI, FL, or ME, the parking ticket fine will show up against your vehicle registration. If you don’t pay, your state DMV will deny you to renew your car registration or may suspend your vehicle registration.

However, if you are a resident except for NY, MI, FL, or ME, nothing will happen. But there’s a problem. If you visit Canada with the same vehicle plate and police stop you, they can impound your car for non-payment of parking or toll violation. 

Conclusion:

If you get a Canadian traffic ticket, whether it is a parking ticket or speeding ticket, please pay the fine. It’s not worth the risk of not paying the fines and facing Canadian border problems in the future. 


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