Collateral Consequences of Guilty Pleas

Guilty Pleas must be voluntary, unequivocal and informed. The Ontario Court of Appeal allowed a person to withdraw his guilty plea for dangerous driving because he did not realize (because his lawyer did not tell him) that the conviction would result in an indefinite suspension of his driver’s licence. In R. v. Quick, 2016 ONCA 95 the Court found that the “collateral consequence” of the guilty plea was legally relevant and made the plea of guilty uninformed. The Court did not precisely identify what sorts of collateral consequences would usually nullify a guilty plea, but rather said it depended on the facts. The Court applied the following test: “is there a realistic likelihood that an accused, informed of the collateral consequence of a plea, would not have pleaded guilty and gone to trial? In short, would information have mattered to the accused?

There are two significant consequences for regulators. The first is when a regulator prosecutes an individual in criminal or provincial offences court. The regulator should ensure that the accused is aware of the regulatory consequences (e.g., possible loss of registration) of pleading guilty. The second possible consequence for regulators is to consider whether this principle might apply to pleas in regulatory proceedings like discipline hearings. Generally criminal concepts are not imported directly to discipline hearings, but sometimes the underlying principles are loosely applied.

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