Police say they are not ticketing drivers for having more than one person in a vehicle

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If you recently heard that a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend received a whopping $750 fine for being in a vehicle with someone who does not live with them, you’re likely hearing a pretty tall tale.

Police services across the GTA—including the Hamilton Police Service—say they are not pulling people over to quiz them about their social distancing practices. 

Rumours that police are pulling over cars and fining the occupants for not following the physical distancing orders laid out in the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) began circulating on March 31 after someone claimed that a friend-of-a-friend received a ticket for being in a car with someone who is not a member of their household. 

A friend sent me a pic of this today,” user JF Garrard wrote on Twitter. “Their friend was driving a non-family member (police asked both for proof of residence) and fined for not social distancing. This happened in Scarborough.” 

While police officers—and First Nations constables, special constables and municipal by-law enforcement officers—are permitted to fine those who violate the social distancing orders put forth by the province, police services say they are not issuing tickets when they see more than two people in a vehicle. 

Despite rumours, Hamilton Police are not issuing tickets under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act police wrote on Twitter. 

That said, Peel police do recommend limiting the number of people in any automobile to family to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Toronto police have also weighed in on the rumours and clarified that police are fining individuals who gather in groups of five or more people (households of five or more people are exempt from this rule) or continue to operate businesses or facilities that have been deemed non-essential by the province (such as salons, gyms and clothing stores).

The Toronto Police Service is reminding people that travelling, or being parked in a car, with five people or less - including individuals from different home addresses - is not against the law,” Toronto police said in a statement. 

York Regional Police also took to twitter to confirm that officers have not been directed to ticket vehicle occupants.

Despite the rumours on social media, YRP is not issuing tickets under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act when there are two people in a car. Please do your best to maintain physical distance and appropriate protection to limit the chance of spreading COVID-19.”

While police are not screening vehicle occupants for physical distancing violations, officers can fine people for violating the EMCPA and congregating in areas that the province—and individual municipalities—have declared temporarily off-limits. 

In Hamilton and other cities, you can be fined if you’re caught using a city-owned playground, closed sports field or court, off-leash dog park, skateboard or BMX park, picnic area, outdoor exercise equipment or other park amenities. 

Hamilton has also closed all of the escarpment stairs and public golf courses. 

Failing to comply with the emergency orders passed by the province is an offence under the EMCPA and could lead to fines between $750 and $1,000. 

Additionally, failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself if a provincial offences officer charges the individual by issuing a summons.

Individuals who are questioned by an officer for violating the act are required to produce identification when asked. Refusal to identify oneself could lead also lead to a $750 or $1,000 fine. 

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