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Appendix E. Other related cases

1. Careless driving tickets

Unlike speeding offences, careless driving is not an absolute liability offence. Simply put, if the driver has taken all possible steps like any reasonable man would do to avoid it ("due diligence"), but eventually couldn't, he/she cannot be convicted of careless driving. An excuse is a valid defence to a careless driving charge. In order to convict you, the prosecution not only has to establish that the action was dangerous, it is also required to prove your negligence. The hard part is the latter.

I have received a couple of emails from people who read this page, asking how to deal with careless/reckless driving tickets. In all situations the defendants weren't doing anything particularly dangerous, only because the police officers didn't know what charges to lay, and just wrote down careless/reckless driving. This is ignorance by the police officer and should be stopped. In all cases the defendants were offered plea bargains by the prosecution voluntarily. The prosecution knew that they couldn't win. So they would like to strike a deal, make people pay up in another offence.

The bottom line is, you should always plead not guilty to a careless driving charge. Careless driving is a very serious offence. In addition to the fine, you can be jailed for up to 6 months and/or your license can be suspended for up to two years (if you are charged under part I of the P.O.A., jail term is not possible). If you are convicted, it doesn't look good on your driving record. Insurance companies will immediately hit you with a big hike in premiums. If you plead not guilty, you have an option to offer and/or accept a plea bargain, or simply take it to a full trial and beat it down. Hiring an attorney is advisable. You should always testify for yourself, the prosecution will have a very hard time proving your intention of committing the offence.

2. Impaired driving charges

Also called DUI (Driving Under Influence of alcohol/drugs) or DWI (Driving While Impaired). This is a serious offence and there is no reason not to obtain the services of a lawyer. I do not promote drinking and driving. A lot of people are misled by the fact that as long as you are not over the legal BAC limit (0.08% in Ontario), you are OK. So many people tend to think, "hey, I will have just one or two beers and I won't be over the limit." But this is wrong. You CAN be charged Impaired Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada even if you are under the limit. If in the opinion of the arresting officer that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, you can be charged with impaired driving. The BAC limit of 0.08% draws the line where you WILL be charged Impaired Driving under the Criminal Code no matter how sober you appear to be.

Please don't drink and drive.

3. Parking tickets

Normally I wouldn't advocate contesting parking tickets, since they aren't worth your time and energy involved for such a small fine. Parking violations do not stay on your driving record nor your insurance policy. If you feel that the city is ripping you off with a questionable parking ticket, the best to do is to plead guilty with an explanation, and your fine will almost always get reduced to $10 or $20, depending on how imaginative your excuse is. Sometimes if you face a sympathetic judge you may even get a "suspended sentence" which essentially means $0 fine.

Of course, you can always try your luck with a not guilty plea. My estimates indicate that close to 50% of the disputed parking tickets are dismissed due to no-show of the officer. However when the officer does show up, you are in for an uphill battle because the judge and the prosecutor seem like playing in the same team. You can't expect a judge to be impartial when the city has the incentives to raise as much money as possible from parking fines. The city by-law officers enforce the parking regulations, and the city gets to retain all the parking fines. You will be surprised at how many small towns are almost fully funded by traffic fines. In these cases you can't expect reasonable rules and fair treatment. In most cities, you can't mail in your ticket to request a trial, you have to make a trip to the city's by-law office, and fill out a form to do so. Of course when you approach the clerk, he/she will try his/her best to talk you out of going to court and ask you questions like, "Well are you actually guilty? Then why don't you not waste our taxpayers' money and pay the fine instead?" You don't even have to be polite to him/her when he/she tries out these dirty tactics. Just tell him/her, "Are you trying to deny my right to request a trial or what?"

I have one case which I'd love to share with you where I won big time just recently over a disputed parking ticket. To cut the long story short, the officer handed the ticket over to someone appeared to be a passenger of mine while I drove to find another parking space. Since the law never allowed serving a parking ticket to someone other than the driver/owner, (otherwise it has to be affixed to the windshield), therefore the ticket was not properly served, and thus was invalid.

I received a "failure to pay" notice in the mail (another scam), and disputed the ticket in court. The officer showed up, and he testified what happened, as if he doesn't even know the proper service procedure. After the officer has finished, both the prosecutor and the judge still pretended the ticket was valid, even though it is pretty clearly spelled out in the law book that it wasn't. If the judge were interested in justice he would have interrupted the officer and have the charge dismissed.

Then it was my turn to cross-examine the officer. First of all I made sure that the officer was positive that he handed the ticket to someone appeared to him as a passenger, and he agreed. Then I pulled out the Provincial Offences Act, read out aloud the part about proper service, turned my face to the judge and asked the court to dismiss the charge based on the grounds that the ticket was never properly served. I had to tell you the judge almost fell off his chair, the officer's jaws nearly dropped to the floor and the prosecutor was just plainly surprised. The courtroom was filled with a stunned silence for at least a few minutes. Meanwhile both the judge and the prosecutor pulled out their own law books, flip-flopping the pages around, looking for a word to say. Finally silence was broken as the judge ordered a 10-minute recess so that he could go back to his office to look for case laws. The spectators were just looking at me, amazed.

Needless to say I won the case. Seeing the dejected look on the cop's face and the judge's embarrassment was no doubt one of life's most precious moments. This stunning victory doesn't come without doing homework though. Spotting a rare technicality like this requires knowledge of the relevant laws and the process involved. I will bet the judge himself hasn't seen such technicalities ever before, and someone so dedicated to his defence. For me, I only view this as an opportunity to practise my in-court skills. Going to court just as a spectator to see how trials unfold is a very good education particularly when you have a speeding trial coming up. If you have a chance to dispute some minor parking tickets as an exercise it will be even better.

Trip to City Hall - $2.00
One registered letter - $5.00
Parking at the courthouse - $7.00
The looks on the cop's face when the judge said Not Guilty - Priceless
There are some things money can't buy...

4. Red light camera tickets

As much as I hate photo radar, red light cameras are equally obnoxious. Please note that I do not promote running red lights. I only oppose to all kinds of automated traffic enforcement. When you are caught by a machine, then a few weeks later you receive a ticket in the mail, there is no way you can accurately recall all the details surrounding the offence. How can you prepare a full answer to the charge when you can't even remember anything that happened at an unknown time a few weeks ago? Furthermore, it is the legislation that takes away the due process to facilitate prosecution that is worst. Namely, using only a photo as the sole piece of evidence against the defendant is justice at its lowest. To our Ontario readers, the province has given the green light to red light cameras, and they are coming to an intersection near you. Read this news story to find out the details.

The legislation to support red light cameras will be similar to that of photo radar. Essentially, a violation ticket will be mailed to the vehicle owner, and if the owner fails to respond to the ticket, conviction will be entered in the owner's absence. The fine will be in default if it is not paid on time, and the owner will be denied renewal of the license plate stickers until the fine is paid in full. However, demerit points will not be applied and license suspension is not possible. It looks like the province is not really interested in justice. When a driver went through a red light, punish the owner. It doesn't care if it can't apply demerit points, but the fine has to be paid. Please fight your red light camera ticket and vent your disapproval with your not guilty plea.

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