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So, you are caught. What do you plead?

You have been pulled over. You can see clearly the flashing lights on the cop car. Your hands are sweating, and your heart is pounding. A lot of things are going on in your mind. All passing motorists gave you a look. So finally the cop hands you the ticket, and he conveniently included an envelope, too (so you can more quickly pay up). What do you plead? Guilty or not guilty? There are three options:

1. Plead guilty - payment out of court

This option is for those who enjoy random forms of taxation, as if they haven't already paid enough income tax (starting from 17%), property tax, sales taxes (7% GST and 8% PST in Ontario, on almost everything from candies to cars), liquor tax, air tax, you name it. If you think the cost of this offence is just the $150 fine or whatever amount written on the ticket, you are wrong. The possible insurance premium hike as a result of the conviction will usually cost you much more down the road. Choose this option if you enjoy punching a hole in your wallet.

2. Plead guilty with an explanation

Essentially the same as option 1. But you get to explain your situation to a justice of the peace, and hopefully if you face a sympathetic one you will get your fine reduced a bit and have more time to pay. However you should realize that the judge cannot reduce the number of km/h over on the charge nor change the charge. The $50 or so reduction from the fine is not worth your effort to go to court and beg the judge, considering that you are going to get dinged by the insurance company anyway.

3. Plead not guilty - trial option

Why should you plead not guilty? Because: DON'T JUST PAY UP! At least, if you chose option 2, you can reduce the fine a bit and have longer time to pay. However, if you care about insurance premium surcharges after the conviction, don't even think about pleading guilty (option 1 or 2). The insurance industry don't care how many km/h over you committed, nor do they care how much fine you paid. All they care is the NUMBER of convictions on your driving record. If you have been convicted for speeding 1 km/h over and paid $60 fine, you are classified as a "high risk dangerous driver" same as the other guy who is 30 km/h over and paid $200. Choosing option 1 or 2 means that you agree with what's being charged against you, and a conviction will be entered. Considering the insurance premium increase, you have no reason why you shouldn't plead not guilty. The stain stays on your record for 3 (three) years. (Demerit points on your license stay for 2 years.) If you are faced with JUST a $100 increase in premium per year, you are paying over $300 extra for this ticket alone. Of course, insurance companies aren't THAT generous.

Remember, it is nothing unethical about pleading not guilty even if you really did it. Technically speaking, pleading not guilty is merely exercising your right to question the prosecution's evidence. You are innocent until your guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the prosecution's job. Unfortunately, the traffic court system has turned into a money making system and you have to prove yourself innocent. If enough people fight it this revenue generating system will collapse. At least, if you fight your ticket, the cop has to go to court and there is one less cop out there writing tickets for the day. If everyone fights their tickets then cops either will have to get off the streets or miss trials. You are not wasting police forces by getting them to courts. Police forces are already wasted by running speed traps in the middle of a highway, unable to respond to emergency dispatch quickly enough. Imagine if your house is being robbed, or your car is being stolen, or your daughter is being raped, and all police officers are too tied up running speedtraps hidden behind a bush, with a radar gun and a cup of coffee in his hands and a donut in his mouth, unable to assist you. By abolishing the ridiculous speed limits police forces can then be restored to do more useful tasks, such as... you guess it... catching real criminals. Please, do everyone a favour, fight your ticket.

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