Fighting a traffic ticket in Ontario?
October 17, 2005 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Challenging a traffic ticket (Ontario) [mi]

I got a ticket for failing to stop at a red light. The cop said I didn't come to a complete stop when turning right on a red. I maintain that I did.
My questions are:
1. What are the downsides to challenging this in court? If I lose, I just pay the set fine, right?
2. What should I know about court protocols and procedures? I'm not using a lawyer because I don't want to pay anything for something I didn't do. The local traffic ticket defenders - POINTSS - want to charge me almost $400 to fight a $200 ticket, so I'll be defending myself.
3. What are the chances for a dismissal? I plan to argue that the intersection has a blocked view of traffic coming from my left, so I rolled forward into the intersection (after stopping at the line) to get a better view. The cop (who was directly behind me) mistook this for a "rolling stop". I have photographs and diagrams to present as evidence.
posted by rocket88 to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I think there was an article in one of the weekend papers about this this weekend past... apparently a third of all traffic tickets in Ontario (or Toronto?) get thrown out on challenges. The simple reason is that officers can rarely appear to defend the ticket and it's thrown out by default.
posted by GuyZero at 7:43 AM on October 17, 2005

Not sure about how to prove that you stopped this time, but for to prevent future misunderstandings, I always wait for the car to roll back, rather than just stop moving. After the car stops moving, I wait for that little movement backwards when the wheels are still but the body of the car (and occupant) rocks backwards.

I do it because I figure until it rolls back I can't be sure that it came to an absolute complete stop, but it has the added benefit that the little movement will be visible from the outside of the car, and prevent any potential misunderstandings.
posted by duck at 8:08 AM on October 17, 2005

A third in Toronto, a lower (but non-tiny) number in York region... can't remember the rest.
posted by onshi at 8:10 AM on October 17, 2005

I work in the court system (in MN, but they're all pretty similar), and I can tell you that I ALWAYS challenge traffic tickets. Even though it's a very minor offense, the state still has to prove that you didn't stop completely beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, if you go to trial and the cop shows up, the judge has to decide whose story he/she believes (and believe me, I've seen the judge take the defendant's side). Also, if the cop doesn't show up, the state will most likely dismiss the case (because it can't meet its burden). At the very least, the judge will usually reduce the fine (and maybe not take away as many points, but we don't have a point system in MN, so I'm not sure). The judge I work for says that she always cuts the defendant a break because he put in an effort to show up.
posted by elquien at 9:02 AM on October 17, 2005

As far as courtroom protocol, just use common sense. Be polite. Always call the judge "Your Honor," and don't speak unless spoken to. Bring copies of all documents (one for opposing counsel, and one for the judge), and pictures to prove your case (the more evidence you have, the better). Be prepared to get on the stand and tell your story in a straightforward embellishments or emotional pleas. Don't be rude to the cop or insult his intelligence (stupid though you may think he is). Based on what you've said, you have a good shot of winning. Good luck!
posted by elquien at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2005

Just point of interest for the Canadian system, if you've never navigated it before - it's "Your Worship", not "Your Honour". The be polite and not speaking until spoken to things are both good though.
I went to fight a speeding ticket, in Ontario, and this is how the day went for me.

Went down in person to pay my ticket, and indicated that I wanted to have it reduced (there are two options for this if it is a points-demerit - either just pay less, or remove the points demerit)
The woman that spoke with me (not a judge or a cop, I think she was a clerk, maybe they are called duty counsel) indicated that if I wanted the fine reduced only, she could do that - anything else related to the points would have to go through the system (sorry I don't have more information here).
I chose to get a reduced fine and not fight the points thing. I had wanted to fight it to reduce impacts on my insurance, but since I didn't have any proof about the incident, I would have had to depend on my recollection being 'more convincing' than the officer's statement, or hoping the officer didn't show up. I wasn't willing to take the chance. If you lose, and there are points attached to your offence, this may impact your insurance - I am not sure what will happen if it is simply a fine (like a parking ticket, which doesn't affect my insurance rate).
The woman I spoke with at the courthouse explained the procedures to me and what would be happening every step of the way. You may be able to call your local Ontario Court of Justice offices and ask about procedural issues as well.
posted by Cyrie at 9:22 AM on October 17, 2005

a) Check out FYST when its up (it won't be now I've clicked it, it has about 100kB bandwidth allowance each day). I probably have a backup copy somewhere.

b) You will pay the following if you lose:

- Fees applicable under the regulations of the Provincial Offences Act. You will only pay witness fees if you call them speicifically (ie: The prosecution doesn't call the cop to the stand first). If the prosecution doesn't call the cop to the stand you've won anyways. It isn't much. The judge did me in for the maximum last time, about $3, because my last trial took about 4 or 5 hours (for a parking ticket) and a special closed courtroom on another date (due to the crown's incompetence). Best $23 I ever spent on a ticket, IMHO.

- The victim surcharge on the ticket. You'd probably get that back if you didn't contest it (but I'm not sure about that).

c) You will pay nothing if you win.

d) Ontario crowns rarely, if ever, strike deals. You might get a no points offence if you are lucky. But it can't hurt to do a first appearances meeting with the crown anyways. They will try to use what you say to them against you in the court, make sure you are only meeting with the crown prosecuting your case and they can't tell the judge anything once you request they take the stand.

Some notes past what FYST gives you:


You will spend the ENTIRE DAY waiting for your court appearance. You may even have to come back on another day. Be willing to do that. If you get rescheduled through no fault of your own and your trial is more than 8 months in the future from the date of the alleged infraction, you will find case law on that site that you can use to have your case thrown out of court as an unfair trial.

If you use law (like the above), always cite the law and paragraph it is from. It will be looked up by the prosecution and judge and recorded. This way even if you make a mistake citing it, what you meant to say is recorded.

DO NOT LET THE PROSECUTION TESTIFY. They will try. Oh trust me they will. And if you let them the judge will take it as evidence. If they start to introduce new evidence or facts into the trial without extracting them from witnesses, interject and ask the judge if the crown would like to take the stand (they can't). The judge will then proceed to ignore/strike the crown's comments.

DO NOT TAKE THE STAND YOURSELF. If you need to do something like that, use your closing statement. The judge may ask you to take the stand during them (he did for me). Refuse and remind him of your right to make a closing statement. You, as the indicted, never, ever, ever have to take the stand (it's under the Charter of Rights).

You won't get a jury trial. Since this was a moving violation you will, however, get reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt means if you can make the judge doubt the veracity of the crown's claims, you win. Go for that. It's easiest. Reasonable doubt isn't "oh but I was driving a BROWN car". Reasonable doubt IS "oh but the officer said in his testimony I had gone through the lights on Main street, but the ticket says I went through the lights on King street". More minor offences (improper parking, etc) don't even get reasonable doubt in Canada. If they did I would have won when I proved the officer's watch was not set properly that day (which the judge believed me). I was told they are judged by "the most likely events", similar to civil cases.

SHOW UP TO COURT LOOKING GOOD. You have no idea how many idiots I saw there with zero respect for the court, dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt. The judge threw out the worst of them, generally dressed in high-cut t-shirts and shorts-type jeans. Looking good doesn't mean wedding dress. It means what you'd wear if you were going to meet the boss at IBM.

Ideas to help you: Check the regulations on how red lights are to be set up, etc, on canlii. Question the cop (without giving him the answers) on what they are. If he gets one wrong, question him if you violated that or not. Then get him to say that's what prompted him to ticket you. Now show the officer the actual law and ask him if it is correct (yes/no). Don't let him answer anything past that. Just an idea. Might not work.
posted by shepd at 10:18 AM on October 17, 2005

Seconds the FYST site as being a good resource.

it's "Your Worship", not "Your Honour"

Actually a Justice of the Peace is referred to as, Your Worship (but you wont be committing a major faux pas by calling him Your Honour) Provincial Court Judges are called Your Honour.

Some court etiquette: Stand when the Judge enters or leaves the room, bow to the judge when entering or leaving the room and don't talk in the spectator area.

Good luck.
posted by squeak at 10:53 AM on October 17, 2005

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