help me bring down the man, one bike ticket at a time.
July 5, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Ontario Highway Traffic Act Law Filter: if the trial is 37 days after the bike ticket, do i have to pay it?

how do i get out of paying a stupid bike ticket issued last summer by the ontario government? the ticket and the trial were booked 37 days apart. isn't that too long? the final trial is next month, and i want a snazzy way to avoid this $110 ticket. that's probably all you need to know, but just in case more details are helpful (plus i get lonely and i kind of just like to talk), here is what actually happened.

on JUNE 17 2006, i was riding my bike down a quiet ontario street. suddenly a cop jumped out from behind a parked van, screaming at me to stop, which i foolishly did. he gave me a ticket for not stopping at an invisible intersection (disobey stop sign).

apparently i had just ridden straight past the vertical line of a Tshaped intersection. the street i'd passed looked like an alley but was actually a small street, with a name and everything. it's a TINY, untrafficked street- it actually IS an alley on the other side, after it crosses the larger road i was biking on. whatever. the stop-sign was hidden by a tree. there was a big crackdown on cyclists that week in toronto, and the ticket was ridiculous, the cop was hiding behind a van like a praying mantis.

i was served a notice of offence for $110 and advised of a trial on AUGUST 24, 2006 (37 days later).

i had some other stuff going on at the time which made it unwise for me to pay the fine any time during 2006. long story short, the cop was kind of a nice guy, despite his lurking. i explained my mitigating factors to him, and while it was too late for him to unwrite the ticket, he said i could defer it (by going to trial and saying i needed a lawyer), then, when the mitigating factors ended, i could lessen or maybe avoid it the fine altogether. i went to that trial aug 24/06, and deferred the trial. ok.

my new trial, post-deferral, is AUGUST 7 2007.
now my mitigating circumstances are out of the way. i *could* pay the fine, but i don't want to because i don't think it was a fair ticket. but the judge won't care; if i tell her about this unfair intersection (which of course i never photographed), i know she'll just make me pay. i think my best defense (and the cop who wrote the ticket agreed) is that they took too long to bring me to justice- that 37-day lag before the original trial seems too long.

is it true that i can fight back because the original trial was more than 30 days after the "crime" was comitted?
if so, what do i need to do to ensure justice is served?

advice, procedure, and links to legal proof will be greatly appreciated.
(step-by-step if possible, please, i'm kind of dumb.)
thanks, hive.
posted by twistofrhyme to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
luriete for the win.

Your duty as a user of the road is to be on the lookout for traffic signals. If the stop sign is truly hidden by a tree, go take a picture of it.

Suck it up. Cyclists want to be respected as users of the road? Pay your fine, learn your lesson.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2007

OMG, roadrespectrage! Did you just get that smug over someone getting a bike ticket? This is someone asking for help fighting stupid beaurocracy, not a lecture about cycling traffic safety on quiet residential streets.

I'd say to go back and get a picture of the intersection.
posted by cotterpin at 1:07 PM on July 5, 2007

37 days doesn't seem too long to me. It actually sounds rather speedy. My rooommate waited months for his jaywalking trial. And don't forget you're entering a courtroom. Words like "think" and "seem" don't hold a whole lot of weight.

Get a photo of the stop sign and tell the truth whe you get up there - the reason you don't want to pay is because you feel the ticket is unfair. If you try some awkward bureaucracy defence I think the judge will look as confused as most of us probably do.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:19 PM on July 5, 2007

Also, see this previous thread. Notice, from the best marked answer there, 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."

Notice that you already asked the trial to be postponed, so this won't fly. If you cared about being brought to justice speedily, why ask for an extension? That's the head-scratching part.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:27 PM on July 5, 2007

hello, ontario lawyer here (but not yours! not legal advice!)....

37 days is not an "unreasonable delay", and the judge is unlikely to look favourably on you even trying to make that argument given that you originally requested a delay.
posted by modernnomad at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2007

IANAL, IANCanadian. I don't think they've crossed over any legal (or reasonable) limit for the trial, as it's only a misdemeanor, you knew what you were being charged with, they weren't holding you, and it was only a month and change to begin with. Your best bet is to dress nicely, go to court, and explain to the judge that the street was not well marked, that it looked like an alley (due to being directly across from an alley), and that the stop sign was obstructed. If you've never had a citation before, point out that this is your first offense and that you're a safe cyclist. I would leave out the parts about not liking the cop, bike crackdowns, and thinking it's just a stupid bureaucracy. Then explain (nicely) that you'll be good in the future and beg for a reduction. Having photos and a lawyer (traffic lawyer, usually their offices are right near the court house) will help, but might be more trouble/expense then just paying the fine if it comes to that.
posted by anaelith at 1:40 PM on July 5, 2007

I'd say your chances of getting the ticket dropped for undue delay were probably a hell of a lot better last year, before you *asked* for a delay. Going back now and saying 'Yeah, well, sure, I wanted a year long delay, but that first trial was 7 days too late for me.' is gonna make you look like a shmuck, and in my entirely non-professional opinion, will make any later begging for mercy much less likely to work.

The stop sign, on the other hand, is probably still behind a tree, so you could go take pictures of it now. And if it's not behind a tree anymore, then the fact that they apparently had to move it in the interim so people could see it is even more in your favour. You could probably find out from the city when it was moved and use that to back up your begging for mercy.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:47 PM on July 5, 2007

Not a lawyer, etc...

I think my best defense (and the cop who wrote the ticket agreed)

Nothing against cops, but don't take your legal advise from them. That's what lawyers, free law clinics, etc are for.

... if I tell her about this unfair intersection (which of course i never photographed), I know she'll just make me pay.

How do you know this? Arguing that the stop sign can't be seen by drivers / cyclists traveling in the direction you were traveling is orders of magnitude better than trying to argue that your case was originally scheduled a week late. Go back, take pictures of the small street you mistook for an alley, multiple pictures of the stop sign (including from the angle you were traveling). If the tree is now cut, take a picture of the stump or cut branch. Physically not being able to see a sign (stop sign, parking sign, etc) is a reasonable defense for not having obeyed it.

And try not to speak about the traffic crackdown as lurky and unfair; that's not going to score you any points with the judge. It's tantamount to saying "I broke the law because I didn't know I was being watched".
posted by CKmtl at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: i know the judge won't care about the tree/sign/intersection because the first day i went for the ticket, 5 people had tickets for the same offence at the same intersection. one of them had photographed it; no dice.

thanks, cotterpin- and come on, guys. i'm not an unsafe cyclist, i don't need a lecture. this cop deliberately found an intersection where nobody obeys the stupid hidden sign that shouldn't even exist, and he hid behind a van on an untrafficked street to catch people during a crackdown. gimme a break; it was a bullshit ticket and he had to hide behind a van to even serve it.

the cop himself pretty much conceded it was a bullshit ticket, and he TOLD me to use the 37 days defense, but my ability to wade through legal jargon is too unsophisticated for me to research it myself and feel confident i know what i'm doing. courtrooms are intimidating and make me feel nervous. but that doesn't mean i deserve a ticket.

when i requested the deferral last year, for mitigating factors, i said i needed legal advice, so i can totally go back and still use the "unreasonable delay" rule. to be honest, it sounds to me like most of the people who jumped on this thread to holler at me don't live in my province and aren't familiar with the 30-day thing-- but i'm pretty sure it exists, since the advice came from a cop. next month i hope to go back with (pseudo) legal advice and slip through a beaurocratic loophole.

i can't believe i'm being yelled at to go pay a bullshit ticket. i pay my taxes, i ride the bus, i recycle my trash and i bake cookies for the poor children. my actions did not endanger anyone or harm public property. getting a ticket and deserving a ticket are not always the same thing. on principle, i resent getting a bullshit ticket, i resent governmental nickel&diming from broke cyclists, and i don't like feeling hamstrung by legalese that i don't have the tools to understand. so sue me.
posted by twistofrhyme at 3:47 PM on July 5, 2007

i can't believe i'm being yelled at to go pay a bullshit ticket.

You're being yelled at because you're trying to get out of a bullshit ticket with an even more bullshit excuse.

Arguing that the sign wasn't visible seems to make a hell of a lot more sense than arguing that your trial was 37 days late (unless Ontario's legal system is actually batshit insane). The cop who told you to use that defense has not been, in all likelihood, called to the bar.

A bicycle is a vehicle. You have just as much responsibility to obey the rules of the road as the driver of an automobile does. If you hit a person, they won't die as quickly, or they'll just be maimed, but you can seriously hurt people even if you're just riding a bike.
posted by oaf at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2007

must...not...snark... augh

you had an Ontario lawyer say 37 days is not unreasonable. the link I pointed you to says you need at least 8 months. you marked those as best answers... and yet you're going to ignore them and do the opposite? I mean, why even bother asking for advice?
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:17 PM on July 5, 2007

i know the judge won't care about the tree/sign/intersection because the first day i went for the ticket, 5 people had tickets for the same offence at the same intersection. one of them had photographed it; no dice.

Will you be in front of the same judge? If the sign really is/was obstructed, bringing in further evidence of it might help. What would it cost you to go back and take half a dozen pictures or a couple minutes of video?

to be honest, it sounds to me like most of the people who jumped on this thread to holler at me don't live in my province and aren't familiar with the 30-day thing

Perhaps, except for the Ontario lawyer who considers it unlikely to be helpful for your case.

this cop deliberately found an intersection where nobody obeys the stupid hidden sign that shouldn't even exist, and he hid behind a van on an untrafficked street to catch people during a crackdown. gimme a break; it was a bullshit ticket and he had to hide behind a van to even serve it.

Don't say something like this to the judge. A cop "hiding" behind a van, house, hedge, etc. to catch non-stoppers is not some form of entrapment. Unless there's a special article in the Ontario traffic laws that states that stop signs only apply when drivers can see a cop, you'd be out of gas.
posted by CKmtl at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2007

Almost all traffic offenses are written up by cops *hiding* and then pulling over violators. So that's not going to fly.

37 days? Are you kidding? That's a speedy trial, buddy. Very many court cases aren't heard for half a year or more. I have no idea where you got "must have a trial within 30 days" from, but you should probably unlearn it.

I would say your best defense - most likely to succeed - is the standard traffic ticket defense: you hope the cop who issued the ticket doesn't show up. Denied the right to question your accuser ("What exactly did you see, officer?"), the ticket can't be sustained and will be thrown out.

If the officer does show up, you'll have to fall back on pictures of the intersection that show the sign is not visible. And finally, you should fall back on dressing in a suit and saying that you're a good citizen who bikes safely and won't do it again. Just straight up ask for the fine to be reduced.

Trying to make some bullshit claim like "My name is spelled in ALL CAPS on the court docket so it's not my name" is just going to get the judge annoyed with you.
posted by jellicle at 5:34 PM on July 5, 2007

Best answer: oh boy.

hive, i apologize for my bratty tone. i feel awful that i made the hive mad at me. i like & respect this community, and i don't like being yelled at by it. i'm sorry i was defensive. not an excuse, but an explanation: i had a shitty, hungry day yesterday and i wasn't thinking very straight. i'm not habitually as whiny and bratty as i seemed from my post or my answer above.

and this morning, after a solid breakfast, i suddenly realized, holy crap, i cannot believe i wrote this detail wrong.
the bike ticket was issued in june 2005, the trial in aug 2006.
the trial was a YEAR and 37 days later.

for those of you who have asked why on earth i thought 37 days was too long, you're right, it's pretty fast. as i said, i wasn't firing on all cylinders yesterday, so i made an error when i posted, and again when i responded above. the original trial was 402 days later, not 37.

if i can still ask a Q and hope to get goodwill answers, is that an unreasonable delay?

here's my position.
i still think the ticket was unfair. BUT. i don't trust myself to defend myself well in saying that and showing photos of the tree and stuff. being in court makes me nervous and mushmouthed. i also saw a few people defend themselves pretty articulately against that same cop last time i was there, and they crashed and burned despite being respectful and persuasive. i feel discouraged about that line of subjective persuasion before i even attempt it.

as i mentioned, the cop told me, in a friendly/helpful context, to use the delay as a defense. i know he's not a lawyer. but the man spends a lot of time handling traffic tickets, i figure he knows a thing or two, plus i genuinely think he ended up liking me after writing the ticket (because, as i mentioned, i'm not always a brat), and i genuinely believe he wanted to help me out when he suggested i use that as a defence.

thank you for those of you who reminded me not to be snarky about the cop to the judge- i wouldn't do that, esp if he was in the room, as he was pretty nice to me. i disliked his ticketlurking but i liked him, and wouldn't insult him or his job to his face. but of course my tone did not suggest this goodwill towards cops, so thanks for the suggestion.

i respect the opinions those of you who kindly pointed out that 37 days was speedy. now that my error is revealed, and it's not 37 days any more-- and understanding that i don't want to use the tree/stopsign defence-- what can i do?

if the unreasonable delay after 13 months holds, my previous deferall will be ok and maybe not count too much against me, because on that day, said i wanted to get legal counsel because i thought there had been an unreasonable delay.

the cop said i had to "serve papers to the province"...?
but i don't know what that means, or how to do it. when i try to read the traffic act my head spins.

worst case scenario, i pay the damn ticket and i'm out $110, which is not that big a deal.
best case scenario, i learn something about the legal system, defend myself reasonably articulately in court, and feel less intimidated by the whole proceedings.
i will dress nice and be polite at any rate.

either way, i can live with it, so it's not that big a deal. i just wanted to ask for human advice, because official advice confuses the hell out of me.

again, thank you for taking the time to read this, and i really am sorry to those of you who read my previous tone as snarky or bratty or whatever.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:40 AM on July 6, 2007

Best answer: hello, me again... this should put an end to it:
R. v. Muniz, [1999] O.J. No. 312.

Application by the accused, Moniz, for relief under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The accused was a provincial offences officer and enforced parking on municipal property. He was charged with exceeding the speed limit by 35 kilometres per hour. The delay between the date he was charged and his trial date was 13 months. The accused argued that the delay impaired his recollection. He did not make any notes of the incident. He argued that he had suffered prejudice. The accused worried about the demerit points that could affect his licence, which he required for his employment. He argued that his right to be tried within a reasonable time pursuant to section 11(b) of the Charter was infringed and he requested a stay of proceedings under section 24(1) of the Charter.

HELD: Application dismissed. There was no justification to stay the proceeding. The accused had not waived the delay. The 13-month delay was attributable to systemic delay which was attributable to the Crown. The delay was outside the guidelines of eight to ten months. A prosecution for a minor traffic infraction was one of the least onerous prosecutions. The only prejudice suffered by the accused from the delay would be slight apprehension at the thought of a court appearance. His right to security of the person was not prejudiced by the delay. His memory was not prejudiced by the delay. It was reasonable to expect that in view of his occupation, he would have made notes immediately after the incident. There was no evidence that he would lose his driver's licence if convicted. The speeding charge was in the higher range of excessive speeds. Societal interest in prosecuting the matter outweighed the accused's right to prompt adjudication.


to summarize -- even though 13 months is outside the guideline, a traffic ticket is a minor deal and you won't have suffered prejudice as a result of an additional 2 month wait (ESPECIALLY since you requested a delay). you will have to pay the ticket.
posted by modernnomad at 10:55 AM on July 6, 2007

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