An article in today’s Toronto Star (Toronto/GTA) “Cutting a deal in city traffic court” provides an insight into those charged and those who will be prosecuting the charges. Alec Tavshunsky reporting on behalf of the Toronto Star, does an excellent job in providing an accurate snapshot of the Court experience and how the City of Toronto “…dispenses with hundreds of cases every day in what is often a comedy of errors”
The Director of Toronto’s Court Services, Mr. Barry Randell revealed in the article that in 2008, Toronto Court Services handled 625,000 traffic charges and that almost 312,000 of those charged requested a trial date. Mr. Randell admitted that traffic court is where more people go than any other.
“Every day, a half-hour before court opens, city prosecutors Markle and Valerie Hawkes sit behind a table in the hallway outside Court H, at Old City Hall, one of three courthouses dealing with Toronto traffic matters. On this day, more than 100 people – in two shifts – are on the docket. Many want to speak to the prosecutors, as do several paralegals. Matters move quickly.”
What comes next is where Prosecutors win the defendant over, who actually believe that they are getting a good “deal” but in fact, are not. This is the successful pitch made to an unsuspecting motorist:
“Were you going faster than 40 km/h?” Markle asks a woman.
“Yes,” the woman says.
“I can reduce it to no-points, okay?” she asks.
The woman accepts. Next person.
What Markle, the City Prosecutor doesn’t tell the women, is that Insurance companies don’t care whether or not the conviction came with demerit points or not, a conviction is a conviction and the insurance premiums paid for auto insurance for the motorist, will increase. The woman who accepted the “plea bargain” thought that her conviction came with no demerit points (and therefore no consequences with the insurance company that provided her with auto insurance) and that the deal offered was a “good deal”
Because there are long line-ups before the trials commence, people are treated like cattle and end up receiving a form of rough justice when they settle on an agreement without knowing the future potential consequences. It is extremely important to know what your rights are, before you enter that line-up with another hundred people in the same position and have one of the City Prosecutors offer you a “deal” which unltimately benefits their employer (City of Toronto) alot more, than those who have been charged.
Prosecutors know that the process can be intimidating and hurried and often take advantage of the person charged, only because the climate allows them to. Salespeople know that the sale is often made or lost, within the first few seconds of interaction with the potential buyer. Never let a Prosecutor bully you into submission or strong arm you, until you agree with them (on a suggested resolution of your charge(s) ). Sometimes the person charged agrees to a plea bargain, not realizing that the officer is not going to show up (and without the officer present who charged the motorist, the Prosecutor cannot prove their case) and more likely than not, their charge would have been withdrawn, as the Prosecutor could not establish their case against the motorized, without the officer testifying to the facts of the case (as the officer perceived them, before and after the charge had been laid).
There are a few things you can do in preparation for the trial, before the trial. When you reach your courtroom on the day that your trial is scheduled to commence, you should have an understanding of what will happen, before the trial experience unfolds. fightyourtickets recommends that motorists go to the same court where your trial is scheduled, at least a week prior to your scheduled trial, just to sit in the court room and see for yourself, what transpires. If you have the time to do this, it will go a long way in calming your nerves, before you have to go to court for your own trial.
The fact is, if more and more people challenge their traffic tickets in court, by way of requesting a trial, the more and more people will win their cases in traffic court.
What must be stressed is that Justices of the Peace cannot dispense legal advice when your trial begins and you begin to ask him/her questions. This policy makes sense. If a Justice of the Peace is not allowed to give advice, why would a motorist, scheduled for a court date, accept advice from an individual hired by the City to Prosecute them (example: City Prosecutor’s)? If you walk into these situations without any knowledge or strategy, you are simply providing the Prosecutor with an easy conviction (even easier if they can simply “talk you into pleading guilty” to the same or lesser offence) which they don’t even have to work for.
Consult all the pages of Fight Your Tickets and at least you will possess the necessary knowledge to build a winning strategy before you put a foot into any court room. There are a number of ways to win your traffic tickets, without having to accept plea bargains with City Prosectors or Paralegals or Lawyers.