When you receive a parking ticket or traffic ticket you will have three (3) options:
- Plead “Guilty” and pay the fine
- Plead “Guilty with an explanation” and pay the fine (this is a guilty plea)
- Request a trial date and upon having your case come up, plead “Not Guilty”
Which option should I pick?
As a general rule, it is best to pick option “3” and request a trial date. If you request a trial date, it is important to start a file. This means that any paperwork you receive or generate (ie your statement or a statement of a witness who observed or has knowledge of the incident giving rise to your receiving the ticket, including the ticket that started it, should be photocopied and maintained in a file. Some people consider a grocery bag as a file, it is probably a better idea to have a large strong envelope or a file folder, which an elastic can fit around to hold the contents in place. Every piece of paper, including the ticket, should be in the file or at the very least, have a photocopy of each piece of paper and document (front & back) and place these photocopies in the file. This preparatory work will prove invaluable later on.
What advantage is there, after receiving a ticket, to elect to go to trial and actually show up for the Trial date?
The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, not only for your own case, but for the many others who are also in your shoes, or will soon be.
The City of Toronto has stopped issuing trial dates for $30 parking tickets. Anyone who gets one can still request a date for trial to contest the parking ticket – and will be told a trial date will be coming in the mail – but the letter never arrives and no conviction is registered. The city figured out it’s far less costly to pretend to offer people a trial, then just forget about it, than it is to actually administer justice.
The City of Toronto, as of July 2009 has added five (5) more court rooms to the twenty four (24) court rooms already being utilized and as a result, the new court rooms are having all of parking tickets scheduled for trial. This means that the City is now committed to hearing all $ 30.00 parking tickets. See story
You will learn about the system and add your name to the thousands of others who seek their day in court.
You are exercising your right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter“) and under the applicable Provincial or Territorial Legislation.
You will have the opportunity to request disclosure of the officer’s notes and if the disclosure is not made available to you by the trial date, you may have your charge (s) withdrawn. (violation of Section 7 of the Charter).
Sometimes, the officer who issued you the ticket (s) was so busy issuing tickets, that he/she neglected to write any meaningful notes at the same time that he/she issued you the ticket and because the officer’s notes are of no assistance of their memory and they can’t recall the events leading up to the charge being laid, the Prosecutor will state that the officer has no “evidence” and will withdraw the charge (s).
You will have the opportunity to have the trial in your mother tongue, if you find it difficult to communicate or understand that English or French language. If the court does not provide you with an interpreter, after you have requested one, the charge (s) may be withdrawn. (violation of Section 14 of the Charter).
If the officer that issued the ticket is not present at the court on the day of your trial, your charge (s) will most likely be withdrawn (if it isn’t withdrawn, when your name is called request that the charge (s) be dismissed as you showed up for the trial and the officer is not present to prove the city’s case).
It is possible that the Prosecutor or the Justice of the Peace may not appear and this too is grounds for having the charge (s) against you withdrawn or dismissed (given that to put it over, may inadvertently infringe upon your Charter rights pursuant to Section 11 (b) ).
It may be pointed out to you that the ticket has an irregularity on it, that cannot be amended by the Justice of the Peace and will therefore be withdrawn (ie – no officers signature, the wrong calendar year, no section of the highway traffic act or a municipal bylaw, sometimes even if your surname is spelled inaccurately or misspelled).
If your trial is 11 to 14 months after the date of the alleged infraction your Charter rights under Section 11 (b) have been violated and under Section 24 (1) the Justice of the Peace can grant you a “Stay of Proceeding” and your charge(s) effectively go away. Note: you would have to make an application and serve it upon the Ministry of the Attorney General Federally, the Ministry of the Attorney General Provincially and the Justice of the Peace and the Prosecutor at least 15 days in advance of the scheduled trial date. ( See the section of the site titled “Application for Stay of Proceedings“after “Notice of Trial” and before “Disclosure“ ).
The courtroom may be overflowing with defendant’s demanding a trial and there is not enough time in the day to possibly accommodate everyone’s right to a trial, at which point the Prosecutor will begin to look for ways to make the charges of individuals go away and the offer of plea bargains will be made to defendant’s just prior to the trial time. This offers may include, reduction of the speed that you were charged with to 15 kilometres over the limit, versus the actual speed. It may involve lowering a serious careless driving charge to a much lesser offence under the Highway Traffic Act, etc.
For those who reject a plea bargain, the matter (the trial) will most probably be put over, which will most likely mean that your right to a trial within a reasonable time (in accordance with Section 11 (b) of the (Charter) will be breached. If the trial is 11 to 14 months later, you could apply for a “Stay of Proceedings” and request a stay under Section 24 (1) of the Charter. Note: you would have to make an application for a “Stay of Proceeding” and serve it upon the Ministry of the Attorney General (both Provincially and Federally), the Justice of the Peace and the Prosecutor at least 15 days in advance of the scheduled trial date.(See the section of this site titled “Application for Stay of Proceedings“ before “Disclosure” and after “Notice of Trial” page). When the Provincial Government’s handed over authority to municipalities to ticket/fine motorists and to collect those fines, along with this responsibility came the additional burden of having to prosecute these matters in the Courts. Currently, the City of Toronto only has twenty-four (24) courtrooms in which matters concerning tickets are heard. There are nine (9) courtrooms located at 1530 Markham Road (in which all the City of Toronto’s “parking tickets” are dealt with, including other Highway Traffic tickets issued to motorists), eight (8) courtrooms at Old City Hall, 60 Queen Street West and eight (8) courtrooms at 2700 Eglinton Avenue West. In October, 2008 the City of Toronto’s “Government Management Committee” voted to spend 3.7 million to open up six (6) more, new courtrooms to deal with tickets (issued to motorists under the “Highway Traffic Act”/”Provincial Offences Act”) located at 481 University Ave. This would mean the City of Toronto would have thirty one (31) courtrooms to deal with these matters. The six (6) new courtrooms expected to open in 2009 at 481 University Avenue are expected to raise an additional 4.4 million dollars (in part, to cover the wages & benefits of the 304 parking enforcement officers who issue “parking tickets”) and to allow an additional 180,000 more cases a year to be heard.
If you do not challenge the ticket in court, you will lose and this loss may result in a stiff fine, demerit points and a huge increase in your insurance premiums in at least the next three (3) to six (6) years. You may lose your driver’s license or may lose a promotion at work, due to your poor driving record. Some people are unfortunate enough to actually lose their employment or even face incarceration. Your driving record, just like your reputation, should be preserved and protected at all times.
If you show up to fight your tickets, you will stand a very good chance of having them withdrawn, dismissed or reduced. In any event, it is a win-win situation for you and you should, if provided with the opportunity, take full advantage of all of the positive possibilities.