Prior to the Trial
Prior to the Trial, what if anything, should I do?
The key to a successful trial is adequate and sufficient preparation in advance of the trial date. Hopefully, at the time that you received your ticket(s) you took lots of notes, either as it happened or shortly thereafter (this is always the best time to take notes as the ticket and the events leading up to it, are still fresh in your mind) You must prepare yourself by practicing for the actual trial. This means that you have to review your case, your evidence (what you would say on the witness stand if you were required to give evidence by your testimony), the evidence of your witnesses (if you have any), the anticipated evidence of the officer (police or provincial offences officer or green hornet) that generated the ticket which you are fighting and the Highway Traffic Act, the Provincial Offences Act (POA), the Municipal By-Laws from the municipality in which you received your ticket and the jurisprudence (the case law related to the offence of which you have been charged).
Begin by reviewing the ticket. Are all the information fields filled in? Does the description of your motor vehicle on the ticket, allow someone else looking at the ticket to accurately describe your car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle or does the ticket merely state “Chrysler” or “G.M” or “BMW” or “Kawasaki” or “Ford”?! Does the ticket describe the colour of your vehicle? It may contain the manufacturer’s name, but that does not tell the person reading it, if it is a car, van, truck, SUV, motorcycle etc.
If the ticket does not adequately and accurately describe the vehicle which you were operating or in the possession of at the time of the ticket, then this means the individual who issued the ticket, will not have the best recall of the vehicle that he or she issued a ticket to and may not be able to recall other important details at the trial.
Does the ticket have the signature of the officer who issued it? If it does not, then the ticket will be quashed or rendered a nullity, given that a Provincial Offences Officer (police, parking enforcement officers (“green hornets”) must sign the ticket to give the ticket life. If it is not signed, it is not a ticket which the court has authority to deal with in a trial and you would simply say, “Your Worship, I would like to bring to your attention that this alleged ticket (or infraction notice or parking infraction notice) does not contain the mandatory signature required from the officer who issued it and therefore I would respectfully request that this charge (of these charges) be dismissed” At this point the Justice of the Peace would review the ticket and the Provincial Offences Act (to see if he/she had the ability to amend the ticket or the information found within the ticket) and would ask the Prosecutor if he/she had any submissions on this point, in response to the defendant’s request. The Prosecutor may attempt to downplay the importance of this simple technical irregularity or oversight by the officer who issued the ticket(s) and suggest that the Justice of the Peace had the authority, under the Provincial Offences Act, to amend the certificate of offence (your ticket). The Justice of the Peace does not have the authority to amend a ticket by suggesting that a signature, which must accompany the charge, at the time the charge is made, now be placed on the ticket. If the Justice of the Peace suggests that he/she will simply amend the ticket to now include a signature which was not present at the time the ticket was issued, you must say “With all due respect your Worship, for the record, this court does not have the authority to place a signature on a ticket, which did not contain a signature at the time the alleged ticket was issued, the Provincial Offences Act never anticipated this and does not provide you with the authority to do so and once again, I would ask that you dismiss this alleged ticket” More likely than not, the charge(s) will be dismissed as this is not a ticket and it would be improper to have a hearing (a trial) with regard to information laid out in a certificate of offence (a ticket) which is not a certificate of offence at all, given that in order to make this a ticket, it had to have the signature (which could simply be a scribble or initials, it doesn’t require a full legible signature with first and last name or first initial, last name, it could even be a “dot” as long as there is something on that line) on it.
The ticket (also referred to as a “certificate of offence” or “parking infraction notice”) must also have the proper year on the ticket. You must look for any irregularities during your preparation for the trial.
If you can, go back to the place where you received the ticket and review your surroundings and take notes, lots of notes. Is there a posted speed limit sign, which you may have past and not seen, before you received your ticket. Take some notes about the area, it may prove invaluable when you cross-examine the officer who issued you the ticket. You may be able to point things out that he/she may not recall, which affects the weight or reliability of the officer’s evidence. If the officer had you in his/her radar and you were issued a ticket for speeding, where was the officer and the radar unit situated. Was the officer under an overpass, or under hydro-electric lines? It may well be that the radar he/she was using, cannot be accurately relied upon because the radar unit being utilized was under an overpass or under hydro electric lines (wires) which can produce unreliable readings. It is also good to know the name and manufacturer of the radar unit which the officer, who gave you a ticket was using. If you are in possession of the information surrounding the radar unit used to ticket you, you may want to get a copy of the user’s guide/manual or manufacturer’s guide/manual as it will point out all the steps necessary to obtain accurate radar results and what you should never do or avoid doing or where you should not use the radar unit, given that the results may be inaccurate and unreliable. Remember, a machine was used to obtain the speed your vehicle was allegedly travelling and it is the accuracy or reliability of the machine’s alleged readings which needs to be questioned, in addition to the person who is operating the machine (generally the officer).
It is also good to go back to the location where the event allegedly took place at approximately the same time and day or same weather conditions. You can get a much better perspective if the conditions are as close as possible to the conditions (same day, time and weather conditions) when you received your ticket(s). If you received a ticket for going through an amber or red light you may want to look at the sequence of the traffic light at that intersection on the same day and time as you received your ticket. This is important because the sequencing or programming of the lights are usually different during certain times and days of the week, during the day on a weekday the lights may be set up differently as they would be for a Friday night or the weekend. You can go to that intersection on a Friday at 11:00 p.m. (if you received your ticket on a Friday at 11:00 p.m.) and review the sequencing of the lights, when do they change, how many seconds, is there an advance green, etc. Take notes. You may want to go back to the area and look for posted signs along the road, read them, do they apply to your situation or are they directly or indirectly related to the charge that you received within your ticket. Is the area school zone or is it a community safety zone? This will make a big difference, as the fines can be increased and the community as a whole is affected by your driving and the Justice of the Peace will take that into consideration when he/she is trying the case and coming to a decision in the matter. Take notes.
You must ask your witness questions and write down his/her answers. You are allowed to meet with your witness and to discuss the case and to ask him/her questions (examination-in-chief and re-examination) during the trial. You should write down the questions and answers, example: (Q=question and A=answer)
Q- Please turn your mind back to July 4, 2012 can you please tell the court where you were that day, at approximately 8:42 p.m.?
A- I was in my friend’s car
Q- Was there anyone else in the car?
A- Just my friend and me.
Q- Where were you situated in the car?
A- I was in the front passenger seat, sitting beside my friend.
Q- Who was driving the car?
A- My friend was.
Q- And can you please tell the court who your friend is?
A- Yes, his name is Mr. Innocent.
Q- And can you tell the court what, if anything, happened at 8:42 p.m. on July 4, 2012?
A- We, Mr. Innocent and I, were pulled over by a police officer?
Q- Can you describe what, if anything, Mr. Innocent was doing that would attract the attention of law enforcement Officers?
A- I didn’t know, until the police officer gave my friend a ticket.
Q- What was the ticket for?
A- Unnecessary Slow Driving.
Q- Was there any posted speed limit on the road in which you were pulled over on?
A- Yes, it stated 40 kilometres per hour.
Q- Do you recall what speed your friend was travelling just before he was pulled over?
A- Yes, he was going about 45 kilometres.
Q- How did you come to that conclusion?
A- At the time we were going somewhere and I noticed how slow we were going and I looked at the speedometer and noticed it said 45 kilometres which made me upset because I thought the speed limit was 60 or 50 and here we are only doing 45.
Q- Did you say anything to your friend, Mr. Innocent?
A- I told him that we didn’t have all night and he said “I’m going the limit” and then we were pulled over.
No more further questions, your Worship.
If you write down your questions and answers and go over them with your witness, at least twice, the second time, shortly before the trial, then you will be adequately and sufficiently prepared. This will also provide your witness with a degree of comfort as they have had a chance to review their evidence and now will say it on the witness stand under oath or after being affirmed. Tell them, that after they give their testimony, they will be subject to cross-examination from the Prosecutor and/or the Justice of the Peace. This is called proper preparation and there is no surprises for you or your witness(es).
There is a page on this site “Reasons for Having My Ticket(s) Dismissed” which will provide a number of grounds for you to use to have your ticket thrown out. Read it and try to remember this page, as these situations do occur and when they do, have your ticket(s) thrown out as a result.
Review the Highway Traffic Act or the Provincial Offences Act against the charge laid out in your ticket(s). It may be that you were charged with the wrong offence. You can access both of these Acts through the internet. You can also, most likely, access the internet for the Municipal By-Law(s) which you allegedly violated, within a certain municipality with a city/county. Look at these things carefully, as it may provide you with the tools you require to have the ticket you received, dismissed or withdrawn by the city or the Province.
Read the law, Canlii is a great source of Canadian jurisprudence. Simply type in the information in your ticket or the situation as you would describe it and you would be surprised how much law, that may assist you in the defence of your ticket may come up. Try to do a Google search using .ca not .com. Canadian law is much more persuasive and would carry a lot more weight and relevancy in these matters than American law or British law. Obviously if you’re an American, American law would carry more weight and relevancy and would be much more persuasive in an American courtroom, as the same case would relate to the British experience. If you find a decision or two which you consider to be important, then you can print it (make three copies – one for the Justice of the Peace, one for the Prosecutor and one for yourself) and bring this with you and you can rely on it and quote from it if you think that it is on point, relevant and relates to the specifics of your ticket. This is only to be referred to and relied upon at the end of your trial in closing arguments, where you would first provide the Justice of the Peace with a copy, the Prosecutor with a copy and the third copy you would be able to read from or quote passages from.