Toronto Adopts “Fixed Fines” to Discourage Parking Ticket Trials, While Simultaneously Raising Additional $2,358,839.25

Update: see previous posts – September 23, 2011 City of Toronto Imposes a $12.75 Fixed Fine on Parking Tickets Received/Challenged/Lost, September 23, 2011 Pay for Toronto Meter Parking from Your Cellphone, September 20, 2011 Toronto to Impose Additional Surcharge of $12.75 Added-On Every Parking Ticket (When Motorist Challenges Ticket and Loses), June 16, 2011 The City of Toronto Considers Introducing a $12.75 Surcharge on Parking Tickets, June 13, 2011 City of Toronto Parking Tickets Can be Disputed Online as of September, 2011

The existing Set Fine system for parking ticket offences has been in place since 1989 and has been amended as needed when changes to set fines occur. A major change occurred in May 2004, with the elimination of the Voluntary Payment option for parking related offences.

On May 20, 2004 the City of Toronto made a decision that the voluntary payments for all Parking Offences be eliminated and to increase the set fine amount for No Parking Offences to $40 from $30. In 2004 when this decision was made, approximately 40 per cent of all parking tags were bing paid at the discounted (i.e., voluntary) amount. The Voluntary Payment scheme allowed those who received parking tickets to pay a reduced “Voluntary Payment” amount, if the parking ticket was paid within seven (7) days from the date issue. Generally, the Voluntary Payment amount was set at two–thirds or three-quarters of the Set Fine amount (e.g., on a $30.00 parking ticket, the Voluntary Payment amount is $20.00). This move was made to generate an additional ten (10) million annually for the City of Toronto.

Since 2004 the rate of motorists in Toronto requesting trial requests, has averaged 1.42% every year for the last six (6) years and has increased from 2.5% in 2004 to 11% in 2010.  The City of Toronto has been trying, since that time, to dissuade motorists from fighting their traffic ticket, despite issuing about 3 million of them every year.

In July, 2008 Toronto eliminated the last "night court" forcing all trial requests, trials and receiving disclosure requests to be held at the Old City Hall during daytime working hours

Four (4) years later, on July 3, 2008, traffic or parking tickets issued in the Toronto South area would no longer be heard in the Old City Hall at Toronto – Old City Hall – Provincial Offences Court at 60 Queen Street West. The City of Toronto eliminated the only opportunity to have a trial at night.  Toronto decided to force Torontonians and others inside and outside of the GTA to have traffic trials during the day only.  This means that those who work for a living, who cannot afford to take a day off to attend a trial, will abandon the hope of defending themselves against tickets that should not have been issued to begin with.  It was surprising that Mayor David Miller at the time (who was a lawyer, married to a lawyer) would support this denial of justice to those who could only afford to fight in night court.

Currently Toronto generates $80 million a year in revenue from the almost 2.8 million parking tickets that it issues to motorists.  The 80 million a year is about to grow in the future, given the City of Toronto’s decision to impose a $12.75 fixed fine on parking tickets that are challenged in court and subsequently lost.

In 2010, the City of Toronto issued 2,787,071 (Two Million Seven Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand Seventy One) parking tickets to motorists on the streets of Toronto.

In 2010 out of the 2,787,071 parking tickets issued, 306,651 (or almost 11%) motorists requested trial dates to fight their parking tickets. The percentage of parking ticket recipients requesting a trial has risen steadily each year, from approximately 2.5% in 2004 to 11% in 2010.

Out of that group of 306,651 that made trial requests, 174,069 (or 56.8%) of the vehicle’s owners were registered at a  Toronto residential address and 132,582 (or 43.2%) of the vehicle’s owners were registered at addresses outside of Toronto. The largest percentages of trial requests for addresses outside of Toronto were Mississauga, Concord, Markham, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Oakville and other.

Of the 268,170 tickets that went to trial in 2010, a total of 185,007 ( about 69%) received a conviction by the Justice of the Peace at trial. About 83,132 of those who requested trials and received them, had their tickets withdrawn or dismissed.

With the introduction of the "fixed fine" Toronto stands to pull in an additional $2,358,839.25 (based on 185,007 convictions X $12.75 per parking ticket trial) every year. The earliest an increase to the fines could be implemented is probably April 1, 2012 (provided that the Regional Senior Justice approves the new fine levels by early March 2012 for a April 1, 2012 implementation).

Based on the 2010 numbers above and the new “fixed fine” of $12.75 (where a trial has been requested by a motorist to fight a parking ticket and results in a conviction) that will be added on top of the fine, upon conviction, the City of Toronto stands to collect (in addition to the almost $80 million dollars annually) $2,358,839.25 (based on 185,007 convictions X $12.75 per parking ticket trial) if the future trial request rate and future conviction rate remains the same as it was in 2010. No doubt, the City next will be reviewing toll roads next to raise revenue.

City Council denied request to lower accessible (disabled parking spot) parking fine from $450 to $300 during the September 21, 2011 meeting.

Typically, one court dedicated to parking ticket disputes has the capacity to handle approximately 30,000 trial requests per year, with annual operating costs of approximately $1 million per courtroom.

Issue Background

The staff report from the Treasurer and City Solicitor dated June 13, 2011 (GM5.6 “Implementation of a Fixed Fine System for Parking Tickets”) identified that a trial before a Justice of the Peace was requested in 307,000 cases in 2010, or roughly 11 percent of the 2,800,000 parking tickets issued that year. The percentage of parking ticket recipients requesting a trial has risen steadily each year, from approximately 2.5% in 2004 to 11% in 2010.

Rationale for Fixed Fines         

Toronto City Council hopes to discourage motorists from fighting their parking ticket fines in the future

Encourages early resolution of parking tickets:

A fixed fine system will encourage the early resolution of parking tickets, by providing a financial incentive for out-of-court resolution when there is not an issue to be tried, thereby minimizing unnecessary trial requests.

Reduces unnecessary trial requests:

Trials may be requested by parking ticket recipients who do not intend to dispute the charge, but who request a trial and attend court in the hopes of obtaining a reduced fine amount, or in the hope that the issuing officer will not appear at the trial and the charge will be withdrawn, or in the hope that a trial will never be scheduled. The Provincial Offences Act does not currently provide for any recovery of the expenses associated with scheduling these trials. The recommended fixed fine system, with fixed fines higher than the associated set fine, provides for a partial recovery of the expense where a trial has been requested and results in a conviction.

Number of TrialNumber of  Trial% of Total TrialNumber of
Requests (2010)RequestsRequestsEntities
1 Request73,02923.80%73,029
2-10 Requests118,56838.70%36,463
11-30 Requests30,4929.90%1,926
31-50 Requests6,6842.20%173
More than 5077,87825.40%118
Total Trial Requests306,651100.00%111,709

Fixed fines parallel court costs allowed under the Provincial Offences Act:
The recommended fixed fine system adds $12.75 to the set fine amount where a conviction results at trial. The $12.75 amount is intended to recover a portion of the municipality’s direct costs in scheduling and holding a trial. The amount parallels the existing structure set out in the Provincial Offences Act that allows $12.75 in court costs to be added to a parking ticket fine where a trial has been requested and the defendant fails to appear in court (no-shows).

Eliminates the possibility of obtaining a reduced fine in court:

Of the 106,701 trial requests submitted in 2010 where the defendant appeared in court, approximately 59,530 (56%) of these trials resulted in fines imposed by the court that were less than the set fine amount for the offence (the fine amount that appears on the face of the ticket). Data on court convictions show that the average fine assessed by the courts is approximately 50% of the original set fine amount.
This has created an unintended financial incentive that has led more and more parking ticket recipients to request a trial, even if they do not intend to dispute the ticket, in the hopes that they will receive a reduced fine. A fixed fine system will discourage such trial requests, by establishing that a parking ticket cannot be reduced in court on a finding of guilt.

Summary

The recommended system of fixed fines is intended to promote the early resolution of parking tickets while preserving the public’s right to dispute a parking ticket. It provides a financial incentive for out-of-court resolutions, and at the same time firmly reflects the
principle that the fine imposed is not to be reduced through the court process.

By reducing unnecessary trial requests, residents can be assured of receiving a fair outcome without having to wait months for a trial date. This will in turn see fewer parking ticket disputes stayed or withdrawn due to the length of time that has elapsed since the ticket was issued, and will ensure that adequate court capacity and resources are available to hear parking ticket trials and other more serious provincial offences where trials are necessary.

Increasing Parking Tag Enforcement Revenues by Eliminating the Voluntary Payment Amount for Parking Fines
The Provincial Offences Act allows for the imposition of a set fine for various parking infractions and other offences. Municipalities have the flexibility, by way of offering a Voluntary Payment amount, to set the penalty for various parking infractions at an amount less than the judicially approved set fine levels. The City of Toronto has, prior to and since amalgamation, maintained a Voluntary Payment system for parking tickets. The Voluntary Payment scheme allows parking offenders to pay a reduced “Voluntary Payment” amount, if the parking ticket is paid within seven days from the date issue. Generally, the Voluntary Payment amount must be set at two–thirds or three-quarters of the Set Fine amount (e.g., on a $30.00 parking ticket, the Voluntary Payment amount is $20.00).

 

Increasing Parking Tag Enforcement Revenues by Eliminating the Voluntary Payment Amount for Parking Fines (May 20, 2004):

2003 Fine Structure for Parking Offences (changed in 2004)

Parking     Set Fine Amount     Voluntary Payment Amount     Annual No. of Tags Issued

Offence

Disabled Parking           $150                                     $100                                                     6,865
Fire Route                        $100                                      $ 75                                                    50,092
Meter Offences                 $ 30                                       $ 20                                                 668,281
Municipal Offence           $ 30                                        $ 20                                                   15,597
No Parking                         $ 30                                       $ 20                                                 681,903
No Standing                      $ 60                                        $ 40                                                   82,772
No Stopping                      $ 60                                        $ 40                                                  136,525
No Valid Permit                $ 30                                        $ 20                                                  540,187
Parking – 3 Hour limit    $ 15                                        $ 10                                                    114,491
Parking – Excess time    $ 30                                       $ 20                                                      86,545
Stop – Sidewalk/Footpath- $ 60                                $ 40                                                       31,951
*Fire Hydrant                   $ 30                                       $ 20                                                       28,806
Private Property              $ 30                                       $ 20                                                      212,581
Parking – Blvd                 $ 30                                       $ 20                                                        25,378
Parking – 9M Intersection – $ 30                              $ 20                                                         20,061
Parking – Transit Zone- $ 60                                     $ 40                                                          22,812
Parking – Obstruct driveway- $ 30                          $ 20                                                             6,126
Parking – Public Lane  $ 30                                       $ 20                                                          24,454

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4 comments

  1. I really appreciate this post. I¡¦ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thanks again

  2. Hi Kyle:
    These are the requests for Toronto parking ticket trial dates from 2004 to 2010:
    2004 – 2.5%
    2005 – 3.8% – up 1.3% from the previous year
    2006 – 4.4% – up .6% from the previous year
    2007 – 6.1% – up 1.7% from the previous year
    2008 – 8.5% – up 2.4% from the previous year
    2009 – 10.8% up 2.3% from the previous year
    2010 – 11.0% up .2% from the previous year

    Remember to always http://fightyourtickets.ca

  3. Dear Administrator:
    This is a great article. The City of Toronto has really screwed about 56% of the people in Toronto and 43% of those in other municipalities outside of Toronto.

    First they take away the voluntary payment option, which I remember being in place in 2003. It was simple, if you voluntarily paid your ticket within 7 days of receiving the parking ticket, you received a substantial discount (a disabled parking ticket of $150.00 would be reduced to $100 if you paid within 7 days).

    Then they closed the night court on July 3,2008 5 years later. This meant that people like myself had to take a full day off to come downtown and file my ticket and then have a trial at 1:30 pm or 3 pm. Not only did I lose a day’s wages, but if it pissed off my boss, I would be let go (he didn’t care about matters like justice if it meant the job was delayed beyond the time it was suppose to be finished).

    So now Toronto has denied us all the opportunity to pay off the ticket in 7 days at a reduced rate, has denied us all the right to night court and has the gall to pass a new law that says if you ask for a trial and aren’t successful, they have the right to tack on an additional $13 for the pleasure.

    I notice that trial requests have been on the rise since 2004 when the number of people that requested trials was at 2.5% up to 2010 where the trial requests have increased to 11%. You say the average is 1.42 % increase every year, do you have the exact numbers?

    I personally believe that what the 26 City Councillors have agreed upon (this $12.75 fixed fine bullshit will backfire and increase the number of trial requests when it kicks in, because of the huge amount of the increase in the fines in the future).

    I have looked through mainstream media and your the only one who has got this story out to the public, thank you so much for informing the public.

    If you have the numbers I requested, I will be indebted to you as I can’t find them anywhere.

    Please keep up the great work for working stiffs like myself and my family and all the others like us.

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