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How to defend a traffic ticket

Region: Ontario Answer # 520

If you decide to fight a traffic ticket, there are several things that you need to do. You need to decide whether to represent yourself or whether to hire a lawyer or an agent to represent you. You need to determine what type of traffic ticket you have been issued. You also need to begin preparing your case as soon as possible.

First, you need to decide whether you will hire a lawyer or an agent to represent you. If you could lose your licence or go to jail, or if you are charged with a serious criminal offence such as impaired driving or failing to remain at the scene of an accident, you should hire a lawyer to help you defend yourself. A lawyer can also help you if you want to plea bargain your charge or if you feel uncomfortable defending yourself. If you want to fight a traffic violation, such as speeding, disobeying a stop sign, or parking offences, you can usually represent yourself.

If you decide to defend yourself, you will need to determine what type of traffic ticket you have been issued.  There are three types of Provincial Offence Notices, or tickets, covered in the Provincial Offences Act:

  1. An Offence Notice, or ticket (a ticket that is not a parking ticket, such as a speeding ticket);
  2. A Parking Infraction Notice (parking ticket); and
  3. A Summons to appear at court.

Each type of ticket has a different procedure to follow if you wish to fight the ticket.

 

Offence Notice

Offence Notices are the most common type of traffic ticket. If you have been issued an Offence Notice, you have three options. First, you can sign the ticket and plead guilty to the charge and submit payment. Second, you can plead guilty with an explanation. This usually means you will have to go to the courthouse and speak with a justice of the peace. The justice of the peace can reduce your fine or give you more time to pay the fine, depending on your explanation. Third, you can dispute the charge by choosing the trial option. If you choose this option you will have to contact the court office and you will have to attend court.

If you do not respond to the ticket within 15 days of receiving it, or if you do not appear for your trial, then it will be reviewed by a justice of the peace, and if the ticket does not contain any fatal flaws, then a conviction will be entered against you. If the ticket contains a fatal flaw, the court can dismiss the ticket. An example of a fatal flaw is if the defendant’s name is not on it, or there is no offence date, or no location, or if the officer did not sign the ticket. A minor error such as a misspelled name is not a fatal flaw.

Parking Infraction Notice

If your ticket is a parking ticket, you have two options:  (1) plead guilty by paying the total amount of your ticket, or (2) ask for a trial date by following the instructions on the back of the ticket. If you get a ticket and do not do one of these things within 15 days of receiving your ticket, or if you or someone on your behalf does not attend court for your trial, you may be found guilty.

 

Summons

The third type of ticket is a summons.  A summons requires that you attend court at a given date and time. It is an offence to fail to appear in court. If you have received a summons, you have been charged with a serious offence, and you should contact a lawyer for assistance.

A summons is usually issued for more serious offences such as failing to remain at the scene of an accident, driving under suspension, or driving with no insurance. The penalties for these offences are usually a fine of between $500 and $5000, or licence suspensions, or jail sentences.

If your summons is not for a very serious offence, and if you decide to fight your ticket on your own, there are several things that you can do to prepare your case. It is a good idea to start preparing right away, while the details of the incident are still fresh in your mind. You should learn about the section of the Highway Traffic Act you have been charged under, and obtain all the information that the prosecution has against you. This is called disclosure. In addition, you should decide whether you will be calling witnesses.

In some cases, it is a good idea to try plea bargaining with the prosecution. A plea bargain is where you make a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the charge against you, and in exchange, you agree to plead guilty to the lesser charge. For example, they might reduce a charge of “careless driving” to “following too closely”.  As a result, your fine may be reduced and/or you may receive fewer demerit points. If you would like to plea bargain, you should talk to the prosecutor.

If you would like more information about how to defend a traffic ticket, you can contact a paralegal or a lawyer.




								

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