CASE LAW - Not Informed of Penalty Points

BC Courts Coat of ArmsThe case of R v Zhang involves the dispute of a traffic ticket for speeding and not displaying a new driver sign. Mr. Zhang pled guilty to disobeying a traffic control device instead of the speeding offence. He did not know that the disobeying a traffic control device conviction included penalty points.

Let's Make a Deal

On the day of Mr. Zhang's trial he met with Cst. Pereira outside the courtroom and discussed the matter with the help of his friend Shirley as he had difficulty communicating in English. As a result of the conversation Cst. Pereira amended the ticket to replace the speeding count with disobeying a traffic control device (the speed sign) instead.

Mr. Zhang pled guilty to both and received a fine of $100 instead of $138. The amended penalty carried 2 penalty points instead of 3 points for speeding.

Driving Prohibition for Penalty Points

image of drivers view and penalty points banner

When RoadSafetyBC was notified of the convictions a driving prohibition for 3 months was imposed on Mr. Zhang. He had been convicted of driving contrary to a driver's licence restriction prior to this and how had 5 penalty points.

The Driver Improvement Program is triggered if a GLP driver is assessed 2 penalty points or more within a two year period.

Appeal of the Conviction

Mr. Zhang appealed his conviction for disobeying a traffic control device on the ground that Cst. Pereira had not advised him that his guilty plea would involve 2 penalty points.

Madam Justice Forth decided:

[48]       The key question before me is whether the demerit points and license suspension imposed on Mr. Zhang by ICBC as a result of his conviction are sufficiently serious collateral consequences to impact the validity of the guilty plea. Given this Court’s finding in Schurman, I am not prepared to find that such consequences will never be legally relevant to the assessment of whether a guilty plea is informed; however, in the present circumstances I do not find them to be.

[49]       I do not suggest that the consequences of having demerit points added or one’s license subsequently suspended are trivial consequences; however, I am not satisfied that pursuant to the test set out in Wong, they are legally relevant such that the Court ought to have ensured Mr. Zhang understood them before making his plea. I accept that, even in the post-Wong landscape, the following finding by the Court of Appeal remains true:

The addition of penalty points to a driving record is an administrative function in which the court takes no part. Points do not affect any right a driver has but, rather, may affect what is a driver’s privilege to hold a license… what may, in a broad sense, be said to be “consequences” of a deemed guilty plea will differ from one driver to another depending on the driver’s record.

She dismissed the appeal.

Learn More

Arranging for an interpreter in traffic court.

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