Your Day in Traffic Court

Scales of Justice"I'll see you in court!" This hollow threat often ended conversations at the roadside after a driver was issued a traffic ticket for a violation. I knew that few of them would actually carry out their intention and if they did, there would probably be no coherent defence made.

Like many things in life, success often depends on preparation as much as it does on the delivery. Traffic court is one of those occasions.

I wrote the Q&A: How to Deal With a Traffic Ticket to assist in the process starting with being pulled over and ending with the conclusion of the court case. Links at the bottom of the article refer you to other reliable sources of information appropriate for courts in British Columbia.

If you are really serious about defending yourself well, probably the best $25 (plus tax, of course!) and 30 minutes you can spend is by taking advantage of the Canadian Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. This will help you decide if you want to represent yourself or hire the lawyer to defend you. Should you decide to manage your own defence you will very likely receive valuable advice.

The officer is required to disclose information on the case against you if you request it. Disclosure is essentially a summary of the evidence that the officer intends to present to the court. Should you require specific information, ask for it. Do this well in advance of the trial and I would suggest that you do so in writing and either mail or deliver it to the officer's workplace.

This step is where people often take advice from the internet to make outlandish requests and become upset when it is refused. The case of R v Wong comes out of a B.C. traffic court and may be considered as a guide to reasonable requests that the presiding judicial justice will support.

Speaking of case law, there is a fairly extensive collection on the DriveSmartBC web site. Searching "case law" and the offence you are interested in may turn up relevant examples of how the courts view a particular situation.

You can also do your own research on the Canadian Legal Information Institute's web site.

The DriveSmartBC Forum contains two sections, Traffic Court and Traffic Tickets that may be of some assistance.

If you feel that your Charter Rights have been violated, most commonly your right to a trial within a reasonable length of time, you cannot do this in traffic court. You must notify the court registry and arrange for a hearing in provincial court instead. The judicial justice does not have the authority to preside over these cases.

You can learn a lot through the experience of others. Contact your local court registry and find out when traffic court is being held. It may even be possible to find out if the officer that issued your ticket will testify. Sit in on a morning or afternoon session as a spectator. On the day of your trial, you will already know what to expect.

This advice is valid until our provincial government replaces the traffic court system with an adjudication process. The progress of that began in 2012 with amendments to legislation and as far as I am aware, we are only now preparing to test e-ticketing in some areas of B.C.

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