Q&A - Tow for Unlicensed Scooter Justified?

Q&A ImageIt was necessary for me to move my 50cc scooter 3 miles from one storage location to another. It was daylight, the weather was good and there was no other traffic on the road at the time. I made an error of judgment and decided to make this move on my scooter without current tags since I would not be using it for several months. It did not occur to me to think about a day pass.

I was stopped by an officer en route, and my escort, who was to pick me up at the new storage location, arrived shortly afterwards. I was charged with the maximum $600 offence of driving without insurance. Even though we were all safely on the side of the road, parked on a paved shoulder, the officer then insisted that the scooter could only be moved with a tow truck. I requested an alternative solution, either to push it off the roadway area entirely or to remain with it while my escort went to obtain tags for it. Both were refused by the officer and we all were forced to wait over 30 minutes until a giant flatbed tow truck arrived. The tow truck driver even had difficulties stabilizing my small scooter on his large deck. The remaining 2 miles to my new storage location cost me a further $270 for the tow.

I believe that I was within my rights to have my escort obtain tags for me, since we were in a safe location and he could have done so in less time than the tow truck took to arrive? I have a clean driving record. I am a pensioner, so this prosecution to the full extent of the law is a major financial burden.

I will be asking for some leniency from the judge when this goes to court. I will not expect the officer to reduce the charges since he has a reputation in our area for being punitive to the full extent of the law. (Not being bitter, it is a fact). I would like to know if the tow truck was really required? If it was not, would the insistence on the tow have any impact on the ticket charge? There is a lesser charge of driving without tags. Should my plea be guilty or not guilty? Can you plead guilty with extenuating circumstances?

Comments

Answer

The officer may not have had the authority to tow your scooter.

Police may move parked vehicle

188 (1) If a vehicle is standing or parked

(a) in contravention of section 190,

(b) in a position that causes it to interfere with removal of snow from a highway by a person authorized to do so by the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act , a municipality or a treaty first nation,

(c) in a position that causes it to interfere with fire fighting,

(d) in a position that causes it to interfere with the normal flow of traffic on the highway,

(e) in a position that causes it to interfere with the construction, improvement, alteration, extension, widening, marking or repair of a highway, or

(e.1) in contravention of a regulation made under section 209.1 or a bylaw or resolution of the council of a municipality under section 124.2, a peace officer may

(f) move the vehicle, or require the driver or person in charge of the vehicle to move it, to a position determined by the peace officer, or

(g) move the vehicle or take the vehicle into his or her custody and cause it to be taken to and stored in a safe and otherwise suitable place.

(2) When an unattended vehicle is

(a) parked in contravention of section 187, 189 or 190,

(b) apparently abandoned on or near a highway,

(c) without proper or valid number plates, or

(d) stopped, standing or parked in contravention of a regulation made under section 209.1 or a bylaw or resolution of the council of a municipality under section 124.2,

a peace officer may take it into his or her custody and cause it to be taken to and stored in a safe and otherwise suitable place.

Your scooter was not unattended, you were there with it. Unless it met one of the other criteria, there was no authority to tow it. As long as you were willing to sit there with it, it can remain until you renew or find an acceptable method, such as a friend with a pickup or utility trailer, to remove it on your own.

You may have a reason to require the police to pay your towing bill.

The circumstances here should have nothing to do with the case at trial. The purpose really is only to decide whether you were operating an uninsured motor vehicle on a highway or not. However, the JP being human, I have often seen examples where a dispassionate view was not taken. The minimum penalty set in law for driving without insurance is $345 and the ticketed amount is $595.

As for deciding how to conduct your trial, there is much information on that in the forum already. I will leave it to you to look around and decide on your own. That will save repetition and much typing for me.

Big Tow Resonse

Thank you so much for clarifying the issue of the tow. I do not believe that the officer had the right to tow my scooter after reading your response. Is this something that I should be taking up with the local police department now, separately from the court proceedings about the ticketed offense, or best dealt with all at the same time when speaking to the judge? This seems like an odd situation of rights and wrongs.

Take It Up Now

The towing should be looked at now, it doesn't have anything to do with the ticket dispute.

Remember, my answer has a few mays in it. I am not privy to the whole situation you were involved in, so I can only speak in reference to the information that you provided here.

I Understand the Caveat.

 I do appreciate that your opinion can only be based on my version of the circumstances, but I do appreciate the guidance given to me from your site in a very difficult situation and having no other legal resources available to me. Thank you.

I would like to print all of our comments, with your permission, for a concise written presentation of my version of the facts and the relevant sections of the law and opinions that you have provided.

You Are Welcome

I don't mind at all if you print out any material from this site for your use. In fact, I encourage people to share it with the only price being that they tell others where it came from.

Also ...

... if you can find the time, let us know the eventual outcome.

Best of luck! 

If I'm not mistaken ...

... one has the right to dispute the allegation (pointless in this case, unless the cop fails to show up to give his evidence) or the fine.

Given the police officer's behaviour, a reasonable judge might decide to subtract the cost of the unnecessary tow from the amount of the fine, surely?

 

 

Correct

One always has the right to dispute the allegation or penalty. Sometimes the penalty is set in stone, but one can always ask for time to pay.

I will never try and second guess what a JP might or might not do. I'm always surprised by what happens in traffic court, even after all the years that I've spent there.

Resolution of my Ticket.

My court date happened last week. I pleaded guilty (which I was) and the judge reduced my fine to the minimum of $350. I told the story about the unfairness of the tow, but I was too intimidated to push the issue, which I wish I had done better, so there was no consideration for that. There was no mention of it one way or the other in the judges decision.

After making this original post, I did make a verbal complaint and request for compensation at our local police station, which was followed up by a telephone call, The phone call ended with the officer saying that she would "speak" to the ticketing patrolman. I heard no more.

Do I now have any recourse left to me to have the tow cost recovered? I should correct my original post, which states the amount as $270. I was remembering incorrectly when I wrote it and the tow amount was actually $170.

I'm still feeling frustrated by the entire event and I wonder what it would take to do more about it. Perhaps I should just lick my wounds and go away?

I hate to see an officer with this kind of attitude out there every day making the lives of others suffer due to a lack of any compassionate discretion. It is a small town. I know that I am not the only one who has had similar experiences. I have a great respect for the law and police officers in general, but a bully is a bully wherever they may be.

Push The Matter

The office was incorrect and you paid the price.

If they won't talk to you about it and resolve the issue, it's time for you to push back.

The first thing to do is to make an appointment with the officer in charge of the detachment. Explain your position and request the appropriate restitution.

If that is not successful, you have two avenues from there:

  1. Make an official complaint.
  2. Take action against the officer that wrote the ticket in small claims court.

Furthermore ...

... if you take this lying down, then that same officer will continue to victimize others in a similar way.

But if you tackle this head on - and you have nothing to lose here - then when the officer's decision about calling a tow truck at your expense (which he clearly wasn't entitled to do under law) - will result in someone within the force having to cut a cheque for your $170; this will be noted and recorded, and he will be most unlikely to repeat his error in future.

Publicity and exposure can only work in your favour here. We don't need cops like this, particularly as we pay for them to serve the public, not to take advantage of their authority to punish the public wrongly.

Good luck!

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