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What do I need to know to properly look after my interests if I receive a traffic ticket?
(Article last updated: June 1, 2020)
Here are my thoughts on what I would do if I received a violation ticket: Pull over and stop immediately.
Produce all documents requested. You would be surprised how many people can't handle this part. Listen carefully to what the officer has to say. Once you have listened, if you have a comment or a question ask politely. Even if you are unhappy with the state of affairs, being impolite or argumentative will prevent you from hearing all that is said, and it might be important to your defense.
Chances are, at this point the officer will retreat to the police vehicle to prepare the ticket. Use this time to consider your situation, make notes, and prepare any other questions that come to mind. When the officer returns to serve the ticket, listen carefully to what is said again. If the ticket is offered to you to sign, do so if you wish. If not, politely decline. If you choose not to sign, being antagonistic at this point could convince the officer to add to the ticket before serving it to you.
As of August 2019 the use of electronic tickets for Motor Vehicle Act offences is being rolled out across the province. The hard copy of the ticket given to you by the officer will not have a place for either of you to sign. Signatures are not required and you will simply be handed the copy to deal with. Tickets for offences under other provincial statutes will still be written by hand.
Ask your questions before you hand the ticket back if you are signing. The officer will not make a quick retreat while you still hold all copies of the ticket. If you are not going to get anywhere with the questions, there is no point in prolonging the agony, hand the ticket back. Try not to make remarks like "I'll see you in court!" or anything that would upset the officer. He/she will be less likely to accept suggestions to alternate dispositions later on and may choose to oppose fine reductions at trial time.
There is no point in demanding name and badge number, as it is already on the ticket itself. Even if all that is there is the signature, you can still find out who it is by contacting the police service listed on the ticket. You could ask politely for a business card in case you want to contact the officer later for clarification. The officer will now depart, leaving you to get on with your day.
This is a great time to make notes on the situation as you saw it. Record witness details, take pictures, make a sketch, whatever, so that you will be able to recall all the details at a trial a year down the road if necessary. Read all the papers issued to you carefully and thoroughly. Make sure you understand what it says and what is required of you. A lot of people run into trouble because they don't do this either.
Read the section of the statute that you are charged under. If you don't understand it, don't feel bad, sometimes it is not immediately obvious from the fancy legal wording. Request help if needed.
At this point you should have a fairly good idea what you are up against. If not, you could consider lawyer referral and/or some research.
"Fight That Ticket in British Columbia" is a good title to read. It is out of print and somewhat out of date, but still useful. You will likely find a copy of it at your library.
There are internet references as well, but try to make sure that you stick to references from British Columbia as procedures can be different elsewhere.
You now have to make one of four decisions:
Prepare ahead of time for your trial:
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