VIEWPOINT - My Day in Traffic Court

SoapboxI've recently attended a dispute hearing for a speeding in a municipality charge. When I arrived the officer greeted me in the hallway before the courtroom and invited me into a small interrogation room. He then asked me what my intentions were, and after a quick run down of the possible options, I replied that I was here to plead not guilty.

Officer promptly thanked me for my time and we exited the room.

 I was somewhat disappointed that the attending officer was present, but none-the-less I was planning to challenge the evidence that in my opinion was flimsy at best.

When the court session started, cases with pre-arranged plea bargains were fast-tracked. I deduced that these were the result of the vigorous work officers performed in the hallway prior to the hearing. The Justice of Peace struck me as a very likeable older gentleman with great patience and impeccable manners; it was also painfully apparent that most participants did not come prepared or at all educated about the court proceedings and the flow of the trial; the Justice was cordially explaining the matters of the law to each defendant with ease, patronage and care typically possessed by father figures and pastors.

The case tried immediately before mine was eerily identical to that of my own; it was the same charge, the same officer and the same type of evidence. The defendant elected to plead guilty, but was still set to share their side of the story, and after a briefing on court procedure and the matter of law, their testimony was changed to not guilty, and the trial proceeded.

The officer took the witness stand and relayed the matter in a clean and clear fashion. Officer's main evidence to the charge was visual estimation of the speed, which was announced as 90km/h in a 50 zone, corroborated by the officer's account of visual reading of the speedometer at the time immediately before the defendant was pulled over.

Defendant did not seem at all prepared; they did not ask the officer any questions regarding the testimony; no shadow of doubt was cast even-though Justice remarked the testimony as "the officer's weak case". Officer went back to the prosecution stand and the defendant than took the witness stand. They did not attempt to present a full recollection of the events, and instead immediately presented their main argument: that it was "physically impossible" to reach such high rate of speed in that area at that time due to traffic. They then sealed their fate by making their gravest mistake by claiming knowledge/presumption that the road in question was posted at 60km/h. Justice jumped on that assertion, saying that they are familiar with the road the offence allegedly took place at, and as a long time resident of the area Justice asserted that this road was never posted at any speeds other than the default municipality rate. Justice further carried that the defendant did not present any substantial evidence to the contrary of the charge, and the fact that the defendant was incorrect about the actual speed in-effect on the road was too grave to ignore.

Justice offered the defendant a reduction in the fine, gave them time to pay "after Christmas" in lieu of defendant's unemployed status and sent them on their way.

It was my turn to face the court. I was ready to plead not guilty; my moral determination being that the officer was highly mistaken about his estimation of my rate of travel at the time of the pull-over. I was further prepared/inspired by the officer's testimony in the case immediately before mine, because I regarded the prosecution's evidence against me to be equal if not lesser to that of against the previous defendant. I did not apply for disclosure before-hand, because I did not believe there would be anything I did not already know, nor did I want to raise any unnecessary attention. I also did not entertain any conversations beyond that of the required at the time of the pull-over, and did not take the officer's bait aimed to induce my direct admission of fault at the time of the alleged offence. So to say the least I was excited and eagerly awaiting to ask the officer some questions regarding their methodology, training, testing, success rate and tolerance for discrepancies.

I was invited to approach the bench, I bowed to the Justice as I entered past the bar and greeted the court with a "Good morning Your Worship"

Justice inquired whether I was to plead guilty or not guilty. I gathered up my voice, and exhaled: "Not guilty, Your Worship". The Justice looked over at the officer as to allow the officer to proceed to the witness stand, the officer said four words: "No evidence, Your Worship". The Justice then looked at me and said "You are free to go." I thanked the Court, bowed on my way out at the bar, cringed at the spectators seemingly puzzled as to what happened and left.

I am not sure whether the stack of blank printer paper covered by my summons and the original ticket in my hands played a role, or the fact that I kept the chatter to a minimum during the pull-over, but to say the least I was surprised how the case turned out.

I hate to say this, but the Crown can potentially bring forth unsubstantiated charges/tickets against a citizen, and unless the citizen challenges the wrongful allegations, one too could end up "confessing" to or getting charged for something that the Crown has no ability to evidence, and that the knowledge of the law is essential for a prudent citizen to exist in our society unscathed by the un-lucky or egregious circumstances.

Thank you for running this great site, it gave me hope for a successful/FAIR dispute, and knowledge to not be scared.
My post is not meant to encourage speeding, disputing or causing trouble. However I have never heard of or read anywhere that the situation above described can ever occur, and I wonder how many cases, which ultimately could never have been proved by the Court as facts, do end up being paid-for and charges wrongfully assigned/accepted; so I am sharing my "experience".

"No evidence, Your Worship" the police officer said? A peace officer is not prepared before a trial? The peace officer is not concerned about being scolded or ridiculed by the judge for not bringing evidence forth? The peace officer is not afraid of the ramifications of his supposed lack of prepardness by his unit or detachment commander?   The peace officer meets with you before hand? Isn't that a form of threat and intimidation?

I am sorry, but this story is truly remarkable to me. It strikes me as a work of fiction, not fact. The writer comments "it was also painfully apparent that most participants did not come prepared or at all educated about the court proceedings and the flow of the trial; the Justice was cordially explaining the matters of the law to each defendant with ease, patronage and care typically possessed by father figures and pastors"

For one thing, how is one suppose to become educated in the matters or prepared to deal in court unless they make it a career choice?  Secondly, the wording or praise of the judge seems very suspicious to me.

Whether or not the the above story is indeed a work of fiction or reality, we will never know. One thing for certain, it certainly is unbelievable to me, any ways.

It was typical for me to talk to those who were at traffic court on the day of the dispute. I would ask them how they wished to proceed as there were two avenues, not guilty and guilty with an explanation. For the latter, we would call them first before the trials because they were often quicly dealt with and there was no point in having them wait for half the day. For those that wanted to plead not guilty, if they wished to talk to me, I would outline my intended testimony and occasionally we would agree to something such as dropping one count on the ticket in exchange for a guilty plea on the other.

I would call no evidence on occasion. One example would be writing a fail to wear seatbelt ticket and even though I asked if they had a medical exemption at roadside they would wait until the trial to produce it. In a case like that, I would have no alternative but to call no evidence as now that I knew about the exemption there was no case to present.

Police officers make mistakes as well. Sometimes these mistakes are not apparent until the discussion before court on the day of the trial. Again, rather than have the person hang around all day for a trial that is not going to happen, they leave and the officer calls no evidence.

Most defendants are there to say something along the lines of "I don't deserve this" or "The officer is picking on me" or "Everyone else was doing this too." The JP will patiently explain and because the accused is at a disadvantage in comparison to the experienced officer often take pains to make sure that they are given the opportunity that they should have but don't know about.

To become educated, well, there is this site and others that are reliable. I always suggest that people arrange to go and watch on a traffic court date before their trial so that they can see what they are in for. Some people actually do it.

So, the story could actually be what this person experienced told as they saw it.