Many people appear in traffic court just “hoping the officer doesn’t appear….but what do you do if the officer is there?
Defences to Speeding Tickets
Does the Police Officer Come to Court?
You’ve heard people say they fight their own tickets and usually win. What usually happens is they attend court and the officer didn’t show up, they got lucky…
They don’t tell you about the times they lost or didn’t know what to say when they saw the officer.
Most police officers do appear for traffic court and “occasionally” they do not appear. Police officers are always required to appear in court, if they are off duty, or on their day off they receive overtime pay.
Many times people show up to traffic court unprepared:
- they don’t understand the system,
- their only hope is the officer does not attend
- they don’t understand the implications of reduced charges
- they don’t know the legal technicalities of speeding
- they don’t know if the prosecution can prove the charge
- they take an uninformed guilty plea offered by the prosecutor.
If you want to fight your speeding ticket, drivers need to either do their homework about how to fight a speeding ticket or speak to a professional.
Appearing in Traffic Court
Traffic court in Ontario is the same as you see on television. The Judge is a Justice of the Peace, there is a court appointed prosecutor, and the police officer.
The driver or the accused in traffic court is called “the defendant”
The Court Prosecutor
The prosecutor job is to prosecute and convict the defendant/drivers of speeding. There is no free help or duty counsel in traffic court.
The prosecutor is employed by the municipality to help the police and court to conviction you. The prosecutor:
- is not in court to help you
- is not there to advise you if the officer is going to appear,
- will not tell you if there are legal arguments that apply to your ticket,
- will not tell you if there are mistakes on the original (court’s copy of the ticket),
- the prosecutor’s job is to convict you of speeding.
If there is something wrong with the officer’s investigation or the ticket, the prosecutor is not going to tell, help you with your case or accept your explanation for speeding. The prosecution does not advise or disclose errors or legal issues to you the defendant.
When you appear in traffic court in Ontario, prior to the court starting, the prosecutor will call each of the defendants to ask them how they are pleading to the charge, guilty or not guilty.
The prosecutor, as the name implies, is there to prosecute the defendants, they are not there to help you.
As well as prosecuting the cases the prosecutor’s job is to get through the court docket (the court cases) as quickly and expediently as possible.
The prosecutor doesn’t want to run trials as they are time consuming for the court, police and judge. The prosecutor wants the defendants to plead guilty to reduced charges, to the benefit of the court, not the driver.
When the driver says that they are pleading not guilty to the charge, the prosecutor may then offer to “reduce the amount of the speed and/or the fine”.
If the speeding ticket is reduced, the demerit points may also be reduced but not always. Accepting a reduced charge may or may not be in the best interests of the driver as it is still a conviction. Reduced speeding tickets still appear on your insurance for 3 years.
Understand what you’ve accepting as there may be no benefit to a reduced charge at all and/or the case could have been won at trial.
Saving demerit points has little benefit to a driver as demerits do not affect insurance unless you or over the limit for your class of licence.
Trials for Speeding Tickets
During a speeding ticket trial, the prosecutor must guide the police officer through the circumstances of their investigation. The prosecution must bring out the following facts to present the Justice.
What the prosecution has to prove in court;
- Date and place the offence occurred.
- That the driver exceeded the speed limit.
- Whether the speed limit is posted or un-posted, what the speed is for that area.
- The driver had to be driving a motor vehicle.
- The driver had to be traveling on a highway/street under the jurisdiction of the province or municipality.
- The driver must be exceeding the posted speed limit in order to be found guilty of speeding. Just saying “speeding 75km/h” isn’t good enough. It has to be “speeding 75km/h in a 50km/h zone” or something similar.
- The police officer has to identify the driver.
- That the speed measuring device was working properly.
- Has the Certificate of Offence (ticket) been properly filed with the court?
- Are there any errors or deletions to the original certificate?
- Is the “Set Fine” proper?
- Has the trial been set within the guide lines of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Preparing for Your Speeding Trial
When you have verified the above information, you can now prepare an essential element’s list, which you can check off when the police officer testifies at the trial.
The police officer must have evidence on every bit of information in the list. Otherwise the Crown is said to have failed to establish a prima facie case.
Once the officer has given their evidence, should the evidence be lacking, the defendant can make a motion of non-suit, advising the court that the prosecution has not made out a prima facie case and that the charge should be dropped.
- If the officer forgot to testify the speed limit on that road,
- Does not ask any questions about speed limits.
- If the Crown has only one witness, which is usually the police officer, then it may be best to just call “no questions” for cross-examination.
- The defence would then make a “Motion for Non-Suit” because there was no evidence given as to the speed limit.
The Justice would then give a ruling on whether or not a case has been made out.
Should the Justice agree, the charge would be dismissed. Where the Justice believes that the prosecution has made out a prima facie case, then they would give the defence an opportunity to give evidence.
Be very careful of anything that they have missed. When you cross-examine witness(es), make sure you don’t touch on statements that are going to convict you of speeding.