Month: January 2015

The Financial Consequences of a Traffic Ticket in British Columbia

This is the second part in my series on the consequences of a traffic ticket in British Columbia.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that traffic tickets in British Columbia come with financial consequences. However, understanding the financial consequences of a traffic ticket in British Columbia can be complex and confusing. The fine listed on the ticket is often not the end of what you will have to pay as a result of receiving a ticket.

Minimum Fines:
Everyone knows there is a fine for a ticket. The fines you pay are standardized by ICBC, which means that unless the officer exercises discretion to increase or decrease the fine, you will pay the amount pre-determined by ICBC. Oftentimes, however, the fine listed on the ticket is not the minimum fine for the offence.

Mandatory minimum fines for traffic offences are determined by the Offence Act Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation. If you are wondering whether you are eligible for a fine reduction on a traffic ticket, you can consult this regulation and cross-reference the offence on the ticket with the offence listed to see what the minimum is. A court has no discretion to lower the fine beyond what is set out in this Regulation.

You can however, ask the Court for more time to pay a ticket if you are unable to afford the fine. If you do not dispute a ticket, the ticketed fine is due 30 days after the ticket has been issued to you.

I have often seen officers coax self-represented litigants in traffic court into pleading guilty on the promise that they can seek a fine reduction. You should be wary of this. Many officers may not know the minimum amount, or they may be lying to you to convince you to plead guilty. The police do not have to tell you the truth. They are allowed to lie to you to further their investigation.

This is frustrating to witness as a lawyer, because I know that these people are making a decision without being armed with all the information. This is why an experienced traffic lawyer can assist you in defending yourself against a traffic ticket.

Maximum Fines:
The Offence Act allows a maximum fine of $2000 for any Violation Ticket. There is no discretion to increase the fine to anything beyond this amount.

I often receive calls from clients who are concerned that if they dispute their traffic ticket the fine amount could go up. This cannot happen, unless you expressly agree that you are willing to pay a higher amount. Even then, some Judicial Justices of the Peace will not increase the fine beyond what is listed in the ticket.

This issue was considered by the Court of Appeal in R. v. Miner. There, Mr. Miner had pled guilty in traffic court and the Justice of the Peace fined Mr. Miner $400, despite the fact that the ticket listed only $100 as the fine amount. The Court determined that this was wrong, and the JJP had no jurisdiction to do so, stating:

In the absence of language which would clearly support the position of the Crown, I would be loathe to accede to its submission where the effect of that submission is that the offender is lulled into thinking, by the words of the violation ticket, that insofar as any fine goes, it will be “as prescribed”, being $100.  In my opinion, the only rationale for not advising the offender that, if disputed, the fine could be higher than the “prescribed fine”, is that it was not intended that the fine on unsuccessfully disputing the violation ticket could be other than the prescribed fine shown on the ticket itself.

So if you are wondering whether the fines can double or increase because you disputed your ticket, know that in British Columbia this cannot happen.

Restitution:
If you are involved in an accident and damage is caused to property, you may be ordered by the Court to pay restitution. This is effectively repayment of the damage caused. It is unusual to see Restitution Orders, which are typically attached to a Probation Order, in traffic court because insurance will often cover this type of damage.

Victim Fine Surcharge:
Every fine amount listed on your ticket includes something called a Victim Fine Surcharge. Section 8.1 of the Victims of Crime Act indicates that any fine payable is subject to this surcharge. In British Columbia, the Victim Fine Surcharge is 15% of the fine amount.

The amount listed on the ticket includes the surcharge, so you are aware of the total amount owing when you are issued the Violation Ticket.

Many people do not understand the surcharge, particularly in traffic cases where there is no readily identifiable “victim” of the poor driving. The money obtained from these surcharges is not paid to victims of crime or offences directly, but rather is paid into a special account. The Attorney General may then determine how the money is to be distributed and applied in the Province.

Driver Penalty Point Premiums/Driver Risk Premium:
I will discuss these premiums in detail in a later post, as they are somewhat confusing and deserve special attention. However, the short version is that some traffic tickets qualify for Driver Risk Premium charges, assessed yearly over three years. If you receive more than three points in a one-year period, you will be required to pay the Driver Penalty Point Premium.

You can review the number of points associated with any given offence on ICBC’s website. There is also a chart listing which offences qualify for the Driver Risk Premium.

License Reinstatement Fees:
If you are given a driving prohibition by the Court, or a driving prohibition is issued to you as a result of receiving a traffic ticket, you will be responsible for paying the license reinstatement fee charged by ICBC. This is a $250 fee, issued to anyone anytime their license is suspended and then reinstated. You will not usually be informed of this when you are issued the driving prohibition, so it can come as a surprise to many people when they go to renew their license.

In order to renew a suspended license, you are required to pay off all outstanding debts and money owed to ICBC for everything listed above.

The Consequences of a Traffic Ticket in British Columbia

The consequences of a traffic ticket in British Columbia can be significant and not easily determined. As a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer who focuses on impaired driving cases, I often encounter clients who have received traffic tickets. Before speaking with me, many of my clients think that by paying their ticket that will be the end of it. This cannot be further from the truth. There are many consequences to traffic tickets that can have a significant impact on your license.

Over the next few posts, I will discuss some of the lesser-known consequences of traffic tickets in British Columbia.

Driving Prohibitions:

Even a single ticket can trigger a driving prohibition, sometimes a lengthy one. There are three ways a driving prohibition can result from a traffic ticket.

The first, and least common, is the officer submits a report to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles at RoadSafetyBC outlining your alleged driving behaviour. The Superintendent or an adjudicator reviews this report and can then send a driving prohibition in the mail. Typically these prohibitions are about six months in length. They can be disputed, but they take effect immediately upon receipt, which means that you are prohibited from driving while disputing the prohibition.

Disputing your traffic ticket does not prevent these prohibitions from being issued. The officer’s allegation is the sole basis of why the prohibition is issued, regardless of whether what the cop says is bogus.

This type of driving prohibition was recently discussed in Wang v. British Columbia (Motor Vehicles), 2012 BCSC 101. I have a good track record at having these types of prohibitions revoked for my clients. They are difficult to dispute and it is important to have someone who knows what works.

The second way you may receive a prohibition from driving as a result of a traffic ticket comes from disputing the ticket in court. If you are unsuccessful in your dispute or if you plead guilty the officer prosecuting the ticket can seek a driving prohibition as part of your sentence. In some cases, the Justice of the Peace can impose a driving prohibition on their own accord. These court-ordered prohibitions can only be disputed by appealing the sentence to the BC Supreme Court.

Finally, you can also be given a driving prohibition by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles once a ticket is added to your driving record. Disputing your ticket will prevent you from being issued a prohibition until your dispute is resolved.

These prohibitions are issued under Section 93(1)(a)(ii) of the Motor Vehicle Act. This section gives the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles discretion to issue a driving prohibition based on an unsatisfactory record. This term is not defined in the legislation, meaning that the adjudicators at RoadSafetyBC have full discretion to decide what is unsatisfactory.

These prohibitions can be disputed. The Superintendent will consider whether the driver’s need to drive outweighs the public interest in prohibiting the driver based on an unsatisfactory record. Often this is a high onus on the driver, so the assistance of a lawyer like myself with a record of success in these cases can be extremely helpful. You can read more about these prohibitions, which are served under the “Driver Improvement Program” here.

I have had many people under a misconception that there is a “6 point” or “2 ticket” rule regarding these prohibitions. This is not true. There is no hard and fast rule, but you can expect that if you have a Class 7 or “N” license, even one ticket will result in a driving prohibition, particularly if you have been ticketed for anything to do with alcohol or drugs, cell phones, or excessive speeding. As a Class 7 driver, your two-year probationary period resets with every driving prohibition so it is important to dispute tickets you receive.

If you have a Class 5 license or better, generally the Superintendent’s delegates look for a pattern of behaviour. For example, someone who gets several speeding tickets in a one-year period might be subject to such a prohibition.

People are also under the common misconception that only those tickets that accumulate driver penalty points can trigger a prohibition. It is uncommon for this to occur, but I have acted for clients who received prohibitions for too many seatbelt tickets, prohibitions for too many No N tickets, or other similar tickets.

These consequences of traffic tickets are not listed on your ticket. You may not know until it is too late that there were more serious consequences to your ticket than you originally thought. Once you pay your ticket, it is too late to dispute it. That is why it is important to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable traffic lawyer before going further.

MADD Canada’s Radio Advertisements

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As a criminal defence lawyer, I spend a lot of time in my vehicle driving from one courthouse to the next. A necessary evil involved in this is that I also spend a lot of time listening to the radio. And, of course, radio ads. Around mid-October 2014, I noticed an ad played in almost every advertising break. And like most radio ads, it was mildly irritating. But the more I listened, the more infuriating it became.

This ad in particular was for MADD Canada. Given the frequency with which it played, and the prime driving time (to and from work, it would play at least twice in my twenty two minute commute) it could not have been cheap to purchase this advertising space. Although MADD Canada claims to post all of its public advertising campaigns on its website, I could not find this one.

That doesn’t surprise me. The ad is particularly misleading. It begins with the sound of a gavel banging, and a bailiff shouting out “All Rise.” Clearly the intention is to simulate a courtroom. This alone is misleading, as there are no gavels used in Canadian courts and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call out “All Rise” when a judge walks in.

The ad goes on to say that MADD Canada advocates for victims, and they believe that offenders who drink and drive and kill someone deserve a long term in jail. That their goal is legislative reform to make sure that happens.

The implication here is that people who drink and drive and cause death in Canada do not receive jail sentences. This is what continues to infuriate me. MADD holds itself out as an organization that aims to “stop impaired driving and support victims.” Which is a noble goal. But the desire to ensure that those who kill someone in an impaired driving tragedy go to jail for a long time achieves neither of these goals.

Worse still, the suggestion that impaired drivers who cause deaths do not go to jail is simply wrong. While there are no mandatory minimum jail sentences in impaired death or bodily harm cases, sentencing principles generally result in significant jail terms for these types of cases. It is extremely rare to see cases where people who drink and drive and cause death or injury do not serve a jail term. In cases where jail sentences are avoided, there have always been significant steps towards rehabilitation and repatriation, as well as overtures from the victim’s family that jail is not appropriate.

For an organization that the public trusts for education and information on drinking and driving to imply that those who drink, drive, and kill generally avoid jail is reprehensible in my mind. It puts public support behind initiatives designed to create mandatory minimum jail sentences for long terms, and do not reflect the complex realities that those involved in these types of offences face.

Most people who drink and drive and claim a life are not hardened criminals. They are not served in any way by a jail term. Separating these people from society is not necessary to achieve any real purpose, such as rehabilitation. Often, those who kill in drunk driving incidents kill their friends or family members. The consequence of the guilt and remorse that accompanies that cannot be told. And in some cases, the families of the victims realize that a jail sentence will not bring their loved one back, and will not do anything to heal the wounds this tragedy has caused.

There are many reasons mandatory minimums are not appropriate in these cases. MADD Canada appears to have as its motive to deceive the public into believing they are necessary to have jail sentences. This is not true. It is wrong, and misleading, and MADD Canada should reconsider its continued broadcasting of this advertisement. There are better ways to get the message across and achieve their goals, without attempting to mislead the public.

Finally, it’s upsetting generally that the organization appears to be taking shots at the court system for failing victims. That is not the role of the courts. The courts are there to fairly administer justice. The problem when dealing with an organization with the reach and resources of MADD, is that they know full well no one has the money to counter their misinformation. And nobody is taking radio space to correct it either because standing up for the rights of alleged impaired drivers is politically incorrect.


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