November 2020

PSA: Do not base your defence on a news story

When you are building a defence against a traffic ticket, it’s important to do the research. Lawyers spend their lives learning about their chosen area of the law, and here’s the thing: they never stop learning. The law constantly changes and any half-decent lawyer actively works to keep up-to-date with case-law, new legislation and any other developments.

It’s for this reason that you would never see a lawyer advance an argument in Court based on a news story. A story, even from the most trusted of sources, will never be as reliable as a piece of evidence as case law. A piece of news can exist almost in its own bubble in time. When you consume a piece of old news on its own, for example, it’s not immediately obvious if the content of the story has developed since it was published. When it comes to the law, on the other hand, any piece of legislation that is amended has to be clearly labelled. Similarly, any judgement superseded by another judgement will contain a citation to the most up-to-date case.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, a recent case goes to show the dangers of relying on the news for your legal argument. In this brief BC Supreme Court decision, Mr. Pastega, who represented himself, appealed a ticket for use of an electronic device while driving. He explained that he had his phone on his lap which he was using to speak to his wife.

Mr. Pastega argued that he was not holding the phone as defined by the Motor Vehicle Act because it was on his lap. He brought up a news report to support his argument. Presumably, the news story reported on another distracted driving case in which someone had a phone on their lap and was found not guilty.

The BC Supreme Court judge said Mr. Pastega had been misled by the news report, stating: “I am not blaming anyone for that, but the reality is that news is reported in a certain way for a certain purpose, and the analysis of the law is not always as complete as it needs to be.”

I sympathise with Mr. Pastega because, as readers of this blog will know, the law surrounding distracted driving seems to change every week. In recent months, what constitutes “use” and “holding” of an electronic device has gone back and forth. I’ve argued constantly that the law needs to be clarified and unfortunately the appellant in this case got the wrong impression from a news report.

So when people ask why you need to get a lawyer for a traffic ticket case, this case is an excellent example. The law is ever-evolving and news stories may not give the clearest depiction of how a case applies to what happened to you. If the self-represented appellant had sought legal help, they would have been able to tell him that his argument lacked merit.

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Weird and Wacky Wednesdays: Volume 130

This week on Weird and Wacky Wednesdays, we look at several crazy cases. First, a crybaby ex-president who cannot get a grip on the fact that he lost the election. I think you may already know this one. Then, an oldie but a goodie case out of Britain where we examine the legal test for what is a potato chip. Finally, a woman who engaged in a very entertaining ruse to try to get free chicken.

Follow the jump to learn more about this week’s weirdest and wackiest legal cases from around the globe!

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Law Society should subsidize Employment Standards Act implementation

Kyla Lee has some opinions on the employment standards act

Last month, The Law Society of British Columbia adopted a resolution to incorporate provisions of the Employment Standards Act into its code of professional conduct. They include provisions relate to minimum wage, breaks, sick leave, and overtime pay for articled students.

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Time to deliver on a unified family court

It's time to make a unified family court a reality in BC

British Columbians desperately need a unified family court. When members of the public require family law services they face stress and as a result of the split of responsibilities between the parallel court systems. They do not know where they need to go for matters related to divorce, custody, and property. The result is lots of people needlessly missing out on services to which they are entitled.

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Covid-19 provides a chance to embrace technology

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a huge adjustment for all of us. The crisis forced lawyers across the Province to find new ways to carry out their day to day work. For many, this meant working remotely. Showing up in person simply was not an option. While courtrooms and law offices were closed to the public, one thing that did not stop was our responsibilities to our clients.

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