Common Misconceptions About Disputing a Traffic Ticket

As a driving lawyer, I receive many telephone calls from people who have questions about their traffic tickets. I have also had the benefit of listening to disputants in traffic court present their cases, without having consulted a lawyer. Some people even go so far as to advise others in the courthouse about how to dispute their cases. Helpful tip: don’t take your traffic ticket dispute advice from someone who is not an experience driving lawyer.

A lot of people have some common misconceptions about traffic tickets, and how to defend these traffic tickets. This post will help to dispel some of those misconceptions.

The officer did not make me sign my ticket
The purpose of having you sign the ticket is to establish that the ticket was served on you. It does not have any evidentiary value in proving the allegation. If you refuse to sign the ticket, or if the officer does not ask you to sign he or she can complete a “Certificate of Service” on the reverse of their copy of the ticket. This Certificate of Service is provided to the Violation Ticket Centre and the Court to establish that the ticket was served on you. It has the same legal effect as though the ticket itself was served.

The officer got my address, vehicle information, or driver’s license number wrong
There are two parts to any Violation Ticket. If you inspect your copy of the ticket closely, you will see a statement that says “Shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.” If there is a mistake in any of the parts of the ticket that are shaded a darker grey, then it will not affect the validity of the ticket.

The argument you’re likely trying to advance when you see inaccurate information about you or your vehicle is that the officer cannot establish your identity. For an idea of how difficult it is to succeed on an identity argument in traffic court, you should check out this case. You’ll also note that in that case Mr. Coric did not sign the ticket. Typically, if the officer asks the driver for their license, compares the photograph and is satisfied they are one in the same, and identifies the driver in court, identity is proven. In the Coric case, because his lawyer identified him in court and did not explain that an identity argument was to be advanced, the attendance in court and confirmation of his identity confirmed it.

Even with a lawyer, winning a traffic ticket on an identity argument is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Again, an experienced driving lawyer can help you advance an argument if you believe the officer cannot prove your identity in court.

The officer did not show me the laser or radar reading
The police are not required to show you the laser or radar device, if they used it to measure your speed. They should, however, record your speed somewhere. In the vast majority of cases, they will write the speed in their notes on the back of the ticket. You can obtain a copy of these notes from the officer either through a disclosure request, or by asking when you are in court. There is an obligation on the police to provide full disclosure, but that does not require them to show you the laser or radar device at the roadside.

Some people might say “But that means the officer could write down anything. He could lie and say I was speeding!” Well, that may be true. But in my experience the vast majority of the traffic officers that I have dealt with are honest and decent. They have no interest in issuing tickets that aren’t justified. There have been multiple times that I’ve pointed out a legal issue about certain ticketing practices, and the officer has agreed to withdraw the ticket. Later, the officers have approached me and thanked me for helping them to be more effective and only issue tickets properly. Most traffic officers that I meet just want to do a good job.

Police can also face discipline for issuing tickets that are based on false evidence. Never mind the fact that they would then have to testify and perjure themselves, which has serious consequences. The likelihood that a police officer would intentionally issue a speeding ticket to someone who wasn’t speeding is pretty slim. And the trial process (until the Government implements the traffic ticket tribunal, of course) gives you the opportunity to cross-examine the officer and to testify in your defence.

Besides, it’s not like officers in the Lower Mainland need to fabricate evidence of speeding. If you’ve ever driven here you’ll know that catching speeders is like shooting fish in a barrel.

The officer did not write my speed on the ticket
Just as there is no obligation to show you the laser or radar device, there is no requirement to record your alleged speed on the ticket. The officer in traffic court does not need to prove that you were going any particular speed. For example, if you are ticketed for excessive speeding but after trial the evidence only establishes you were going 39 km/hr over the limit, you will be convicted of speeding.

Even traveling in excess of 1km per hour over the speed limit is speeding. There are different sections in the Motor Vehicle Act based on how fast you were going, and provisions allowing for increased fines based on speeds of different levels in excess of the limit. The section you are charged with and the indicated fine amount will give you notice of what the officer is alleging.

The officer did not measure my speed with a laser or radar device
There is no obligation on the police to use a laser or radar device to measure your speed. An officer is entitled to measure your speed using a variety of methods, including laser and radar. But they can also pace your vehicle, make a visual estimate of speed, or measure the distance you traveled over a period of time and extrapolate using a mathematical formula from that.

If the officer does not have calibration records, I will win
Good luck! Laser and radar devices are checked for calibration and, if necessary, recalibrated at the beginning and end of every shift. The officer may record this in his or her notes, but there is no obligation to do so and their testimony about the calibration check will be sufficient to satisfy the court that this was done. There is no formal calibration done by a calibrator, or by the manufacturer. Laser and radar devices are only sent for servicing where there is a problem that requires a repair by the manufacturer.

In British Columbia, the law regarding reliance on laser or radar devices gives a lot of leeway to the police. Essentially, a conviction for speeding can be based on a reading from a radar or laser, if there is some evidence that the equipment was in working order and was properly operated. The Court has the right to rely on the oral testimony, without supporting documentation, from an officer in determining that he is qualified, the radar or laser was in proper working order, and was properly operated.

The police get bonuses for every ticket they issue, or
There are quotas for traffic tickets the police have to meet

Not quite. While an officer who successfully issues more tickets than another officer may receive faster promotions or win awards for their traffic enforcement efforts, this is really no different than any other job. Promotions are based on hard work. This can be problematic when police aren’t asked to account for their conduct, as is the case with the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme. But it doesn’t work that way with traffic court. Police know they can be cross-examined, and they know that a Judicial Justice of the Peace will scrutinize their evidence. So there isn’t the same incentive to lie as there may be with an IRP.

There are no bonuses for issuing the most traffic tickets. The police officer does not receive a percentage of the fine amount that you are charged when you are issued a ticket. If that were the case, we would never see police officers ignoring cars traveling at 65 km per hour on Kingsway, because each one of those cars is dollars in the cop’s pocket. If that were the case, this West Vancouver corporal would live in a gigantic mansion. Based on this, he likely doesn’t. If he does, it’s not paid for by traffic tickets. You can also check out Vancouver Police Department salaries, which are routinely published on their site. If you look at those numbers you can see how consistent the remuneration appears; if bonuses were awarded for issuing traffic tickets, then this would not be the case. Instead, traffic officers would be making more money than the Chief Constable.

If I dispute my ticket, the officer is not likely to show up
This may have been true in the past. In 2008, the Vancouver Police Department conducted an audit of their traffic court attendance and found that 25% of the time, tickets were dismissed because the officer did not attend court. They implemented special measures to ensure that officers were more likely to be notified of court dates, and within a year the non-attendance rate had dropped to 19%. In fact, the police put a lot of resources into studying what makes traffic court time most effective. It is foolish to count on the idea that the officer will not attend. In my own experience, this happens very rarely.

Furthermore, police are paid to attend court. So they really have no reason not to attend. They’re being paid to be there. The Violation Ticket Centre has access to every officer’s calendar, and will schedule hearing dates based on an officer’s availability. This means that traffic court dates will not conflict with previously-scheduled trials, booked vacation, or training. As well, numerous files are scheduled at a time whenever possible. I commonly meet officers who are appearing on five to ten traffic tickets at a time. When they have multiple tickets to prosecute, it is less likely that the officer will not come to court.

Other Misconceptions
There are many other common misconceptions about disputing a traffic ticket that I have heard, but this post would never end if I listed them all. The best advice I have for anyone facing a traffic ticket is to speak with an experienced driving lawyer about their ticket. The worst thing you can do is show up to court expecting that a certain argument will win you the day, only to find out after you’ve been convicted that you were mistaken. Hiring a lawyer can prevent you from finding yourself in this position. It’s a lot easier to succeed in the first instance than it is on an appeal after you’ve advanced the wrong defence the first time around.

89 thoughts on “Common Misconceptions About Disputing a Traffic Ticket”

  1. Almost 38 years driving and 26 years with a class 1 licence and well over 2 million mile from Dawson City clear down to Acapulco Mexico,What works the best 99.9% of the time is to simply follow the law.Its amazing how if you don’t do anything wrong you never get a ticket,,,funny how that works:-)

  2. I received a ticket today. I got it for a rolling stop. The ticket was my fault and I will pay it. My question is the officer said she would not give me any points along with the ticket. Does she have this power or is it all on icbc side?

  3. Hi Justin,
    If the officer issued the ticket as the owner of the vehicle, as opposed to the driver, there will be no points. Otherwise, she cannot control whether points are imposed.
    -Kyla

  4. I was pulled over by a police officer a couple of days ago for going about 5 km above the speed limit in a playground zone. When the officer came to the window he asked to see my car keys and took them away from me and went back to his car along with my drivers license and insurance. My question is, is he allowed to take my keys without any explanation as to why he took them?

  5. Jessie – it depends. If the officer was concerned you might take off then it would be reasonable to momentarily seize your keys to prevent you from fleeing. Doesn’t seem likely in a 5kph over the limit scenario, though. Did he give your keys back?

  6. After he gave me the ticket and was walking towards his car, I had to call him and ask for my keys back. Even though I told him I was just going 5 over his response was “To me it seemed like you were going 45km”. Even though I was keeping up with traffic his only evidence was “visual speed”. I have disputed the ticket.

  7. My boyfriend has his class 7, restriction 46 states “1 passenger only(immediate family members exempt) UNLESS accompanied by qualified supervisor age 25+. Last night he got a violation ticket for too many passengers but the 2 passengers were both over 25 and obtained class 5 licenses. When I told the police officer we were both over 25 and has our class 5 she said that only applied to a L driver but I knew this restriction was also noted on the class 7 license. She took both all 3 of our licences, so she knew in fact that this was true. When she returned the class 7 license we immediately read the back and in fact it stated unless accompanied by qualified supervisor 25+ and when I tried to clarify with her she refused to the read it and said she would see us in traffic court and disn’t want to argue when we were just trying to clarify. Just wanted to get a 2nd opinion on this restriction. If you could clarify that would be great. Thank you for your time.

  8. Hello Kyla,
    I’m not sure if you have ran into this before, but I am an Alberta resident who got nabbed for speeding over the August long weekend in Vancouver 🙁 I was in a rental car at that time. I did not find anything in your blog above so just seeing if you might know of any special exemptions for out of province drivers and rental vehicles as well. Thanks!

  9. Received a speeding ticket section 148(3) and when I went to dispute it says section 146(3) why is that?

  10. I successfully challenged an excessive speed ticket however am wondering if I can now reclaim my costs associated with the roadside suspension of my vehicle (tow costs, travel, etc.)? There are multiple thousands of dollars which are out of pocket for a non-guilty result. Thanks.

  11. I had just gotten a ticket for a rolling stop, as well for not having a valid license. I’d like to dispute the ticket.
    Do you think it’s best to get a lawyer or just to show up and see what happens.
    Also, I had just moved prior to getting this ticket, and the police wrote down old address. Could I comply on that as well I didn’t sign the ticket. The police didn’t ask Amy questions

  12. Good morning. I got a speeding ticket a few months ago for going 80 in a 60 zone. British Columbia Canada, and for not having my drivers licence on me, as I unknowingly left it in my personal vehicle. My last name is CARLSON, but he has misspelled it as CARSON on the ticket. Additional information: I was only a few months into driving a semi truck, with my very new class one drivers license, and was going downhill. I am concerned about the points, as it may result in a suspended licence since I have prior existing points. Which in turn, could cost me my job. Tips? Recommendations? I have disputed it, and the court date is in a couple days. Thank you in advance!

  13. Hi there, today I received a ticked for failing to come to a stop at a stop sign (in a spot that I personally believe should have a yield). The police officer that pulled me over was holding a traffic sign that said “slow” on it so i continued through the stop sign and she got very angry and began yelling at me. I pulled over willingly and gave her my license. She came back about 5 minutes later after my friend and I witnessed nearly every car also going through the stop sign behind us, and gave me the ticket. I asked her about where the stop sign was located because I was paying attention to the sign she was holding, and she began yelling at me saying that I was “questioning” her and she would begin “racking up more tickets” for me if I asked her more questions. She threatened me with a ticket for having my phone turned off and in the back seat of my car (out of sight and reach of me) if I asked her more questions. Once I mentioned that I wasn’t aware of the law against having a phone in the car, she said “maybe I should give you once since you have been driving for so long without knowing that”. I was wondering how successful you believe I would be in disputing the ticket. Do you believe I should also file a complaint against the officer? I was very shocked and uncomfortable as I am young, and was just politely trying to ask a question as I was confused and scared.

  14. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you successfully challenge it? I recently got an excessive speeding ticket and would like to hear your experience

  15. I turned left onto hyw, car was quickly approaching from behind. i sped up to avoid collision then slowed down. RCMP pulls me over says i was doing 90. issues me ticket for speeded in excess of posted speed limit signs. Thinthe nearesg is, the nearest hyw signage is 2 km down the hyw so how can i be speeding in excess of posted speed limit on hyw when i had just turned onto hyw. Is this worth disputing in court or is it likely officer will lie and say i made no left turn and accuse me of lying in order to justify the ticket?

  16. First if you got a speeding ticket doing 90, I have to assume the posted speed is 80 or less, and just because the first sign you come across is 2 kms in front of you doesn’t change the posted speed limit of that hwy…The Obvious thing to me is you made a Very Dangerous maneuver to cut out on a Hwy without waiting until it was “SAFE TO DO SO” being impatient is what kills & injures so many drivers each year, sounds like you need Defensive Driver Training for your safety and others around you. PS, The officer has Zero reason to Lie in this case, you are in the wrong.

  17. I just got a no N ticket and an inspection ticket after a really slow crash into a snow bank… It was really slushy so this crash is in no way my fault… I also have really good winter tires… Is there any way I can despute one or both tickets?

  18. Hi, I just received a ticket for rolling at a stop sign and speeding in a school zone. however, the time is incorrect on the ticket. I was at on the ferry then. Is it worth disputing the ticket?

  19. Yes, you could definitely dispute it on this basis. You’ll need some confirmation that you were on the ferry at that time.

  20. I have my N and recently got 2 tickets for speeding and 1 for not having my N displayed. Im not denying speeding as I was either late for class or just going the flow of traffic. I’m only a student and work a part time job and so I’m wondering if im able to dispute my tickets to get a lesser fine??

  21. Hey Dustin,
    I would also like to hear your experience in how you defeated that excessive speeding ticket. I recently got a excessive speeding ticket and debating if I want to fight it or just pay it..

  22. I just received 2 tickets from one of the North Island Traffic services finest. The first was for improper use of left lane. Since when is it illegal to drive in the left lane when there is no one else on the road? I was turning left at the next intersection to boot. I also received a ticket for 100kph in a 90 kph zone on a highway on a clear day with no other traffic, other than this supercop pacing me at a distance. When I questioned him about why I was receiving a ticket for only 10 over, he went on a tirade about how 1kph over is speeding. Great day, looking forward to court.

  23. Today I got a speeding ticket , the officer said I was going 109km in a 70km zone. MVA 146(7)$196. Also there were cars in front and on the side of me as we were coming down the bend on king George blvd.But I don’t understand how she was able to clock me, if there were also cars in front of me and on the sides as we only had that 3 second gap between us. Another thing is I get the argument about birthday being wrong that it is not a case for dismissal, but also the location of the ticket says King George Blvd/ Colebrook Rd. I was going down King George , but not on colebrook . It would be more in the lines going southbound on 4900 block of King George , we were less them 5 meters from a bus stop there that they had their cars set up and clocking people.
    I have already disputed it , so my question is there any chance of winning the dispute or when that day comes before the hearing I should ask for a lower penalty and take the L ?

  24. I recently received an excessive speeding ticket as well as a 7 day impound on my car. I have my N and have been driving for about a year and a half I have never been pulled over for anything no warnings nothing. There was about 5 other cars all traveling in front of me at the time and they grabbed me from the back of the line. I 100% am guilty of speeding but I really don’t think I was excessively speeding. Do you think it is worth it to dispute the ticket and try and agree to a lower sentence of just a speeding ticket rather than an excessive speeding ticket.

  25. I got pulled over by a police officer for speeding. As he came to my car he told me I was too fast and I tried to explain I only went fast because I felt pushed and blinded from the car behind me. He didn’t wanted any excuses and told me I could have gone out of the way although it was his car which pushed me. I apologized and I understand what he meant. So he took my license to his car. When he came back he said I was a good person and didn’t gave me a speeding ticket. But know I’m very concerned about it. Can I still get one later per mail? If so should I do something about it?

  26. Hello Kyla, I received a red light camera ticket in the mail today. I remember the incident, was on Wednesday Nov 13, the light just turned red as I was crossing the intersection because a car was tailgating me, and I was afraid to stop or they’d hit me, but they changed lanes and crossed with me. I plan to dispute it, both the ticket and the fine amount. Is it worth it? Thanks in advance.

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  38. I was given a 90-day IRP 5 weeks ago, along with speeding ticket. I appealed the IRP. The Superintendent did not receive the Report by the end of the period for applying for a review. As a consequence, the prohibition was revoked as per the Motor Vehicle Act and l got my driver’s license and vehicle back. Two or so weeks after l get my license back, the officer who pulled me over and issued the IRP calls me up and says that l was lucky “they“ (not “he”) lost the paperwork and it doesn’t sit well with him. So he will send me a new ticket for driving without due care 5 weeks after l was pulled over. Can he do that? It kinda feels like abuse of authority…

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