A lot of people call me about their traffic ticket cases after receiving tickets in the mail. One of the first things they often ask me is whether the police can send you a ticket in the mail. And the answer surprises them.
In British Columbia, there are two circumstances in which you can receive a traffic ticket in the mail. And, depending on your driver’s license and why you need it, you may want to seriously consider disputing these tickets.
The two types of tickets that can come in the mail are tickets from speed and red-light cameras, and tickets that are issued to you as the owner of a motor vehicle.
Red Light and Speed Camera Tickets
Tickets that are generated by the red light intersection camera and intersection speed cameras in British Columbia are only issued by mail. If you receive a ticket in the mail from an intersection speed or red light camera, there are a number of things you need to know.
First of all, if you are the driver of the vehicle, you will not receive any points on your driving record. However, if you are a commercial driver, you will receive points on your carrier record, sometimes known as company points, for this offence. There are 4 company points for any red light or speed camera violation in British Columbia.
There are limited defences to these tickets. Effectively, you can only argue that you were speeding or running the red light out of necessity, meaning that you were speeding or running the red light to avoid a harm that was both imminent and greater than the harm that you were committing by violating the law. This defence rarely succeeds, because the danger posed by running a red light or speeding is considered to be quite high.
The speed camera tickets have more defences, in the sense that there are opportunities to challenge the speed measurement of the camera, but those defences require specialized knowledge about how the cameras measure your speed, the inaccuracies in this form of measurement, and the limitations of challenges to the reliability of speed measurement generally.
Tickets Issued to You as Owner of a Motor Vehicle
If the police receive a report that you were involved in a motor vehicle incident, like a complaint from another driver, they may investigate the complaint. In investigating the complaint, if the police are not able to sort out what happened and who was driving, they could still choose to issue the ticket to you as owner of a vehicle based on the information from the complaint.
Another circumstance in which you may receive a ticket in the mail as the owner of a vehicle is after a collision. If police receive information about your driving in a collision that causes them to believe that you were violating the law to cause the collision, you can get a ticket in the mail. Again, these tickets are often issued to you as the owner. Any ticket issued to you as the driver cannot be issued to you in the mail.
These tickets can be disputed. Although owner tickets do not go on your driving record and do not give you any Driver Penalty Points, like the camera tickets, they still have the consequences for commercial drivers of company points, or points on the carrier profile.
If you receive a ticket in the mail after an accident, you may also want to consider disputing it because the ticket can be relied on by ICBC to make determinations about whether you are at fault for the collision, which can affect what payments and settlements you get from ICBC. Certain violations may also be relied on by ICBC to void your insurance altogether, such as violations for leaving the scene of an accident.
Even if you weren’t in an accident, there are still good reasons to dispute the tickets. If the police are relying on a report from a witness about your driving, the fact that the ticket was issued to you as owner does not change the fact that in order to prove the ticket in court, the police have to bring evidence about the manner of driving to support that the violation the ticket was committed. If the officer did not see the driving themself, the witness who called police will have to come to court to testify.
We all see bad driving all day, every day. The likelihood that the witness will clearly remember the driving behaviour months after the incident and provide reliable testimony that will withstand scrutiny on cross-examination. I have succeeded in numerous tickets that were based on witness evidence by challenging the police ability to prove the case, because of problems with the witnesses at court.
Getting a Ticket in the Mail
At the end of the day, getting a ticket in the mail in BC is not only possible, but frequent. And there can be significant consequences to the tickets you receive in the mail, even if it is not immediately apparent.
If you receive a ticket in the mail and have any questions, feel free to contact our office and we will discuss the ticket with you as part of our free consultation.