One of the traps self-represented defendants fall into in speeding cases is giving testimony when they do not know how fast they were actually travelling. People tend to focus on their personal circumstances to the detriment to their defence against the evidence.
A recent BC Supreme Court decision functions as a good example of this. This blog will examine the case and explain some of the dangers of representing yourself.
Excessive speeding case
In the case in question, a Mr. Seraji had been charged with excessive speeding. At the provincial court trial, the judicial justice declined to convict the defendant of excessive speeding but instead entered a conviction for the lesser offence of speeding.
Driving faster than the posted speed limit constitutes the offence of speeding. In order to secure a conviction for excessive speeding, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was travelling more than 40 km/hr above the speed limit.
In this case, the officer who issued the ticket testified that he saw Mr. Seraji driving at 80 km/hr in a 30 km/hr zone. He also “clocked” him at 79 km/hr on his laser speed measurement device. After hearing the evidence, the judicial justice raised issue with the evidence, stating there was no indication how far the vehicle had passed beyond a 30 km/hr sign when the speed measurement was taken. For this reason, the justice concluded the offence of excessive speeding could not be established and downgraded the offence to regular old speeding.
The Crown appealed the provincial court decision and the matter came before the BC Supreme Court. Part of the Supreme Court’s task was deciding whether the Crown was permitted to an appeal, which it duly decided affirmatively.
The Crown alleged that the provincial court justice made a mistake in interpreting the evidence at the original hearing. The Supreme Court judge took issue with the lower court’s apprehension of the evidence. For one, he could not deduce from the reasoning why he found the defendant not guilty of excessive speeding.
The confusion appears to have arisen from the officer’s testimony that the point where he observed the vehicle was travelling was round a curve and he was not able to see the 30 km/hr speed limit sign. The Supreme Court judge found this issue to be immaterial to the conclusion that the driver had met the requirements of the offence of excessive speeding.
Know your speed
Mr. Seraji was then given the opportunity to provide his own testimony. Speaking on his own behalf, he admitted to the offence of speeding and said that he was late for work and thought that he was in a 50 km/hr zone. He also explained his personal circumstances and the implication of the ticket for him. Under cross-examination, he stated that he believed his vehicle speed was 70 and he had not seen the 30 km/hr sign.
Remember, in order to secure a conviction for the offence of excessive speeding, the Crown had to prove the vehicle was more than 40 km/hr above the speed limit. Effectively, by providing testimony that he did not know his speed, he did not offer anything contrary to the police officer’s evidence. At the end of the day, offences such as excessive speeding come down to cold, hard evidence. If you’re going to testify for yourself, you’d better make sure you have something concrete to offer.