Traffic tickets in British Columbia can have serious consequences. From driver penalty points, to driver risk premiums, the consequences of a ticket are often a lot more than what is printed on the face of the ticket. After all, even one ticket may trigger a driving prohibition depending on your circumstances.
And that’s why I am often asked by people for tips about how to dispute a ticket in BC and win. And while I think the best way to successfully dispute a ticket is to hire competent and experienced legal representation, the reality is that not everyone retains a lawyer. And, bear in mind, that no one and no strategy in traffic court can guarantee your success. The reality is that there is no surefire pathway to winning a ticket dispute.
But here are some useful tips that might help you to dispute a ticket in BC and win.
One of the most important things you learn as a lawyer is the need to be prepared. When I go to court for a trial, I know my case inside and out. I know what allegations the officer is making and what evidence is being called in the case to prove the allegation. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful in court.
Part of preparation for a ticket involves understanding the law that you are charged under. Every violation has specific elements that have to be proven by the police officer, on top of the ordinary elements like identity and jurisdiction. Knowing what the law says, what the essential elements of the offence are, and how defences can be founded on the failure to establish those elements is an essential part of preparation.
I once succeeded in a case where my client was accused of driving without reasonable consideration for others, by establishing that the officer had failed to prove an essential element of the Section 144(1)(b) offence: that the driving showed a lack of reasonable consideration for other road users. Through cross-examination, preparation, and research, I was able to show that there were no other drivers on the road at the time of the incident and therefore establish that one element of the offence was not proven.
This means that you should read the law, read it again, and bring a printed copy of the law to court with you. You should also research the types of defences that apply to the ticket. Some tickets are strict liability offences while some are absolute liability offences, and the defences that apply to those types of offences vary.
Understand the Areas of Cross-Examination
By being prepared for your traffic ticket date, you will also know what to ask the officer in cross-examination, what areas must be avoided, and whether it is in your interests to testify.
I succeeded in a traffic ticket trial in a case where the allegation was that my client was travelling in excess of 100 kilometres an hour over the speed limit. Despite the officer’s visual observation of the vehicle travelling at an extreme speed, because I was prepared, I was able to successfully challenge the measurement of speed through the police GPS system and was able to successfully demonstrate that the officer failed to prove an essential element of the offence. This allowed me to avoid any questions in cross-examination that could have resulted in the officer giving the evidence he missed in his testimony in direct.
My client was acquitted. However, had I asked questions that many people tend to ask in these cases then I would have put the evidence that was missing in though the officer.
Cross-examination is a skill that has to be developed over time, which is one of the reasons that I believe a lawyer is an essential component of a challenge to a ticket, and something that can increase your chances of disputing a ticket and winning. I have conducted countless cross-examinations, and have honed my skills in this area through specific training courses. These courses and experiences are not always available to people who are not lawyers, and so it may be more difficult to prepare a successful cross-examination.
Research Case Law
Part of good preparation for court involves researching the cases that involve the offence for which you are charged. These cases often involve an explanation of some of the nuances in the interpretation of the law, and the applicability of various defences.
Reading and understanding case law will also help you with your submissions to the court at the end of the trial. When reading case law remember what cases support your position but also those that go against you. You will want to be prepared to explain to the court why your case is different from those, so that they are not used against you.
For example, when it comes to distracted driving offences, there are numerous cases out there that have interpreted what the meaning of “use” is in the Motor Vehicle Act, and to whom that definition applies. This is important if you are doing something with your phone, like charging it or resting it on your lap. While some cases have found that certain facts can lead to a conviction where these events have occurred, other cases have found the opposite. Understanding the subtle differences between the facts in those cases will give you a clearer understanding of what the law actually prohibits.
Consult with a Lawyer
And, although I know that many people reading this blog post are reading it because they do not want to consult with a lawyer, I would be remiss if I did not list this as an option.
You would not perform your own dental surgery, so why perform your own legal work?
A lot of people think that hiring a lawyer for their traffic ticket will be very expensive, but the reality is that the costs associated with hiring a lawyer for a ticket are often less than the total cost of the ticket itself, once premiums and penalty points are factored in. And lawyers have specialized training in researching the law, reviewing the cases, and understanding from reading a law what defences can apply.
So no matter what, if you want to have the best chance of success at disputing a ticket in BC and winning, you should at least consult with a lawyer to understand your options. Our office offers free consultations on traffic tickets and we are happy to speak with you to give you a better understanding of how we can help you to dispute your traffic ticket in and succeed in court.