How To Fight Traffic Tickets
TICKETS UNDER THE HIGHWAY TRAFFIC ACT
Tickets may be issued for moving violations (such as failing to stop), or for inadequate bike equipment (lights, for example). You can't receive demerit points on your driver's licence for tickets received while on a bicycle. This circular is meant to provide a general explanation of the legal process, but is not meant to be definitive. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS CALL ARC at (416) 604-5171 or email ARC.
DEALING WITH THE POLICE
Don't escalate the situation by yelling, etc. Stay calm, it's just a ticket. You will be able to fight it. Don't assume that as a "law-abiding citizen" you can't be criminally charged just for being annoying. It has happened and it sucks. If necessary, there is a police complaints process.
GOT A TICKET? DO THIS IMMEDIATELY:
- Write down what happened as soon as possible after receiving the ticket. Include the location, direction of travel, the incident, witnesses, etc. Obtain as much information as possible at the scene. Sign and date it.
- Call for witnesses: It is very hard to get them later. Get their phone number or contact information. Ask them to make a signed and dated statement of events as soon as possible. All of the information you need about your charge and the officer (such as badge number and division) should be on your ticket.
WHAT NEXT? FIGHTING THE TICKET
Once you have been ticketed, you have three possible courses to follow:
- Plead guilty. This is the easiest thing to do - pay the money, and forget about it.
(Note that ignoring the ticket is the same as "accepting guilt.")
- Plead guilty with an explanation. This is an attempt to get the fine reduced. It may be as simple as, for example, "Yes, I ran a red light, but there was no traffic, I was slow and careful and on a bicycle, I won't do it again, and I'm poor."
- Plead not guilty. To contest your ticket (enter a not-guilty plea), you must do so in person at the place indicated on your ticket (usually Old City Hall). Bring your ticket with you. Entering the plea itself takes only a few minutes, but depending on the time of day, there may be a long line up. There may be a deadline to contest the ticket -- check your ticket to be sure.
If you decide to enter a plea of not guilty, you'll receive a notice in the mail of your trial date. It could be a year or more away.
Once you get a trial date, you have the option of sending in a request for disclosure, which you should fax in and keep the fax receipt as evidence of your request. By requesting disclosure, you are requesting information from the Provincial Prosecutor's office relevant to your case (i.e. the police officer's notebook). If this is not disclosed to you within a reasonable amount of time before your trial, you can request that the case be thrown out, although more likely it will just be delayed to a future date. Before your trial date, you should call Old City Hall to see if your disclosure is ready for pick-up: if it was ready but you don't come pick it up, it won't help you in court.
If the officer does not show up, the ticket will be thrown out. If you receive disclosure, and the officer shows up for court, you'll want to have some sort of case ready. Visit the ARC library to look over info on legal issues, rolling stops, etc. Note that witnesses must be present, they cannot send a written statement. You will have a chance to question the officer. In this situation it is not easy to win the case unless you have compelling evidence that you did not do whatever you are charged with. You can change your plea to guilty with an explanation and ask for a lesser fine on the basis of not having the money, however you may also have to pay some minor court costs.
Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge this information is accurate as of May 2008. ARC cannot be held liable for the outcome of acting on this information, and recommends that you seek professional legal advice.