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Handwritten tickets will become a thing of the past in BC

BC’s new eticketing program is phase one of a plan that spells bad news for drivers

Police forces in Delta and Vancouver recently started piloting a new electronic method for issuing tickets. Under the new system, which is likely to be rolled out across the rest of BC, new equipment allows officers to fill out ticket forms by simply entering a driver’s licence into a ticket template. A paper copy of the ticket then gets printed out at the roadside. The ticket information is then shared with ICBC’s database.

According to the VPD, the new system will speed up the ticketing process and also reduce the number of tickets cancelled because of administrative errors. Until now, tickets have been handwritten by officers. Those receiving etickets will be able to pay online. The pilot project is expected to wrap up in mid-May.

The media reaction to the scheme has been generally positive with many stories commenting on how it will help eliminate human error from the ticketing process. What has not been mentioned is how the program is part of a creeping encroachment on the rights of motorists and in the long run will make it harder for you to plead your case when issued with a ticket.

“Without the opportunity to cross-examine and test evidence, it’s a problem to get at the truth”

Moving traffic ticket disputes out of courts

The new eticketing program was rubber-stamped last year as part of Bill 12, known as the Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act. The legislation introduced amendments to the Offence Act, such as defining an eticket and introducing the following section:

“A printout or display of the digital record of an eticket containing a statement that it is an authentic printout or display produced from the digital record is conclusive proof of that fact.”

This may seem fairly innocuous but it is the first step in a worrying direction the BC government is looking to take with traffic tickets in the future. Three years ago it announced plans to change the rules for drivers who want to appeal a traffic ticket. The overall plan is to move ticket disputes out of courts into what is called an administrative tribunal. Phase one of that plan is the eticketing program being piloted now in Delta and Vancouver. Bureaucrats designed this legislation, not politicians, which is scary when you think about it.

Administrative tribunals

There has been no indication from the BC government they intend to back off on implementing the administrative tribunals. The government is pitching the new rules as a way to more efficiently collect revenue from drivers by taking disputes out of the courtroom. What they fail to take into account, however, is that doing so would also impinge your constitutional rights to a fair trial.

Administrative tribunals are geared against motorists. The administrative process would be similar to the rules in place for accused drunk drivers and people who have received parking tickets.

These procedures have a number for flawed rules around evidence that would function against accused drivers. Under the proposed new rules, the police officer who issued the ticket would not have to show up to the hearing. Why does the BC government want to implement this? Because police officers who attend hearings lose trials. Being able to question an officer about their processes and their testimony is central to a lot of legal challenges.

Remember, as a result of the amendments made to the Offence Act, a digital record is now “conclusive proof”. It is much more difficult to establish the events leading up to the issuing of a ticket from a piece of paper than it is from a human being. After all, the record will simply be a written account of what the officer alleges they saw. Without the opportunity to cross-examine and test evidence, it’s a problem to get at the truth. It would also empower officers who do things wrong and raises issues around accountability.

Presumption of guilt

Another issue drivers would face under the new system is the presumption of guilt. The administrative tribunal system would amount to drivers being yelled rather than a chance to have their side of the story heard.

Drivers who receive a ticket and take it to a tribunal would have to prove their innocence. So the burden of proof would shift from the accuser to the accused, going against a central principle of our justice system that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The new system would make it no longer has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt you committed an offence but rather the accused would have to submit evidence they are innocent, completely changing the dynamic of traffic violation hearings.

Another unfair aspect of the plan is that only BC drivers would be subject to the administrative tribunal system. Drivers from other provinces would continue to use the current system.

What to do if you receive an eticket

For the time being traffic tickets can still be challenged in court. If you receive an eticket, that information will be shared with ICBC’s database, meaning your insurance premiums could rise as a result.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to challenge the ticket. We recommend you hire a lawyer for the best chance of challenging a ticket. It is now more urgent than ever you challenge any tickets on your driver’s abstract. Attorney General David Eby recently announced that as of April 1, 2019, insurance rates will be based on driver records. That means if you have any tickets on your lingering on your record it could drive up the cost of your insurance.

If you have received an eticket in BC during the pilot program give us a call for a free consultation.