Six reasons to defend a traffic ticket
After the police give you a ticket you may wonder whether or not it would be worth it for you to dispute the ticket. You might think that something about your interactions with the police gives you a reason to suspect something was wrong concerning the allegation. You might be worried about the consequences of another ticket on your record or wonder whether this is really a charge that would stick if you fought it.
Those are all legitimate concerns. The associated consequences of a ticket, including an increase in vehicle insurance, a potential driving prohibition or the effect of a conviction when you need to show your abstract to your employer, make it all the more important to be informed on whether you should defend a traffic ticket. We thought that we would give you six reasons people rarely consider when it comes to why you should make the decision to defend a ticket.
You are innocent (unless or until proven guilty)
One of the nice things about traffic violations, including speeding and electronic device tickets, is that you are entitled to the presumption of innocence. We call this the golden thread of our justice system.
In traffic court, at the start of a trial, a not-guilty plea is entered. Unless you are convicted in court or (in our opinion, foolishly) plead guilty by paying the ticket, you remain innocent.
This is a good position to be in because it put the obligation on the prosecution to prove their case.
You have a right to a trial
In Canadian law, any offence that has penal consequences, such as a criminal charge or traffic ticket, entitles you to have your day in court. You can’t be treated worse because you exercised your right nor can you be deprived of the right.
It also means that the court must facilitate your trial. They must provide a judge or justice and a courtroom and disclose the particulars of the allegation. This is all part of your right to a trial.
You have a right to be represented by a lawyer
When it comes to driving offences and criminal offences, you have a right to have a lawyer represent you. This is a powerful right. Rather than bumbling through it yourself, you can have someone prepared, versed in the law and trained to cross-examine the witnesses, including the police officers.
When a lawyer speaks to the investigating officer before court, the discussions are off the record and protected because the lawyer can never be a witness in the case. This is a powerful tool to assist you in fighting the allegation.
The most powerful tool in your lawyer’s toolbox is a focused cross-examination. Simply put the witnesses against you, typically the police officer may be thoroughly questioned on the witness stand where they must tell the truth in response to the questions asked. This is where legal training really comes into action.
Although law schools overlook training students with the skills and methods of cross-examination, it is one of the most useful skills of an experienced trial lawyer. It happens to be one of the reasons trained traffic court lawyers are sought after for other litigation.
The obligation to prove the case is on the prosecutor
When it comes to fundamental legal rights, being innocent until proven guilty is crucial. Because you are presumed innocent (see point 1) the person making the allegation, in the form of the prosecution, must call the evidence to prove the case. They need to testify and explain why the evidence makes out the fundamental elements of the offence. They need to explain and call evidence for each essential
element of the offence. And they can be cross-examined (see point 4) to reveal that the evidence the prosecution is relying on is unreliable.
The reasonable doubt standard
You’ve probably heard the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” in tv shows and movies, but this also applies in traffic court. What it means is that the degree to which the prosecution must prove the essential elements of the case (see point 5) is to such an extent that there is no reasonable reason to doubt that the evidence rises to the level to prove the case.
Sometimes this is easier to understand from the other direction. If there is a fact in evidence that undermines an essential element (a reason) or the evidence is simply frail on an essential point (it doesn’t rise to the extent of proving the point), then the case isn’t proven, and you are entitled to a decision acquitting you of the allegation.
Why these six reasons to defend a traffic ticket are important
All of the six reasons to defend a traffic ticket work in your favour. Our justice system has flaws, no doubt, but these aspects of it provide a significant advantage in the process of defending a ticket.
If you would like to discuss any ticket you have received to determine whether we are the lawyers who can help you, simply give us a call.
We love defending traffic tickets. That’s our job because we’re the BC Driving Lawyers. Give us a call.