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The Elusive Technicality on a Traffic Ticket

One of the first things many people do when they get a traffic ticket is scour the ticket for a mistake made by the police officer. The hope is to find a technicality – some clerical error that will cause the ticket to be thrown out at trial. And sometimes there is an error. But that doesn’t mean it will have any effect on the outcome of the trial.

In the appeal decision of R. v. Wang, Mr. Wang pointed out, quite correctly, that the vehicle identification number (VIN) of his Porsche had been incorrectly recorded by the investigating West Vancouver traffic officer. The officer wrote it down wrong. It was a technicality. Was it a technicality that would end with the matter being thrown out?

The appeal court considered what needed to be proven. Was it Mr. Wang driving? Yes, that is something that he admitted at the trial. Was it his Porsche? Well, that did not matter but the decision suggests he did testify to that effect.

What, then, is the argument?

And that is where so many “technicality” defences fail. It seems to be very common that people who want to fight a traffic ticket on the technicality fail to consider whether the technicality identified has any effect on the issue in the trial.

In this case, the technicality did not impact whether it was Mr. Wang at the wheel. Indeed, he testified that he was the driver.

There is an important lesson here which is not to rely on “technicality.” That is not to say that mistakes are unimportant. They can be very important and when used correctly a small error such as this can be a tool or leverage to the dismissal of a ticket.

But don’t count on a technicality. Courts are quite rightly loathe to dismiss a ticket just because an officer made a clerical error.

Mr. Wang lost his appeal on several points but the important part with respect to the technicality defence is found in paragraph 23:

With respect to Mr. Wang’s fourth ground of appeal, the inaccurate VIN number recorded on the violation ticket, Mr. Wang’s argument cannot succeed in the circumstances of this case as there is no dispute that Mr. Wang was stopped driving a green Porsche in the early morning hours of October 14, 2020. Recording the VIN number is not important if you have the vehicle which was observed speeding. There is no confusion about the vehicle in this case: Cst. Colgan described a bright green Porsche in his evidence; Mr. Wang does not dispute that he has a bright green Porsche; he was stopped while driving a bright green Porsche; he was handed the violation ticket after he was stopped; and the bright green Porsche was apparently towed from the scene. On the evidence, there is no reason to believe that Cst. Colgan had the wrong person or the wrong vehicle.

You can find the entire decision here: