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Hire a traffic court lawyer, save yourself a lot of trouble

Two recent cases heard at BC Supreme Court serve as good examples of why you can save you a lot of trouble if you hire a traffic court lawyer. Challenging any kind of traffic ticket can be difficult. Doing so without the guidance of someone who knows what they’re doing can be doubly difficult.

People who represent themselves in traffic court or fail to hire the right lawyer will find their case falls flat on its face, often through no fault of their own. It’s fairly common for applicants to trip at the first hurdle or to lose a court decision because of a technicality. It makes sense to hire a lawyer who is highly skilled in defending traffic tickets and who has experience of the traffic court system if you want to overturn a decision and clear your driving record, as the following cases will attest.

R. v. Catling

The case of R. v. Catling was heard recently at BC Supreme Court. Mr. Catling was charged with speeding and using an electronic device while operating a vehicle. With the help of a legal counsel, he filed separate Constitutional Question Act notices for the two offences. Mr. Catling argued that Section 63.1 of the Offence Act violated his Charter rights. Section 63.1 states:

An enforcement officer may appear as, and may exercise the powers and perform the functions of, a prosecutor in relation to a violation ticket under this Act whether or not he or she is a member of the Law Society of British Columbia.

Mr. Catling asserted this section violated Charter principles, such as fundamental justice and the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. The Crown sought to have the appeal dismissed on the ground that it was an interlocutory appeal and was, therefore, premature. In other words, the judgment against Mr. Catling was still pending so any ruling that the charges against him were unconstitutional would be too early.

After a provincial court judge declined to permit an evidentiary hearing into the claim that s. 63.1 was unconstitutional, Mr. Catling sought to make separate proceedings on the constitutionality of the charges against him. The BC Supreme Court justice, however, saw no reason why a ruling on the constitutional validity of the charges should be made before the trial was finished and dismissed Mr. Catling’s appeal on the basis that it was premature. The traffic tickets were sent back to trial.

This case ended up being a colossal waste of time. Mr. Catling’s claim that the legislation being used against him was unconstitutional but this was not the right time to make that claim. This case shows the importance of following proper procedure in traffic court matters. Filing a notice at the wrong time or making an argument in a Court that doesn’t have the authority to make a decision will always backfire.   

R. v. Soman

R. v. Soman is another BC Supreme Court ruling that shows how important knowledge of the proper procedure for traffic court matters is when it comes to challenging a ticket. Mr. Soman received a ticket for use of an electonic device while driving which was was not disputed within the 30-day timeframe established under the Offence Act. Mr. Soman said he did not receive notice of the ticket and it was only after a police officer pulled him over a few months later he became aware that the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles had imposed a driving prohibition on him after he had been convicted of the offence in his absence.

Mr. Soman, who represented himself, sought an order striking out the conviction with a judicial justice so he could dispute the allegation. The judicial justice dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the matter was too old and granting the application would be prejudicial to the public.

Mr. Soman appealed the judicial justice’s decision with the BC Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justice swiftly pointed out that Section 16(6) of the Offence Act prohibits appeals of judicial justice decisions at Supreme Court.

“In short,” the Supreme Court justice said. “I have no authority to hear Mr. Soman’s appeal or grant the appeal that is sought. The application is denied.”

An experienced traffic court lawyer, or any lawyer for that matter, could have saved Mr. Soman a lot of time by pointing out to him his case could not have been decided at BC Supreme Court.

Why you should hire a traffic court lawyer

In both of these appeals, the arguments made were dismissed not because they were invalid, but because the Supreme Court did not have the authority to make a decision.

If an experienced traffic court lawyer had been hired, the proper procedures would have been followed so court time was not wasted and the applicant’s time and energy and effort was not wasted as well. At a time when the issues of unclogging the justice system and unnecessary hearings are being hotly debated, cases like these only feed the flames of calls for a more administrative system. This, of course, would be to the detriment of ordinary people seeking justice.

As dedicated traffic court lawyers, we are prepared to handle all kinds of traffic tickets. We have been representing clients in courtrooms all over BC for more than 10 years and we know how the system works. We have seen it all when it comes to traffic tickets but that doesn’t mean we rest on our laurels. Driving law is constantly evolving with new case law changing the arguments that succeed. We stay up-to-date on the latest developments so we can give our clients the best chance of success.

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