The court process can be a complicated and intimidating process for anyone, especially if you are the accused. Unless you’ve taken law classes or had some experience with the legal system, you may find even the words used in a courtroom confusing and hard to understand.

Below is a list of some of the terms commonly used in traffic court:

Charge

A formal accusation, usually by a police officer, that requires an answer or plea.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Your right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be presumed innocent and given the chance to answer to a charge against you, without prejudice. 

Conviction

To have been found guilty of a charge.

Reopening

The process to undo a conviction made in error.

Appeal

A reconsideration by a higher court of a decision made by a lower court.

Justice of the Peace

The decision maker presiding over matters in most Provincial Offences and Municipal by-law prosecutions.

Judge

The decision maker appointed to preside over a dispute in a Court of Justice. 

Defendant

The person accused of an offence.

Appellant

The person appealing a matter.

Respondent

The person responding in/to a legal proceeding.

Crown

The party bringing the charge against you. Acting on behalf of the province.

Prosecutor

Works for the Municipality and is responsible for proving the defendant has committed the charge they are accused of. 

Clerk

Performs support functions in court.

Witness

A person who attests to the validity of a fact or event, usually for one particular side of the dispute.

Independent Witness

A person who attests to the validity of a fact or event but is not related to either side of the dispute.

Plea

The act of advising the court if you would like to defend yourself against the charges (a plea of not guilty) or accept responsibility (plea of guilty) and all associated penalties.

Pretrial

A conference or meeting between the defence and prosecutor.

Judicial Pretrial

An informal meeting between the defence and prosecutor in front of a Justice of the Peace or Judge to narrow the issues down in complicated matters.

Motion

A process, oral or written, for requesting that a judge make an order or that an action be taken.

Affidavit

A sworn written statement used as evidence.

Legal Proceeding

General term for action taken in court to settle a legal dispute or accusation.

Early Resolution Meeting

A meeting with the prosecutor before the defendant’s court date to discuss possible resolutions to the charge.

Trial

The formal examination of evidence by the court to determine if the prosecution has proven the case against the defendant/accused. 

Set Date

A court appearance to set a formal date for trial. 

Ex-Parte Trial

A trial held in absence of the accused.

Joint Submissions

An agreement between the defence and prosecution to a specific penalty.

Section 59 (2)

Application made to the court to have the fine reduced below the minimum fine to avoid undue financial hardship. 

11B application

The process of applying to the court for relief (usually a withdrawal of the charges) against a charge that has taken too long to prosecute through no fault of the accused.

Defence

An argument put forth by the defendant used to dispute the charge against them. 

Part 1

A charge issued as an Offence Notice (ticket) with a set fine to settle the matter out of court. The Municipality prosecutes disputed Part 1 charges.

Offence Notice

Document setting out the offence with which you are charged. 

Part 3

A charge prosecuted by the Provincial prosecutor or Crown.

Summons

Sets out the offence with which you are charged and requires that you appear in court on a certain date and time to answer to the charge. The court determines the penalties.

Disclosure

The evidence package for your case. Usually includes officer and witness notes/statements, diagrams, collision reports, pictures, videos, etc. and sets out the case against you.

Information

Paperwork setting out an accusation brought forth by the Crown in court proceedings.

Counts

A list of each charge you are accused of. 

Highway Traffic Act

Legislation in the Province of Ontario, which regulates and governs the licensing of vehicles and classification of traffic offences. 

Provincial Offences

Regulatory, non-criminal charges, commonly issued by the police. 

Paralegal

Licensed by the Law Society of Ontario to provide legal services on specific areas of law in Ontario. For example, Provincial Offences.

Adjourned

To reschedule a court matter to a later date and time. 

Stay

A decision by the court to not proceed with the matter. 

Stay Pending Appeal

To remove a conviction from a driving record pending the outcome of an appeal.

Hearsay

Oral evidence given about a third party that cannot be validated. 

Testimony/Testify

Formal spoken statements given under oath in a court as evidence, also referred to as Viva voce. 

Examination In Chief/Direct Examination

Questioning of one’s own witness.

Cross Examination

Questioning of the other side’s witness.

Re-Examination

Questioning of one’s own witness again, after cross examination.

Voir Dire

A procedure within a trial to determine if certain evidence will be admitted.

Dismissal

Found not guilty by the court after a trial.

Withdrawal

A decision by the Prosecutor not to proceed with the case/charge. 

Penalty

Punishment imposed upon a person who has been found guilty of breaking the law. 

Sentence

A penalty imposed by the court if a person has been found guilty. 

Victim Fine Surcharge

A fee associated with all traffic tickets in Ontario.

Acquittal

A judgement that a person is not guilty of the charge(s) against them. 

Found Not Guilty

A ruling that there is not enough evidence to sustain a conviction against a defendant.

Found Guilty

A ruling that the defendant has committed the offence.

 

Learning the words and terminology used in legal proceedings is only a small part of the process. Knowing how to interpret the law and defend yourself properly is not as simple as reading legal definitions. 

If you’ve been charged with an offence under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), it is always a good idea to seek legal advice before making the decision to fight or pay your ticket. Often, even law enforcement officers are unaware of the penalties associated with the charges they lay, and an officer may make general statements like, “it’s a minor violation, you’re best to just pay it”, or “this won’t show up on your driving record”, or “there are no demerit points for this ticket”. In most cases, a police officer is simply unaware of the penalties associated with tickets and how different classes of licenses are affected. For example, a speeding ticket for 30 km/hr over the limit is 4 points and a $180.00 fine for a G licence holder, but it will suspend or potentially cancel a novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) licence holder ‘s licence. It is also never a good idea to take legal advice from a police officer, especially the one that just charged you. There are also circumstances where a G licence holder can receive a suspension for a 4-demerit point ticket, for example, if they accumulate as little as 9 demerit points. 
We offer free, no obligation consultations so you know what penalties you are facing when you receive a charge under the HTA. The first step is to send us a copy of your traffic ticket for one of our experienced paralegals to review. 

Have You Recieved A Traffic Citation In Ontario, Quebec, Michigan or New York?

If you’ve recently received a traffic citation in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, or New York, OTD Ticket Defenders offers a free initial case review to explain your rights under the law. Contact us today to set up a no-cost consultation, or text a picture of your ticket or summons to (226) 240-2480 for a fast and free evaluation of your case. We service all areas of Ontario including Kitchener, Cambridge, Georgetown, London and Windsor.

Ron Harper
A licensed paralegal with over 30 years of experience in traffic offences. Founder of OTD Ticket Defenders.
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