Why is everything closing?
We have found ourselves in unprecedented times with the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and with the recent news from all levels of government, preventative measures are being put in place to try and limit the spread of this virus.
Among many recommendations is “social distancing” and practising safe sanitary conditions. As a result of these recommendations, closures are taking place across the world; conferences, sports leagues and schools are among many large institutions which are closing their facilities during the outbreak.
As each day passes, the focus is now on any large public gathering that may pose a high risk to have the virus spread and to limit these gatherings if they are deemed “non-essential”.
Parents are left to find childcare while they continue to work. Large employers are tasked with implementing “work from home” policies with limited notice. Educational institutions are tasked with implementing online learning initiatives with limited time.
Day by day, drastic change is being implemented by public and private organizations as they try to exercise proactive measures, rather than reactive measures once there is an outbreak within their facilities.
Now, the courts are starting to take notice that proactive measures must be put in place within their facilities to prevent a further spread of the virus. Efforts such as postponing jury selection, or postponing jury trials has taken place. Some tribunals in Ontario have made the decision to entirely postpone hearings until further notice. An impact that could have lasting consequences for the parties involved.
Are any courts still open?
Despite closures in tribunals and restrictions in jury trials and selection, the Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Offences court remains open to the public and is still operating as if nothing has changed. If you have received a traffic ticket, this is very important for you as this is the body of court that will determine if you are guilty or not, or simply convict you if you fail to respond to your charge within the time period allotted.
Are the courts going to close?
Please check back to our website daily as we will be posting regular updates regarding the Provincial court operations and closures if they take place. Considering the flurry of closures that we have received notice of in the prior days, it would be reasonable to assume the courts follow suit to protect the safety of the public.
What happens if I get a traffic ticket during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and what happens if I don’t go?
As of this writing, the Provincial courts remain open and the charge should be taken very seriously. If you do not exercise your right to dispute the charge within the time allotted, you will be convicted and face the consequences of the charge. For example, if you fail to dispute a cell phone ticket and you are convicted, in addition to the monetary fine, there is a 3-day licence suspension. Avoid this surprise by exercising your right to fight the charge.
If you have received a traffic ticket, contact our office for a free consultation. We are happy to announce that you can retain our services over the phone or through e-mail, with no physical interaction required. You can take the stress away from receiving a traffic ticket by having our firm handle the matter, all while not having to leave the comfort or safety of your own home.
What if I am afraid to attend court during the outbreak?
This is an understandable feeling as we strive to exercise “social distancing”, it makes sense that one may not wish to sit in a small courtroom filled with members of the public. If you have concerns regarding this, our office can appear on your behalf and speak for you as your representative.
If you would not like to attend court and seek a legal representative, our office is happy to provide a free consultation over the phone or through e-mail, taking away the risk of even having to leave the comfort and safety of your home.
I have a court date scheduled during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Can I change my court date?
There are options to change your first court date by way of an administrative form, however, this may require you to attend the courthouse to physically file the form. This essentially cancels the purpose and benefit of delaying the matter in order to not have to attend the courthouse physically.
Our office can attend the courthouse and make a formal motion to adjourn your court date to a future date where you will feel more comfortable to attend. If you are seeking to have a court date changed, please contact our office for a free consultation.
Can I Still Fight My Ticket When The Courts Are Closed?
Absolutely! Even though the courts are physically closed and not allowing the public to enter, you can still file to request a dispute of your charge and be provided with a court date when the courts resume.
When Will The Courts Re-open?
This answer has changed a few times during the pandemic. Originally, court staff and government officials were overly optimistic – Indicating a return date approximately 4 weeks after a “State of Emergency” was announced in Ontario. As it became evident things were not going to be resolved in such a short time, the delay extended to May 2020.
As of July 2, 2020, the Ontario government has advised the courts will resume in-person proceedings on September 14, 2020.
When Will I Get My Court Date?
Prior to COVID, the courts already moved slowly. The judicial system is not exceptionally fast and sometimes matters can move through very slowly. Add in an unprecedented court closure and worldwide pandemic, it can only be assumed they will move even slower through the courts once they resume. If you have received a traffic ticket during COVID and requested to dispute the charge, you may receive a court date months away.
Will My Charge Get Thrown Out Because The Courts Are Closed?
Traffic tickets are governed by the Highway Traffic Act and its enabling legislation – the Provincial Offences Act. Normally, there are deadlines the court must follow regarding the procedure a traffic ticket takes through the court system. If these timelines are infringed and the court believes the defendant has faced prejudice as a result of the delay, a charge could be dismissed by the court.
With the courts closed, there’s no question the court will not be able to meet its obligations under the Act. In the interest of the administration of justice, all limitation periods under the Provincial Offences Act have been suspended by an order under s. 7.1.2(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
If you would to view the order, you can read it in its entirety here: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200073
What To Do If You Need Help With Your Ticket?
If you have been charged by the police with a traffic ticket it is important to seek out the information you need to know what the impacts of the charge may be. A minor fine on a ticket may be misleading regarding the severity of the charge. It is important to always get the information you need to make an informed decision.
OTD Legal Services provides free consultations for anyone that has received a traffic ticket from the police. You will receive all the information you need to know how to proceed and the consultation is complimentary.
Contact us today to speak with a former prosecutor regarding your charge!