On an almost weekly basis our office is contacted by defendants who have used the Internet as their primary source of research in attempting to self-represent themselves at court. Sometimes the information they find is correct, sometimes the information is incorrect, and other times it is information being used out of context incorrectly. This can unfortunately lead to elsewise avoidable convictions or to poorer resolutions when negotiating with a Prosecutor.
Some Internet sources are easy to evaluate for their credibility. Who wrote the information? Was it the senior lawyer or paralegal of an established legal firm? Was it an angry post on a reddit forum? However, not all resources are so easy to evaluate. Even established legal firms may present information on the Internet, but present very general information that does not take into account the specific details of what lead up to your offence, the court before which your matter is set, any of a myriad of twists and turns that can occur as a given case proceeds through the court, etc.
Another concern is where that information is coming from. A website could be from Sudbury, Ontario or it could be from Detroit in the United States. Websites don’t always clearly list where they are from and the law can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Even between courts within Ontario there are differences in procedure.
The best advice is to always seek out the direct review and advice for your specific matter with a local paralegal company. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonplace urban myths and legends that can be readily found on the Internet:
The Officer Misspelled My Name Or Put The Wrong Address On The Ticket
While there are certainly some critical errors that can occur on a ticket or summons that may result in the offence being dropped at court, there are certainly a lot of errors that are superficial and can be amended at court. Not only can proceeding to court on such grounds as your sole defence result in an elsewise avoidable conviction, but proceeding to court on your own behalf may also provide an avenue for some of errors to be corrected by making legal missteps.
The Police Officer Wasn’t Wearing Their Hat
Whether or not the police officer was wearing their hat has no bearing on whether or not you broke the law. Nor does it have any bearing on how the evidence against you will be evaluated in the courtroom. A police officer could be wearing cutoff jeans and a t-shirt and still observe and document your behavior and then charge you with an offence.
If I Over/Under Pay The Fine I Won’t Be Convicted
This is a dangerous myth that we hear on occasion from people contacting our office. If you are convicted…you are convicted. Whether or not you pay your fine exactly, or pay too much or too little, you are still convicted. The dangerous element to this urban legend is that if you do not pay your fine in full, the court may have your licence suspended for non-payment of fine. If you are subsequently stopped by the police for driving on a suspended licence you could then be facing thousands of dollars in fines, further suspension of your driver’s licence, and even jail time.
If I Don’t Attend Court Or Don’t File My Ticket I Can Just Reopen It
While there are some valid circumstances under which a paralegal may recommend not filing a ticket or not attending a specific court date, these actions have to be very carefully considered as they come with risks. Filing a reopening is not a guarantee that the court will agree with your reasons for the reopening and could result in your conviction standing as is.
I Don’t Need To Worry About Tickets From Another Province
Another piece of misinformation from the Internet is that a ticket in one Province won’t cause you problems in another Province. Some drivers have thought that if their driving record becomes poor and their licence becomes suspended that they can simply move to another Province without consequence. Generally, a conviction in one Province will show on your driving record as an out-of-Province conviction and will follow you to another Province. Many people are further surprised to learn that Canada and the United States have a reciprocal relationship where out-of-country convictions can also follow you back across the border.
It’s OK To Speed If I’m Just Passing Another Vehicle
Unfortunately, this is not a defence. Nor is it a defence to simply be driving with the flow of traffic. While there are specific circumstances where speeding is defendable as having been a necessity for safety, such arguments are rare and must be carefully argued at court.
A Ticket Will Be Thrown Out If The Police Officer Doesn’t Attend Court
The chance of a Police Officer not attending court is very low. Exceptionally low. Attending a trial date with the hope that the Officer will not be present as your sole defence will almost certainly result in your conviction. Generally a Prosecutor will be advised in advance if their witness cannot be present for a trial date and they will file a motion with the court to have the trial date adjourned. These motions are generally granted by the court, especially if it is a first adjournment request. If the Officer is unexpectedly not present on the trial date, the Prosecutor may simply hold off speaking to your matter to wait until the Officer arrives or they may ask the court for an adjournment against which the defence may then argue should not be granted.
The unfortunate reality of these urban myths about traffic ticket defence is that they can readily result in a conviction where there was elsewise a valid defence that could have been argued…or the opportunity to negotiate the charge to a lesser offence was missed. When such cases are brought to our office for assistance after the fact, we may be unable to undo the damage or the work and cost involved may be significantly greater than had the matter been addressed correctly the first time.
OTD Legal prides itself on helping defendants with a no-cost, no-obligation initial review of their matters. For most matters we can review a case in as little as 10 to 15 minutes by telephone and provide a flat-rate fee that will include all court attendances and filings. If you’ve been charged by the police, protect your rights and interests. Our office can be contacted in-person, by our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.