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Understanding The Options On The Back of Your Traffic Ticket – Part 1
Getting a traffic ticket sucks, let’s face it. Knowing you are not only having to pay a fine but also likely receiving increased insurance rates can turn a good day into a bad one really fast. If you received a ticket in Ontario, it was likely because you are accused of breaking a law under the Highway Traffic Act. This is the provincial statute regarding driving infractions in Ontario and it covers any public roadway in the province. Whether you are in a remote area of Northern Ontario or taking a cruise through Downtown Toronto, the same law applies to all drivers despite their location. However, the options that someone has will depend on the municipality they received the ticket in and this creates quite the confusion when trying to understand what your options may be.
In Ontario, the municipalities have complete discretion on the administration and prosecution of provincial offences under the Highway Traffic Act, among other statutes. This means that two neighbouring municipalities, mere kilometers apart, could have completely different procedures and options available to accused individuals.
Every traffic ticket must include your options to respond on the back of the ticket. There will be 3 options but what they are will depend on where you receive the ticket. In Ontario, you could receive a ticket with two possible sets of options. The main difference is that some tickets allow you to meet with a prosecutor to discuss resolving your ticket (a resolution) where others do not. For example, the Region of Waterloo will allow you to request a meeting with the prosecutor prior to your trial date, whereas, the neighbouring municipality of Guelph will not.
In this week’s blog post we will take a look at your options in a court like Guelph, that does not allow for an early resolution meeting.
If you receive a ticket in the City of Guelph or any other municipality that does not offer early resolution, you will be faced with making a decision within 15 days based off of the options provided to you on the backside of the ticket. You will want to understand these options very clearly in order to make an informed decision on how to proceed.
There will be three options on the back of the ticket you receive:
- Guilty Plea – Voluntary plea of guilty
- Guilty Plea – With explanation
Looking at these options it is unclear to someone with no legal training on what is the best course to proceed as your decision could have lasting impacts. For example, Option 2 is a very misleading option to self-represented individuals that often leads to confusion and results in frustration when things do not go as planned.
Let’s take a look at exactly what each option means and what options you truly have available that may be omitted from the ticket itself.
Guilty Plea – Voluntary Plea of Guilty
The least commonly promoted route of dealing with a traffic ticket; simply plead guilty. To plead guilty means that you are voluntarily accepting guilt for the charge and you do not wish to dispute it. If you plead guilty, you will be responsible for paying the fine amount on the ticket and a conviction will register on your driving record. Be warned that a conviction will often result in higher insurance premiums and sometimes limited employment opportunities.
If you are considering pleading guilty to the charge, I recommend getting a free consultation from a professional legal representative first. They will be able to advise you on the implications of pleading guilty and explore any defences that may be available to you. You can receive a free consultation here.
Guilty Plea – With Explanation
This is by far the worst option to exercise when dealing with a traffic ticket. This option is filled with misconceptions and a false sense of what it is you are choosing to do. To plead guilty with explanation, you must first plead guilty, then be permitted to provide an explanation to the court.
The order of this procedure is a great position for the state to be in, however, a dreadful position to be in as a self-represented individual. This allows the court to obtain the guilty plea against you, which you will state on record is voluntary, and then plead for forgiveness.
It is important to know what the court even has the power to do once you have pleaded guilty. There are lots of myths surrounding what the court can and can’t do. You may have a friend saying “just tell them what happened and they will take it easy on you” but this is not sound advice because the courts jurisdiction is limited.
For example, a Justice of the Peace can give you an extension of time to pay your fine or possibly even reduce your fine.
However, a Justice of the Peace cannot remove only the demerit points but accept a larger fine, or reduce your charge to a different, lesser charge. The charge can only be negotiated with the prosecutor. To do this, you will need to exercise Option #3 – Trial.
If you wish to fight your charge, obtain the evidence against you, or discuss your charge with the Prosecution, you will need to select option #3 – Trial. This is the only way you will be provided with an opportunity to discuss your charge in negotiations, obtain the evidence against you, or cross-examine the officer that pulled you over.
Out of the three options, this is by far the one you want to select as it opens up so many more options to you. You could obtain your evidence or discuss the charge with the Prosecution and possibly even decide to still plead guilty, but you will not have these options if you do not select a trial.
If you find yourself trying to figure out which option to select, I recommend getting a free consultation from a professional legal representative first. They will be able to advise you on the implications of each option and explore any defences that may be available to you for your charge. You can receive a free consultation here.