Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

Going to pay an ex cop or lawyer to fight your traffic ticket? Unless your offense is much more serious than speeding, odds are you can do it yourself.

Toronto’s traffic court system works like a well-oiled factory assembly line. You can, however, often improve your lot without spending a huge amount of money hiring a lawyer or an ex cop to represent you in court. That’s the good part of the scam system.

Has this happened to you? You get caught in a speed trap or just plain speeding. You’re sure you weren’t going THAT fast and you certainly don’t want another three points tacked on to your record. Personally, you don’t believe that they actually caught you on radar doing 80 in a 60.  I mean…sometimes you gun it a bit just to get by a slow moving truck and the police catch you at your upper most speed (at which you stayed for a second or two).  That’s what happened to me.

I waited until the last minute then mailed the ticket (which allows you three options: plead guilty and pay the fine; meet with the prosecutor; or plead not guilty and be assigned a day in court.  I checked the box “meet with the prosecutor”.  It takes a month or two to receive a reply. I went for my meeting — in the crowded zoo that is the York traffic court.  A fellow in a suit somehow found me among hundreds of milling, bewildered traffic criminals because of the papers I had clutched in my hand and asked what I’d like to see as the result of the meeting. Naturally I told him I was not guilty and would like to see the charge go away. “You’ll receive a court date in the mail,” he replied. Several months went by and I finally received my “court date” in the mail. There was a quick flutter in my gut.  I had been told that the prosecutor would probably have reduced the charge had I just asked. Now I had to face the judge. Total time, ticket to judgement day — nearly nine months.


About 40 alleged offenders were let into the court room a few minutes early. In walked a good if not harried-looking young woman who went right to the front and sat down. The guy I recognized as the cop who gave me the ticket took a seat next to her. I knew I was in trouble. They appeared to be a team. Both began to page through their notes waiting for His Honor to arrive.

I quickly learned that offenders were on the books in alphabetical order. A few had lawyers, most did not. The lawyers went to the head of the list. In almost every “normal” case, the offenders were like me. “The cop didn’t understand,” they told the judge, who quickly shut them down, telling them to talk to the prosecutor. As we went to the front one-by-one, the prosecutor asked if we wanted the charge reduced. Frustrated, many of them finally said yes. Speeds were dropped from 80 to 70, or 60 to 50. In my case, when she asked me if I would like the charge dropped from 80 in a 60 to 70 in a 60, I quickly said yes, please and thank you. The fine dropped from $95 to $45 and three points to no points. The latter was what I was after and walked out a happy commuter.

In years gone by, I had gone to court twice, both times in Winnipeg with lawyers who did the work pro bono because they were good friends. The first time the cop showed up but all he could remember was my recently-permed hair (the chemicals worked way too well) and not where he had been parked. “Not guilty” said the judge, ruling that despite remembering my Afro (which was pretty hard to forget), the policeman should have known exactly where his hunting blind had been situated. I think I really got off because of the entertainment my curls provided (the whole courtroom was in stitches) and because my lawyer was a highly regarded QC.  The second time, the cop did not show up and the prosecutor quickly dropped the charges when my lawyer spoke with him.

Prevalent thought among time bandits is that if the policeman who issued the ticket doesn’t show up, they will get off. In my case, he was there, as big as life, spit-shined round-toed black shoes and all…except for the uniform. To my surprise, pretty much every defendant  in court that morning had that same cop’s name at the bottom of their citation. In the case of the few that wanted to come back for a real trial, the prosecutor first asked the officer if a certain date was okay for him, (about five months in the future) then asked the offender if it suited him. It was all done lickety-split. Like an assembly line. Wham bam thank you… Everyone who stayed paid a fine but left knowing they saved some money and points. The conviction rate is huge! Not to mention it saves the courtroom time for more important cases, or at least for more speeders.

What niggled at me, though, was a comment by my brother-in-law the paralegal just after I got caught. Stunned, he said, “I can’t believe the cop didn’t reduce the speed when he gave you the ticket!”  That has happened to me several times over the 22 years I’ve lived in Ontario.  But in this case, it did not. I was a cop for one year (1969) and it seemed to me that this officer would likely be paid overtime for going to court if it was his day off. He didn’t even have to give evidence. Or wear his uniform. His presence alone would be enough to make most offenders acquiesce when offered a lesser charge. So why should he reduce the speed at the scene of the crime and let speeders pay the cheap ticket with no points? No fuss no muss. No overtime!  But what the hey. That’s just the way it is.

After all this rambling, my point is…(drum roll please)…you may not need to pay $350 for an ex cop to go to court for you and get the charges dropped (or just reduced, as is usually the outcome and what I like to think is another scam a guy on a pension making easy money (and boy do I wish that was me), or a lawyer who will cost a whole lot more. My thinking is that if you are given three choices on the ticket, pick the one that says “Meet with the prosecutor.”  What have you got to lose but a couple of hours and some gas money? Ask for the charges to be diminished or dropped and see what happens. If you do not get satisfaction, try it in court. If it’s no dice with what will probably be a different prosecutor there, ask for another court date and come back with the big guns. Or, just pay the ticket.

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