Why Defend a Traffic Ticket

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic will discuss some reasons why you may want to dispute your traffic ticket.

You may want to defend against a traffic ticket for many reasons. For example:

  • There could be errors on the traffic ticket
  • You believe that you are not guilty for the offence you were charged with.
  • The Crown Prosecutor cannot prove all the elements of the offence against you.
  • The demerit points against your licence may result in a suspension.
  • Your insurance rates will increase significantly.
  • If you depend on your ability to drive as a part of your livelihood you could face severe financial downfall if your licence is suspended.

Check your traffic ticket carefully for errors. If there are errors, then contact the Crown Prosecutor a few days before the Court date written on your ticket and ask them what they intend to do. Remember that the Crown Prosecutor will not give you any legal advice about your traffic ticket. The Crown Prosecutor may withdraw the charges if the traffic ticket has no date, or if the police officer did not sign it. If your name is spelled incorrectly or your address is incorrect the charges may be withdrawn. The Crown Prosecutor can apply to the Court to correct the information or to introduce the correct information on your Court date and the charges will stand.

If there are no particulars about the offence written down on the traffic ticket, or the particulars are wrong in your mind, this will not invalidate the ticket. The police officer will often write down the particulars on the ticket to remind them of what happened during the incident. The police have 6 months in which to lay charges against you from the date of the offence. If you were able to have the charges dropped for one offence, you could receive a traffic ticket for another offence related to the same incident.

If the ticket is valid, and you feel that you are not guilty for the traffic ticket you may want to defend against the charge. Do not make the incident more memorable to an officer by arguing with them about whether you should get the ticket or not. Instead, you should try to identify some witnesses who may be able to defend you for the fact that the police officer treated you unfairly. Get their full names, numbers and addresses. You should also immediately write down the details of that incident as it occurred. Be sure not to exaggerate as the police officer will also have made his own notes. Your notes will greatly assist you later in your defence.

Consider the time and expense it will cost you in fighting the ticket. You may have to take time off from your work. You will need to attend Court for a first appearance and enter a trial date. You may have to obtain a lawyer. If you choose to obtain legal representation, you must ensure that you attend your trial.

If you are close to having your licence suspended because you have accumulated demerit points of 15 or more, you may want to defend against the ticket. Or, you may have just had your licence reinstated, and you cannot have any more demerit points because you will have your licence suspended for a longer period of time. Obtain a copy of your driving abstract from the Alberta Registry Private centre to check how many demerit points you already have against your licence.

If you are convicted of any traffic offences your insurance premiums will probably increase according to the offence you are convicted of. Most insurance companies require you to advise them of any traffic convictions you receive. A simple speeding ticket will probably not increase your rates, especially if it is a first offence. Also if you are in an accident for a first time, your insurance premiums will not increase. However, if it is a second accident, your insurance premiums will raise significantly. For example, if you are found guilty of Careless Driving, Failure to Stop for a School Bus, Failure to Stop for a Peace Officer or Driving while under suspension your insurance premiums could increase by 50% or more.