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Traffic court on its way out with new e-ticketing system

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April 18, 2015 - 10:33 AM

WILL THE DECISION RELIEVE BACKED UP PROVINCIAL COURTS AND SAVE MONEY OR WILL IT STRIP YOU OF YOUR RIGHTS?

KAMLOOPS - A critic of a new amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act — which will introduce driving notices instead of tickets and remove provincial traffic courts for disputes — calls the move unconstitutional and plans to take part in the legal fight against it as the new program starts to take effect. 

Vancouver-based lawyer Kyla Lee says the move, which she plans to challenge in court, will vastly change the way drivers can dispute tickets. 

Under the current system, drivers wanting to challenge the ticket can appear before a justice of the peace in traffic court, make submissions and cross-examine the officer who issued the ticket. The change in law allows police forces to issue driving notices through an e-ticketing system that bypasses judicial oversight, but now, Lee says, the other shoe has dropped and police forces are starting to roll out the system that puts the onus on drivers to prove their innocence instead of the officer proving guilt before a driving notice review board.

"They have complete control of everything about the hearing. They can determine how long you have, how you have to present your evidence when the hearing is going to take place and in what form. The hearing can be over Skype (or one) where you’re only allowed to write in your arguments,” she says. "You might get an in person hearing, though I doubt that those are going to be very common. It’s completely up to the review board."

A statement from the Ministry of Justice in 2012 said the change would streamline the process, because drivers could resolve cases over the phone with potential for a discount if fines are paid within 30 days. 

“The problem with the offer of a fine reduction is for most tickets, the ticketed amount is a statutory minimum. People may be offered a reduced fine that doesn’t exist,” Lee says.

She adds the law jeopardizes the right to be heard fairly, which makes it unconstitutional but she points out a second flaw in the legislation, which she refers to as a ‘scheme.’

Out-of-province drivers would be issued tickets rather than notices, which would allow them to argue in court unlike B.C. drivers.

“(It’s) completely unconstitutional. We have the right in this country to move freely between the provinces. As soon as you create a different remedy for a traffic ticket for somebody from here versus somebody not from here, you’re saying people from B.C. have fewer rights than people from another province,” Lee says. 

Lee believes the Delta Police Department will be the first municipality to pilot the e-ticketing system. An unattributed statement from the Ministry of Justice states locations and a timeline for rollout isn’t established yet. The province previously estimated the new system would be fully implemented last year. The Ministry of Justice declined an opportunity to respond to Lee's criticisms.

Lee says the government's motive is financial gain.

"This is 100 per cent about money. It costs a lot of money for court… if they eliminate that, they eliminate the costs. I can understand that to an extent. Most people don’t show up,” Lee says. "You still have your right to your day in court. That doesn’t mean that other people’s rights should be compromised.Thousands of people within the first month or two who are going to be adversely impacted by these changes."

At the time of the proposed amendment, then-Minister Shirley Bond said in a statement the changes would free up court time and make arguing tickets efficient by cutting the time frame to dispute from seven to 18 months to 90 days. 

“These are the kind of efficiencies we’re making as part of our ongoing justice review, which is working to build a more efficient, responsive justice system. This new ticket dispute process goes well beyond freeing up court resources – it will save taxpayers money and provide a fair, timely approach to disputing tickets. We expect this change to strengthen the deterrent value of traffic enforcement – and, in turn, public safety on B.C. roads,” she said. 

The same release said roughly 500,000 traffic tickets are issued in the province each year with around 14 per cent disputed in traffic court. 

It's unknown when the system will begin in other municipalities. 

To learn about other, more recent, changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, click here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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