Disputed traffic tickets on the rise in B.C.
Under new system, lawyer says there will be no right of appeal
As the B.C. government moves to shift traffic violations out of court, data from ICBC show the number of disputed tickets has been on the rise since 2008.
Lawyers are questioning the planned shift, fearing the move will strip motorists of their constitutional rights.
Under legal amendments enacted by the B.C. government, police will stop writing tickets and will electronically issue what are called “driving notices” with an online payment system.
Disputing a notice involves a three-part process, according to Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee.
Initially, adjudication officers with the office of the superintendent of motor vehicles provide an opportunity for drivers to plead guilty.
Failing that, drivers can go to a hearing before the Driving Notice Review Board. Before the hearing, however, there will be a pre-hearing where the accused must provide evidence, Lee said.
The police officer must submit his or her evidence by way of a sworn report. If the officer who issued the driving notice can’t do it, any other officer can.
The decision of the board is final, with no right of appeal, she said.
Experts were unable to cite a precise reason for the increase in the number of disputed tickets but Sarah Leamon, a criminal defence lawyer specializing in traffic cases, suspects people are becoming more aware of the impact of being found guilty or pleading guilty by paying the fine.
Having a less than pristine driving record can affect a person’s career, especially if it is a driving-related job. “Employers get to be choosy about who they are hiring,” she said.
It can also affect car insurance and can even involve vehicle impoundments.
Leamon, who is with the Acumen Law Corporation, said disputed traffic tickets cover just about every clause in the Motor Vehicle Act, with speeding, electronic device use and driving without due care and attention being among the most common.
She is staunchly opposed to the province’s move to shift traffic violations out of the court system.
“I think it’s so dangerous to do that because you don’t get an opportunity to cross-examine the officer or go through the court process,” she said. “There is no access to justice.”
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