Today, RoadSafetyBC made a major announcement regarding how it is going to start dealing with cases of street racing and stunt driving. You can read the announcement here.
At first blush, it sounds great for road safety. The Government makes it sound as though the current system allows only for fifteen-day prohibitions for street racing or stunt driving, and that these will now be replaced with longer prohibitions, between three and thirty six months, after this type of driving behaviour is observed. The problem with this announcement is that it sorely misrepresents the current state of affairs, and it misleads the public about why this action is being taken.
To understand this issue it’s necessary to understand the current system.
Earlier this year, a Judicial Justice of the Peace tried to speed a few matters through the court. There were a few traffic tickets that had been in court for nearly two years, and being provincial offences, this meant they passed the 18-month ceiling to qualify as unreasonably delayed.
In Canada, after Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan decision, this Judicial Justice ordered stays of proceedings for several violation tickets. The tickets were initially issued in 2015 and the drivers who disputed the tickets all had rights to be tried in court within a reasonable time. The alleged offences weren’t extremely serious either: just standard speeding violations and an illegal left-turn.
The Provincial Government clearly had good intentions when it made changes to the Motor Vehicle Act in 2010 to prohibit the use of personal electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle.
Barely 20 months after the legislation was introduced, Government had already tallied more than 46,000 tickets issued for distracted driving. Despite criticism from drivers, cell phone use while driving soon became a priority for law enforcement and legislators alike. It wasn’t entirely surprising. After all, distracted driving is a serious offence and can be a factor in crashes causing severe injury and death.
ICBC reports that approximately 78 people are killed each year in crashes “where driver inattention or distraction is a factor.” And as Government struggled to figure out how to get drivers to leave their phones alone, police conducted more and more enforcement blitzes with increasing vigilance.
Penalties have also doubled since the legislation was introduced. Initially, drivers caught using an electronic device were subject to a $167 ticket and three penalty points. Changes made in June last year increased the fine to $368 and added an additional penalty point.
This means a driver given a distracted driving ticket will now end up paying $543 in total for a first offence, when factoring in the increased premium for the extra penalty point.
Police officers in British Columbia have significant obligations when they come across someone who appears to have committed an offence, but generally speaking they have broad discretion in how to proceed when it comes to traffic offences. When it comes to police discretion in issuing traffic tickets, it's important to keep in mind that the officer giving you the ticket has a great deal of personal authority. Consequently, how you behave after the fact can have major consequences for the outcome of your case.
Right or wrong, the cop who pulls you over for a Motor Vehicle Act offence is likely to issue you a ticket. Imagine for a moment that your job is to be a traffic officer.
Last week, the Provincial Government announced changes to the distracted driving laws in British Columbia. Essentially, they are increasing the fine amounts and adding penalty points so that each distracted driving ticket will automatically attract Driver Penalty Point Premiums and become a significant expense to drivers.
I had the opportunity to poll a number of police officers from the Lower Mainland last week about their views on the fine increase. Many of them were not for it, indicating their lack of enthusiasm at giving such a hefty financial hit to drivers who are clearly not able to pay the fine. This, in turn, will lead to the loss of licenses and insurance and a greater financial burden on the drivers who are unable to pay. I can’t help but agree with them.
However, I also see this as part of a long game, played by Government, to further their objective of eliminating traffic court.
Limitation periods are tricky. As lawyers, one of the first things we are taught is to pay close attention to limitation periods, because when you miss them the consequences can be devastating. And there are various limitation periods for various issues, so keeping track of them can be hard.
For traffic tickets, you have 30 days from the date you are served with the ticket to dispute it. If you're served the ticket after the offence, this means from the date the officer issues the ticket, not the date of the driving incident. Remember too that traffic tickets are different from Immediate Roadside Prohibitions, 24-Hour Driving Prohibitions, or Administrative Driving Prohibitions, which have different time periods for dispute.
But what happens when you miss the time to dispute your traffic ticket? This blog post attempts to explain what to do in that situation.
I receive a number of calls from clients who have been involved in accidents, or who have fled from police and who are later given a ticket by the police. It is not uncommon for officers to show up on someone's doorstep and serve them with a traffic ticket for something that happened days, weeks, or even months earlier. Most of these clients have questions about disputing these tickets, and questions about whether the police are entitled to serve a ticket after the fact, or for something they did not observe.
This blog post attempts to answer those questions.
The Supreme Court of Canada's IRP and Traffic Ticket Language Cases and their Impact on British Columbia's Proposed Traffic Ticket Tribunal
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada released its reasons in Caron v. Alberta. This case dealt with the question of whether traffic tickets in Alberta and traffic legislation needed to be printed in both English and French. Ultimately, the Court ruled that insofar as Alberta is concerned, there is no constitutional requirement to provide legislative bilingualism in the case of traffic tickets.
This decision is on the heels of another decision pertaining to traffic law and the province's powers to enact that legislation. This was the constitutional challenge to BC's controversial impaired driving law in Goodwin v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles). The Court there found that it was within the legislative competence of British Columbia to enact a provincial scheme to deal with impaired driving, even if there were incidental effects on criminal prosecutions.
I've been thinking a lot about these two decisions and what they mean for BC's traffic ticket tribunal. It's early to tell, but it is certain that they will have an impact to our office's inevitable challenge to the legislation.
In a recent post, I discussed traffic court excuses that never work when you are issued a cell phone ticket. From the feedback I received, I believe I cleared up a lot of misconceptions about British Columbia's cell phone laws. However, misconceptions about traffic laws in British Columbia are not limited solely to cell phones. In my experience as a traffic and driving lawyer, I have come to learn that there are also a number of misconceptions about speeding laws that permeate the way people approach their defences in traffic court. This post will clear up those misconceptions.
If you are charged with and convicted of a criminal offence, you get a criminal record. Your criminal record is not necessarily for life. After a period of time, a person is eligible to apply for a criminal record suspension, also known as a pardon. This is a fair and reasonable process, because people change. As you grow older and move on with your life, the drunk driving charge you got when you were twenty doesn't necessarily reflect the circumstances you have at age thirty five, when you've got children and a steady job. Your criminal record shouldn't follow you forever and impede your ability to travel and obtain employment.
But in British Columbia, your driving record does follow you everywhere. And unlike a criminal record, which is arguably far more serious than a driving record, there is no such thing as a pardon for your driving record.
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer focusing primarily on DUI, impaired driving, and Immediate Roadside Prohibition cases.