It should come as no surprise to anyone that traffic tickets in British Columbia come with financial consequences. However, understanding the financial consequences of a traffic ticket in British Columbia can be complex and confusing. The fine listed on the ticket is often not the end of what you will have to pay as a result of receiving a ticket.
Everyone knows there is a fine for a ticket. The fines you pay are standardized by ICBC, which means that unless the officer exercises discretion to increase or decrease the fine, you will pay the amount pre-determined by ICBC. Oftentimes, however, the fine listed on the ticket is not the minimum fine for the offence.
Mandatory minimum fines for traffic offences are determined by the Offence Act Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation. If you are wondering whether you are eligible for a fine reduction on a traffic ticket, you can consult this regulation and cross-reference the offence on the ticket with the offence listed to see what the minimum is. A court has no discretion to lower the fine beyond what is set out in this Regulation.
You can however, ask the Court for more time to pay a ticket if you are unable to afford the fine. If you do not dispute a ticket, the ticketed fine is due 30 days after the ticket has been issued to you.
I have often seen officers coax self-represented litigants in traffic court into pleading guilty on the promise that they can seek a fine reduction. You should be wary of this. Many officers may not know the minimum amount, or they may be lying to you to convince you to plead guilty. The police do not have to tell you the truth. They are allowed to lie to you to further their investigation.
This is frustrating to witness as a lawyer, because I know that these people are making a decision without being armed with all the information. This is why an experienced traffic lawyer can assist you in defending yourself against a traffic ticket.
The Offence Act allows a maximum fine of $2000 for any Violation Ticket. There is no discretion to increase the fine to anything beyond this amount.
I often receive calls from clients who are concerned that if they dispute their traffic ticket the fine amount could go up. This cannot happen, unless you expressly agree that you are willing to pay a higher amount. Even then, some Judicial Justices of the Peace will not increase the fine beyond what is listed in the ticket.
This issue was considered by the Court of Appeal in R. v. Miner. There, Mr. Miner had pled guilty in traffic court and the Justice of the Peace fined Mr. Miner $400, despite the fact that the ticket listed only $100 as the fine amount. The Court determined that this was wrong, and the JJP had no jurisdiction to do so, stating:
In the absence of language which would clearly support the position of the Crown, I would be loathe to accede to its submission where the effect of that submission is that the offender is lulled into thinking, by the words of the violation ticket, that insofar as any fine goes, it will be "as prescribed", being $100. In my opinion, the only rationale for not advising the offender that, if disputed, the fine could be higher than the "prescribed fine", is that it was not intended that the fine on unsuccessfully disputing the violation ticket could be other than the prescribed fine shown on the ticket itself.
So if you are wondering whether the fines can double or increase because you disputed your ticket, know that in British Columbia this cannot happen.
If you are involved in an accident and damage is caused to property, you may be ordered by the Court to pay restitution. This is effectively repayment of the damage caused. It is unusual to see Restitution Orders, which are typically attached to a Probation Order, in traffic court because insurance will often cover this type of damage.
Victim Fine Surcharge:
Every fine amount listed on your ticket includes something called a Victim Fine Surcharge. Section 8.1 of the Victims of Crime Act indicates that any fine payable is subject to this surcharge. In British Columbia, the Victim Fine Surcharge is 15% of the fine amount.
The amount listed on the ticket includes the surcharge, so you are aware of the total amount owing when you are issued the Violation Ticket.
Many people do not understand the surcharge, particularly in traffic cases where there is no readily identifiable “victim” of the poor driving. The money obtained from these surcharges is not paid to victims of crime or offences directly, but rather is paid into a special account. The Attorney General may then determine how the money is to be distributed and applied in the Province.
Driver Penalty Point Premiums/Driver Risk Premium:
I will discuss these premiums in detail in a later post, as they are somewhat confusing and deserve special attention. However, the short version is that some traffic tickets qualify for Driver Risk Premium charges, assessed yearly over three years. If you receive more than three points in a one-year period, you will be required to pay the Driver Penalty Point Premium.
You can review the number of points associated with any given offence on ICBC’s website. There is also a chart listing which offences qualify for the Driver Risk Premium.
License Reinstatement Fees:
If you are given a driving prohibition by the Court, or a driving prohibition is issued to you as a result of receiving a traffic ticket, you will be responsible for paying the license reinstatement fee charged by ICBC. This is a $250 fee, issued to anyone anytime their license is suspended and then reinstated. You will not usually be informed of this when you are issued the driving prohibition, so it can come as a surprise to many people when they go to renew their license.
In order to renew a suspended license, you are required to pay off all outstanding debts and money owed to ICBC for everything listed above.