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Q & A on court matters

Working your way through the court system can be a tricky, sometimes confusing exercise. To make things a bit easier, I've gone through some recent letters to provide answers to some of the most frequ...

Working your way through the court system can be a tricky, sometimes confusing exercise. To make things a bit easier, I’ve gone through some recent letters to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: I filed for a trial date in person at the court for a brake charge and received in the mail a notice from the court for the amount due for the fine. Don’t the courts keep proper records?

A: As a matter of course, a notice from the Attorney General’s office is sent out to defendants when a ticket has been issued. The first notice to go out is called an “Important Message” as indicated in the upper right corner. The problem I have with them is their appearance/style. In bright red ink at the bottom is the phrase “amount due”, indicating the total of the fine. That’s where your eye is drawn. In wimpy small black text in the left column of the text is wording to the effect “please disregard this notice if you have paid the fine, are going to court etc.” I have seen numerous cases where the fines are paid on the basis of this message when there was full intention of going to court. Once the fine is paid it is considered a plea of guilty and if you want to get it back on the docket, an appeal needs to be filed. More time and more expense. The only notice to pay attention to is a similar looking one that is called a “notice of fine and due date”. These are issued by the Attorney General’s office upon conviction.

Q: My driver was issued a ticket for a log infraction. His name is clearly spelled wrong. Is this a technicality that will result in the charge being thrown out?

A: No. There are only a few items on the face of an offence notice that will result in a ticket being “quashed” by the court. To mention a few, these include; no signature of a provincial offences officer, no defendant, improper set fine, improper location of offence. There are others. But the minor irregularities such as spelling will not void a ticket. They can be readily amended by the Court.

Q: I had an agent attend court on my behalf and he was asked to produce a letter of authorization by the J.P., as he was not a lawyer. To make a long story short, the J.P lectured him about this, which he found all rather embarrassing. What’s this all about?

A: Well, to make a longer story even shorter, there was a judgement from a Provincial Court known as the Morden decision. In summary a Provincial Court Judge upon appeal from a lower court, ruled that defendants should be fully aware of situations where they are being represented on provincial offence matters by non-lawyers. Some courts, (J.P.s) will ask for written authorization to this effect. For what it’s worth, the Morden decision does not specify there must be written authorization, only that the court is satisfied with respect to the competency of the agent and that the defendant understands he or she is not a lawyer. While I can appreciate that concern I’d take it one step further and suggest that defendants should also be apprised of the fact that the overwhelming majority of J.P.s are not lawyers either.

Q: Our company received notice from a collection agency for an outstanding fine in excess of $5000 for a maintenance conviction. We never even knew about a court date.

A: Being from out of province, the summons would have been mailed to the last known address indicated on your CVOR or registration. In your case, it appears the address was correct, and that whoever received the summons ignored it . It’s one thing to ignore a road side offence notice, but quite another to ignore a Part 3 summons as the fines can go as high as $20,000 for the matter you had. If you don’t attend, the Crown can have a field day. Known as an ex-parte trial (in absentia) evidence is given by the officer, none by the defence, and then penalty is spoken to. In the event there is a record of any sort, the fines tend to be very high in these situations, relative to one where the defendant is in attendance. You should note that where a high fine is given, an appeal can be filed.

Q: I went to court for a brake charge only to enter a plea and attempt to have the fine reduced. In pulling a subsequent CVOR abstract, I noted there were also points because the driver did not do a proper trip inspection. I didn’t even know about it, and now the driver has left the company. What can I do?

A: In short, nothing. The more important consideration is ensuring that drivers inform you of all tickets received. When a roadside inspection is conducted an inspection report is given to the driver. You will note coding near the top of the form that will indicate the charges laid if any.

Q: We had a trailer impounded because of brakes. Only the driver was issued a ticket for improper trip inspection. Should we just pay it and consider ourselves lucky?

A: While I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, your company has not yet received a Part 3 summons in the mail for “operate unsafe vehicle” requiring a mandatory appearance. Trust me, you will get one. And don’t pay the driver fine. File for a trial date. You have some bargaining power with two matters before the court arising out of the same event.

Blair Gough is a consultant to the trucking industry and can be reached at 905-689-2727.

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