Although traffic tickets are often considered less serious offences, particularly in relation to criminal charges, this shouldn’t impact your decision to retain a lawyer to represent you. Traffic offences are still dealt with in a court of law, before a Justice of the Peace and prosecuted by a city or provincial prosecutor. Before you decide to plead guilty or represent yourself, consider the possible implications a conviction for a motor vehicle offence could have on you, and then consider all the services a lawyer such as myself can provide you to ensure you receive the best possible result.
When you retain a lawyer to represent you on a motor vehicle offence, a lawyer can provide with a number of services. Specifically, a lawyer can provide the following services;
- Advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
- Advise you on the law with respect to the offence or offences for which you have been charged.
- Advise you of the financial and personal implications a conviction can have in certain circumstances.
- Advise you of whether efforts should be made to resolve your matter or if it is likely headed for trial conduct pre-trial discussions with the prosecutor to resolve your matter.
- Obtain and review disclosure and advise you with respect to the disclosure.
- Make submissions to the court on your behalf.
- Prepare you for trial.
- Attend court on your behalf so you don’t have to.
Before you decide to just the pay fine and forego your right to have a trial and hold the Prosecutor to the burden of proof, consider the following piece of advice. This is advice that I received from an experienced lawyer prior to becoming a lawyer myself and it applies not only to criminal offences, but also to motor vehicle offences. The advice is this; you should never plead guilty unless three factors are present. First, there must be a factual basis for pleading guilty. Second, the Crown Attorney or Provincial Prosecutor must be able to prove their case. Third, you should receive some consideration for entering a guilty plea and giving up your right to have a trial and avoiding the State the expense of having to conduct a trial and prove its case.
A lawyer with experience dealing with motor vehicle offences will be in a position to advise you whether the Prosecutor will have problems proving your case and advocating for a resolution that may include a plea to a lesser offence.
When you are considering whether to hire a lawyer to represent you, remember there are some motor vehicle related offences that carry some significant minimum penalties. For example, driving without insurance carries a minimum $5,000 penalty. Driving while your licence is suspended has a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offence and a minimum $2,000 fine for any subsequent offence. Careless driving has a minimum penalty of $400 and 6 demerit points and you could also face a licence suspension for up to 2 years.
What many people don’t know, including some lawyers, is that there is a provision under the Highway Traffic Act that allows a Justice of the Peace to impose a penalty below the mandatory minimum. Whether it is right or not, it is not uncommon for a prosecutor or the court to be more receptive to resolution discussions when speaking with a lawyer rather than an accused. Simply put, a lawyer familiar with this area of law will often be in a better position to have resolution discussions with a prosecutor and make submissions to the court on your behalf.
If you intend on challenging a traffic ticket, whatever the offence you have been charged with, you should give serious consideration to hiring a lawyer. Prior to going to trial, a lawyer can advised you with respect to the law regarding the particular offence which you have been charged with, the strengths and weakness of your case, and whether your matter can or should be resolved without a trial.
In some jurisdictions, a lawyer can arrange to have a pre-trial with a Prosecutor to discuss the possibility of resolving your matter. In a best case scenario a lawyer can resolve your matter in a favourable manner for you and avoid requiring you to take time off work to attend court. In a worst case scenario, if a lawyer and a Prosecutor cannot resolve the matter, a lawyer will be able to identify any outstanding issues, what witnesses will be required, and the estimated amount of time a trial is going to take.
On the trial date if there are any other matters that are scheduled for trial, having a lawyer will ensure your matter is heard before any other trials where the accused is self-represented. If you have a trial and it is becomes necessary that you give evidence, you would be well advised to hire a lawyer so that a lawyer can ask you the all the appropriate questions.
A lawyer will also be in a better position to cross-examine any witnesses the prosecutor calls and make submissions on your behalf. A lawyer has legal education and has experience practicing law, which provides you with someone who knows what questions to ask, and sometimes which questions not to ask.
Although you don’t necessarily need to hire a lawyer for some motor vehicle offences, traffic offences can still carry serious consequences and you should seriously consider retaining a lawyer anytime you are charged with an offence. As a criminal defence lawyer here in Toronto, I appear in traffic courts on a regular basis and I am prepared to assist you in resolving any traffic offences you have been charged with. Contact me today and arrange a free consultation.