Reducing a Traffic Ticket - Precision Paralegal Services

How to Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced

Understanding How we Help Reduce your Traffic Ticket

At the scene of a road stop or accident, the police that attend will often charge a driver with what is the broadest charge applicable. This sometimes involves the most serious charge and presents the harshest penalties such as a large fine, demerit points, and affects on insurance rates.  Generally, there are many reasons for the police to do so including:

1. To charge the driver with an offence that is easiest for the Prosecution to prove; and 

2. To provide the Prosecutor with ‘room’ for negotiation on a plea to a lesser charge. 

For example, in a typical rear-end collision, the vehicle struck from behind is almost always without fault (generally speaking, unless the vehicle in front was backing-up or purposely slamming the brakes to cause a collision). In these situations, the driver operating the vehicle that rear-ended the vehicle in front is routinely charged with Careless Driving contrary to s. 130 of the Highway Traffic Act. The offence of careless driving is actually a very serious charge and the example outlined above often results with relatively minor consequences, such as a slight bump. However, in this situation, and by definition, Careless Driving is usually the most fitting offence within the Highway Traffic Act that the police can charge.  

It is necessary to keep in mind that the police officer has a public duty to ensure that the ‘at-fault’ driver is subsequently proven to be ‘at-fault’, not necessarily just by the Prosecutor but also in a civil law court should liability litigation arise in the future. However, in a lot of these situations the Prosecutor will often make a ‘deal’ and allow the charged party to plea down to Following too Close contrary to s. 158(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, which is considered a minor offence. 

You might wonder why the police officer at the scene would lay the charge of Careless Driving in the the first place rather than a Follow too Close from the get-go. As stated above, the police officer is ensuring that the Prosecutor will be in a better position to obtain a plea to a lesser charge. Additionally, the definition of ‘careless’ is defined somewhat vaguely, and is therefore sometimes easier to prove in court. It is important to keep in mind however, that Careless Driving charges can be proven without the legal definition of ‘carelessness’ being met. For example, the courts have frequently dealt with the legal question of when does a temporary lack of attention become carelessness? And when do outside factors come into play? In R. v. Richards, 2009 ONCJ 651 it was stated that:

R. v. Richards, 2009 ONCJ 651 at Paragraphs 16 to 17

[16] In R. v. Beauchamp (1953), 16 C.R. 270, the Ontario Court of Appeal stated the standard for careless driving is a constantly shifting one which depends on the road, visibility, weather and traffic conditions as well as other conditions which an ordinary driver would take into consideration.

In the matter at bar, clearly the visibility was limited by the fog. Nonetheless, Officer Nelson acknowledged that his visibility extended to 50 metres which provided a limited range of view for Ms Richards. While the road was wet from the fog, no evidence suggested Ms Richards could not stop due to road conditions. No evidence was led there were adverse traffic conditions. Officer Nelson testified that he was travelling at 60 kph and Ms Richards at approximately 40 kph. Therefore, Ms Richards’ was driving at a reasonable speed for the conditions of limited visibility and wet roads which existed that night. In my view, it cannot be said that she was driving “without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway”.

[17] In R. v. Ereddia, [2006] O.J. No. 3421 (OCJ), Justice Fairgrieve also commented on the standards for a conviction of careless driving. He stated:

(6) The offence of “driving carelessly”, created by s. 130 of the Highway Traffic Act, is defined as driving on a highway “without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway”. The law has been clear for decades that in order to make out the offence under s. 130, the driving must be of such a nature that it amounts to a breach of one’s duty to the public and is deserving of punishment: see R. v. Beauchamp (1953), 16 C.R. 270 at p. 278 (Ont. C.A.). A driver is not held to a standard of perfection, and a mere error of judgment is not necessarily sufficient to establish the offence: see R. v. Wilson (1971), 1 C.C.C. (2d) 466 (Ont. C.A.). Careless driving, generally speaking, requires proof of a departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent driver would have exercised in the circumstances, and normally involves, I would think, conduct that includes other less serious Highway Traffic Act infractions.

(7) Mr. Klaiman, counsel for the appellant, also referred in his factum to the pertinent judgment of Killeen Co. Ct. J. in R. v. Namink, [1979] O.J. No. 317 (QL), where, at para. 10, the learned County Court judge stated as follows:

It is trite to say that this is a quasi-criminal charge, and that to make out a charge under this section the evidence must bespeak conduct deserving punishment in the way of a conviction under this section of our Highway Traffic Act. Mere momentary inattention, or a simple kind of error of judgment, does not bespeak the kind of conduct over which the net of this section is cast.”

Lesser Offence

As stated above, the courts may rule that the prosecution of a serious charge was overkill and innappropriate to the situation. While the above examples uses the serious charge of Careless Driving, many such instances can be applied to various offences within the Highway Traffic Act. While you may be charged with a serious offence, there’s almost always a more applicable minor offence that you may be able to plea down to. This is always preferable as minor offences have penalties that are less harsh. 

Summary Comment

When laying a traffic charge, police will often lay the most severe charge applicable to the situation despite other, less serious, charges being available under the Highway Traffic Act.  These less serious charges are known as ‘lesser offences’, or sometimes ‘minor offences’.  When charged with a traffic offence, a professional legal representative such as Precision Paralegal Services can review the offence, the evidence documents that the Prosecutor intends to use to prove the case, as well as the circumstances that led to the charge, and help guide you on how best to tackle the case. Let us help you navigate your way to a better outcome. 

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What is the Penalty for Careless Driving?

The penalty for a conviction to Careless Driving Not Causing Bodily Harm or Death includes:

  • six (6) demerit points
  • fine between $400 – $2,000 + victim fine
  • possible jail up to six (6) months
  • possible further two (2) year suspension upon conviction
  • Cancellation or Increase to your insurance rates

The penalty for a conviction to Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death includes:

  • six (6) demerit points
  • a fine not less than $2,000 – $50,000
  • possible jail up to two (2) years
  • possible further two (5) year suspension upon conviction
  • Cancellation or Increase to your insurance rates
  • Automatic license suspension for G1, G2, M1 and M2 license holders if convicted.

The definition of careless driving is broad and can include circumstances such as:

  • the driver was not driving careful enough or considering the road conditions,
  • not paying enough attention to their driving, or driving without due care and attention
  • the driver was “driving without consideration for other persons using the roadway”.

A charge of careless driving does not mean that the driver was driving dangerously or acting in a criminal manner.

 

The Ticket for Careless Driving

Once stopped by the police for Careless Driving the officer will give the driver three (3) documents:

  • a summons to appear in court
  • A summons is a traffic ticket without a fine that commands the driver or their representative to appear in court before a Justice of the Peace.

The driver must appear in person or may have a licensed paralegal appear on their behalf. If the driver does not appear on the court date, the justice can:

  • issue a bench summons
  • for the arrest of the driver, or
  • convict the driver in their absence.
  • A “Bench Summons” is a court order for the police to arrest the driver.

Once arrested the police must take them into custody and to bring them before a judge forthwith.

Careless Driving vs. Dangerous Driving

Careless driving is not the same as dangerous driving.

Careless driving is not a criminal offence. You do not receive a a criminal record for careless driving.

Careless driving is a provincial law, under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario which is a Province of Ontario statute (provincial law).

You do not receive a criminal record only the only record is against your drivers licence.

The main difference between careless driving and dangerous driving is that in careless driving they are unplanned events, like a car accident, versus dangerous driving are planned events, e.g. drag racing.

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Appearing in Court for Careless Driving 

The court date on the summons to appear, may be the first in many court dates for a charge of stunt driving.

Careless Driving charges have a first court date, commonly called by the court a “Set Date”, meaning that the court date is a date for the driver to either plead guilty to the charge or to set a date for trial.

If the driver pleads guilty to stunt driving then the justice may give the driver the penalties set for those convicted of stunt driving.

Should the driver plead not guilty or to wish to seek legal advice, then the justice would adjourn the case to another court date, commonly called a “To Be Spoken To Date” or TBST.

On the first court appearance the prosecutor will usually give the defendant or their representative the disclosure.

Disclosure is a group of documents containing the officers notes, the driving record of the defendant and any other pertinent information regarding the charge.

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