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how to plead not guilty?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:49 am 
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Hi,

I was charged with careless driving for a one-vehicle accident, and would like to know how to go about pleading not guilty. I was driving on a rural road at night in an 80 kmh zone. I was driving up a hill. At the top of the hill is a 90 degree turn sign (no stop sign, no kmh posted). I hit the brakes too late, and because the road goes downhill and there's a lot of gravel, skidded one or two hundred meters, missed the turn, and totalled the vehicle. It doesn't seem reasonable to be charged with this serious charge for what seems to me to be a no-fault accident. Anyway, the police said "they had to" give me the ticket and told me to fight it (?!). Anyway, how should I plead my case? Can I get it dismissed? Should I go and get pictures of the scene, skid marks, etc.?

Thanks for your help. I'm glad to have gotten away unharmed. Good luck to anyone else in a similar situation.


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:11 pm 
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They didn't HAVE to give you a ticket, they felt it was warranted in the situation and issued it. Read this: http://simonborys.wordpress.com/2011/02 ... -a-ticket/

That being said, this is a good scenario to hiring someone to assist you at a trial because there are some good questions to be asked about how they can prove that you were driving carelessly at the time of the collision without any witnesses. There is case law which says that mere fact of a collision is not prima facia evidence of careless driving.

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:47 pm 
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Thanks for your response. OK, I understand why the police officers said that. About what to do now: I will go to the court house on Monday to arrange a trial date, and the yellow ticket says that I can meet a prosecutor in advance of the trial. Does that happen on Monday? I believe there are a number of mitigating circumstances: the poor signage, extremely sharp turn, layer of gravel/dirt on the paved road, hill, no ABS, and skid marks showing that I anticipated the turn hundreds of metres in advance. Should I get pictures of these facts and bring them with me on Monday or when I meet the prosecutor?

Thanks, I appreciate the help.


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:57 pm 
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Also, I read on this site:

http://www.defencelaw.com/careless-driving.html

#####################################

More than a momentary lapse

Several principles have emerged over the years from court rulings on careless driving:

* The standard against which the defendant's driving must be measured is not one of perfection. The driving of the defendant must be measured against a reasonable standard or skill, what an ordinary person would do.
* A momentary lapse or a simple error in judgment is insufficient to justify a conviction for careless driving.
...
* Mere inadvertent negligence will not necessarily support a conviction for careless driving. More than a bare act of negligence must be proven.

######################################

Would I be wrong to argue that seeing a turn a fraction too late (especially under the circumstances) is not more than a momentary lapse?


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:17 pm 
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gwt wrote:
I believe there are a number of mitigating circumstances: the poor signage, extremely sharp turn, layer of gravel/dirt on the paved road, hill, no ABS, and skid marks showing that I anticipated the turn hundreds of metres in advance. Should I get pictures of these facts and bring them with me on Monday or when I meet the prosecutor?


To be honest many of the items you list as mitigating factors actually sound like evidence to support the careless charge. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but let me give you an idea of how a good Crown prosecutor would interpret your evidence.

You admit you were driving on a road that you were unfamiliar with at night. The road was rural and the speed limit was 80 km/hr. The limit is the maximum speed under optimal conditions, not a minimum or recommended speed. Did you slow down at all due to your unfamiliarity with the road and time of day? You say there was gravel on the road surface. Is this uncommon in rural areas? You say you have no ABS. Were you not aware of this before the crash? Would this not be a reason to drive even slower under the circumstances if your vehicle is prone to skidding? You say you only observed the sign as you crested the hill. Could you see over crest of the hill as you approached it? Regardless of the sign, if you couldn't see over the hill on an unfamiliar road, why didn't you slow down as your crested the hill? How many other vehicles did you observe leaving the roadway due to the road conditions/signage?

Careless is a hard charge to prove, so that is something in your favour. But based on what you've said, I think the Crown does have a reasonable prospect of conviction. The 100-200 meter skid is particularly significant in my opinion. That means even at the speed limit, assuming a constant speed of 80 km/hr, you were skidding for 5-10 seconds straight!

I agree with Simon that you should probably get representation unless the Crown is willing to offer you a plea to a less serious offence.

gwt wrote:
It doesn't seem reasonable to be charged with this serious charge for what seems to me to be a no-fault accident

I'd strongly disagree it's a no fault accident (and your insurance company will as well). To say no fault implies there was nothing you could do to avoid it.


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:45 pm 
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Agree with Stanton - on everything.

Get a traffic lawyer or paralegal.

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:54 pm 
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Yes, I agree. Those facts don't help you. What you will likely need to do at trial, if it goes that far, is have a good agent who can force the crown to prove the offence without any witnesses, without introducing any of your own evidence, because as we've just seen, it may not be of any assistance to you.

Also, a meeting with the prosecutor won't happen when you file to fight your ticket. You can arrange a date for that later.

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:45 pm 
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gwt wrote:
Hi,

I was charged with careless driving for a one-vehicle accident, and would like to know how to go about pleading not guilty. I was driving on a rural road at night in an 80 kmh zone. I was driving up a hill. At the top of the hill is a 90 degree turn sign (no stop sign, no kmh posted). I hit the brakes too late, and because the road goes downhill and there's a lot of gravel, skidded one or two hundred meters, missed the turn, and totalled the vehicle. It doesn't seem reasonable to be charged with this serious charge for what seems to me to be a no-fault accident. Anyway, the police said "they had to" give me the ticket and told me to fight it (?!). Anyway, how should I plead my case? Can I get it dismissed? Should I go and get pictures of the scene, skid marks, etc.?

Thanks for your help. I'm glad to have gotten away unharmed. Good luck to anyone else in a similar situation.


From what you said I would say you are guilty.

Did you need to go to hospital?

Did you give this story to the cop?

My guess is if you got bumped on the head anything you said may not be used?


Get a lot of pictures and any doctor notes.

Cheers
Viper1

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:28 am 
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Thanks very much for your responses, certainly no offence taken. I listed these circumstances, because I thought they are things that are out of my control (with the exception of ABS and darkness, which I have foreknowledge of). And I'm familiar with the road, which probably led to complacency (I thought I knew what was coming). I shouldn't mention that either, I guess.

But if the signage is poor, or if snow-clearing or construction trucks leave excessive gravel on the road, those are things not in my control and are mitigating factors, are they not? To put it differently: if a sign points left when the road goes right, and the driver gets confused and loses control, is that not a mitigating circumstance? If the sign at the top of the hill gives me less time to react, because the slope after the sign makes it more difficult to stop, is that a mitigating circumstance?
It was at night, I saw the sign maybe half a second too late, slowed the car down somewhat, crested the hill, and then the momentum, gravel and slope caused me to slide (no rubber) down the hill going maybe 30 km/h through the turn and ditch.
Sorry if I'm belabouring a point here; I understand that especially from the insurance conpany's point of view I am at fault.

After I file, when I meet the prosecutor, should I just tell him I've never been in an accident in 20-odd years of driving and shut up about "mitigating circumstances" unless he asks? If it doesn't get dropped to "leaving the highway" or whatever the lesser charge is, then I can always go on to trial and hire a paralegal if necessary?

No one addressed the "principles" listed on the website above: that "a momentary lapse or a simple error in judgment," or "mere inadvertent negligence" is insufficient to justify a conviction for careless driving; that "more than a bare act of negligence must be proven." I'm assuming I'd want to find specific cases where this is cited if it gets that far.

No bumps on the head, physical examination by medics refused (I was fine). Missed a couple of trees and a pile of rocks on the way in, landed in a field (yes, very, very fortunate). I gave the police a short version, "didn't see the sign in time." Not counting on anything from insurance, since I don't have collision.

Again, thanks for your comments. Really appreciated.


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:07 am 
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With everything above spoke of above it is more than just a momentary lapse or simple error. It appears to be mulitple simple errors in judgement compounded.

I lived on a gravel road for over 10 years. If it is fresh gravel (just put on road and graded) it is very recognizable by colour, feel of vehicle and sound (tires on it). Gravel roads on less predictable than paved, a pot hole can form during a day, the surface can change (all need is someone to spin a groove in road, ATV to do donuts, farm tractor to make a turn with heavy load, bulldozer to turn etc..). Hence need to "respect" the road at all times (day/night/rain/snow etc).

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:31 pm 
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There was a "layer of gravel/dirt on the paved road."


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:40 pm 
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gwt wrote:
I was driving on a rural road at night in an 80 kmh zone. I was driving up a hill. At the top of the hill is a 90 degree turn sign (no stop sign, no kmh posted). I hit the brakes too late, and because the road goes downhill and there's a lot of gravel, .


Just re-read start of post and doesn't make sense > rural road ..up a hill...with 90 degree turn at top....and road goes downhill?

Can you give us all the road name and municipality so we can google image this to see what you are talking about. thank you

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 7:51 pm 
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gwt wrote:
No one addressed the "principles" listed on the website above: that "a momentary lapse or a simple error in judgment," or "mere inadvertent negligence" is insufficient to justify a conviction for careless driving; that "more than a bare act of negligence must be proven." I'm assuming I'd want to find specific cases where this is cited if it gets that far.


There are cases which stand for those propositions, but putting them into play at a trail is a skill, which is why you may want to hire a paralegal or lawyer. You can't just stand up and say, "R v Johnson!" and sit down and expect that they'll acquit you. You have to explain what the case stands for and how it applies to the facts of your case. That's the skill lawyer's learn in law school (and I assume paralegals learn as well).

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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 11:40 am 
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I'm not sure if it's a good idea to give particulars until after it's settled. I went back to take pictures: you can't see the turn or yellow/black checkerboard sign until you crest the hill, then it's a fairly steep grade and about 80m until the turn. I could see some rubber from one tire; the other one was in the sand in the middle of the road. It's marked 60 km/h from the other direction (the road winds up/down the hill), but not from the direction I was travelling (80 km/h road). There should be a stop sign warning or 20 km/h sign there imo. Anyway, I'll report back once it's settled.

Yes, if it goes to trial, I will need some help for sure. It's good to hear some scepticism here since that will be the prosecutor's or justice's perspective too. Thanks!


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Re: how to plead not guilty?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:27 pm 
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Hi, just wanted to post a follow-up to this. I went to talk to the prosecutor, and he was ready to drop the charge to a lesser one almost immediately, but having prepared myself with photos, etc. I still wanted to explain the situation. :) He got a little defensive and basically used some of the reasoning others posted here (familiarity with road, speed limit being maximum, etc.). He did seem to take the arguments of poor signage and sand/gravel on the road as reasonable, and I found out that the police had gotten the posted speeds wrong in their report (60 km/h instead of 80 km/h). Anyway, he offered the 2-point leaving the highway charge and I accepted. Seems like talking to these guys is usually a good idea. Thanks again to all; good luck with your tickets!


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