First of all, I want to thank everyone on here for your help as I was preparing myself for fighting a HTA 144(9) Improper Right Turn ticket. I've been a lurker here for a while but registered to share my story and perhaps a few tips to fellow first-time ticket combatants.
My offence date was Aug 21, 2010 and my trial date was set as today, which is around 7 months after. During this wait time, I looked through a lot of advice on this forum and checked out ticketcombat's website for possible defence strategies. I considered various defences including bilingual signs, etc, but ultimately concluded that I didn't have much of a strategy to win. I did, however, fax in a disclosure request to the court in late December and followed up in late January, both without leaving my phone number with them. Originally I did this to try to get a stay of proceedings if they don't provide me with disclosure, but I later abandoned that idea after seeing how much paperwork was required if I wanted to apply for a stay.
Last night, i.e. the night before the trial day, I stayed up late to read this forum again just to familiarize myself on what I should do at the court. I essentially prepared myself to:
1) Arrive early (court session was at 1:30p at Old City Hall)
2) Check in with the prosecutor and ask if the officer is present
3) See if he/she will automatically offer me a deal; if not, I will ask for leniency given that I have 10 years of perfect driving record and it was a really rainy day. I was going to say that I respect the law, I've been to driving school, and I would have never turned if I saw the sign earlier. After reading some of Radar Identified's posts, I intended to ask if my HTA charge could be lowered to a municipal bylaw s. 39(1), which still carries 2 points but doesn't matter since bylaw infractions don't show up on driver's abstract anyway.
4) If pressured to plead guilty to the lesser offence given, indicate that I will "think about the offer" and walk around to see if the officer was there
5) Wait out the court session to hear my name, go up, and then see what the prosecutor says. I was hoping that the officer did not show up and thus have my charges withdrawn.
6) I was fully prepared to just plead guilty to a HTA charge with 0 points if none of the above works out. I wouldn't have gone to trial.
What actually happened was:
1) There was a very long list of names on the docket and I let all the other people check in with the prosecutor first while overhearing what their charges were and what the prosecutor was willing to give them.
2) Neither the prosecutor nor the other police officer there was willing to tell me if my ticketing officer was at the court
3) When checking in, the prosecutor automatically asked if I would plead guilty to a HTA charge with 0 points. I then asked for his permission to tell my story, and he said "do it quickly". In response to my request for a by-law infraction instead, he said that he cannot change the type of the ticket but can just give me a HTA charge with 0 points. I went with my plan and just said "I'll think about it".
4) I went inside the courtroom, which turned out to be very important as there were too many defendants and not enough seats. Those who can't get a seat had to wait outside. That wouldn't be a problem except that sitting in the courtroom listening to the other cases was crucial to my win today. Basically, there were a few X-Coppers who mumbled something about multiple disclosure requests not being fulfilled and thus request an adjournment on behalf of their client. His Worship then mentioned that the next available court dates are in September/October timeframe. The prosecutor, probably aware of the Right to a Speedy Trial, recommended that the charges be withdrawn and His Worship agreed.
5) Then I came up with an idea: Perhaps it's worth it for me to request an adjournment due to a lack of response to my disclosure requests because:
a) If the next available court dates are in Sept/Oct, that would be more than 12 months after my offence date and I could probably win the case claiming that my Right to a Speedy Trial has been violated; or
b) If I am lucky, they may just withdraw my charges right here and then; or
c) Mock me for requesting disclosure for a simple ticket, pressure me in responding to the plea bargaining, to which I would plead guilty.
6) About 10 cases got thrown out from the get-go due to the officer being absent, and then the defendants who agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge took the stand (about 20-25 of them). His Worship did indicate at the start of the court session that there were 64 names on the docket and he expects that defendants who plead not guilty will have to come back another time.
7) I sat in the back row from 1:30p to around 2:45p seeing everyone else take the stand and leave the room. By 2:45p, the only people left in the room was me, another guy (turned out to be a spectator), and about 5 police officers. It seems like out of the 64 defendants, I was the only one who said "let me think about it". All the others pleaded guilty to a lesser charge (except 1 guy who pleaded guilty to the ORIGINAL charge - yes the Justice, with a funny look on his face, did ask him twice if he was sure about what he was doing).
8 ) The prosecutor finally calls me up and asks me what I want to do. I asked him if my ticketing officer was here and the prosecutor said yes. I gathered the c
confidence to tell him that I've actually sent in 2 disclosure requests to which I haven't received anything, and thus request an adjournment. Before I could finish my sentence, he goes back to this podium to check his papers and says that he doesn't have any records of my requests. He asks me if I have any proof of the requests, to which I said yes as I brought along the fax confirmations to the trial. He examines them and notes to His Worship that everything appears to be in order and it must have been a clerical mistake that the requests were never fulfilled.
9) I then heard the magic words come out of his mouth: "As with the last few cases with disclosures, the next court dates will be in Sept/Oct and as such I recommend the charges to be withdrawn". The Justice of the Peace agreed and a huge sigh of relief for me. I thanked them both and left.
10) As I was leaving, I heard that the Justice thanking all the officers who came and said that it was the end of the court session. It was only 2:50pm by that point and I guess the Justice way overestimated the amount of time needed to process all the cases.
While in the court room, I made other observations which may help:
1) I also noted that there's no time/room for negotiating inside the courtroom. I was correct in telling my story to the prosecutor before the trial started because it seemed that His Worship was rather cranky and only wanted yes/no answers. Just wait until all the other people have signed in and moved into the courtroom such that you can have a minute with the prosecutor. My experience though is that "sob stories" don't really do anything - much like pleading guilty with explanation. It might be more effective to try to win based on legal technicalities...
2) Try to get a seat inside the courtroom and listen to chatter between the prosecutor and Justice on next court dates.
3) Before registering a conviction for a guilty plea to a lesser offence, the Justice consistently asks the defendant if they are working full-time to assess how long he is willing to give to pay the fine. In many cases, he reduced the fine and extended the payment period if the defendant was not working full-time/unemployed, had to support his family, etc.
4) Always send disclosure requests!! Like in my situation, you never know when it might come in handy.
5) I am not entirely sure whether all 64 names on the docket showed up at the trial. It certainly didn't feel like more than 30 people taking the stand before I was the only person left in the room and taking my turn.
Needless to say, I am very happy and feel very lucky with the outcome as it was more than what I expected. I can finally move on with my life, while being a safer driver but not worrying about my next insurance renewal.
Good luck everyone!!!
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