I have a court date in Ontario this coming Wednesday for driving with a suspended license and running a stop sign (which i do not believe i actually ran through). My circumstances are some what extreme - i was convicted in court in 2011 with driving 45 KM/h which i was issued a 430$ fine. I had hired a lawyer at that time (as i was caught going in excess of 150 km/h apparently). I had borrowed almost $3000 at this time to pay all my fees and lawyer expenses. Well - My Uncle did the negotiations with the lawyer and somewhere there was a lose of communication - I had believed the the lawyer was to pay all fines from the original $2000 i paid him. Well apparently not - As i found out a couple months ago when i pulled over. I was never informed and after doing some digging know why - I was accused of letting in a vandal into the apartment building i was living in and evicted a day or two before my license was suspended and locked out by building management. I had only returned to retrieve my possessions. this should constitute as viable reason for not knowing? Should i obtain documents from the housing court to prove this statement or will the prosecutor have open access to these records? Anything else i should be aware of going into court
Not having received a notice of suspension helps your defence but it isnt sufficient in itself to beat the charge. The burden of proof lies on you to establish that you exercised due diligence. The court will want to see that you took all reasonable steps to ensure your fines were paid off and licence still in good standing.
Questions that will likely come up:
You had a lawyer represent you and believed he would pay your outstanding fines. Do you have any written agreements from the lawyer that would support this belief? What steps did YOU take to maintain communication with your lawyer since 2011?
You were evicted from your residence shortly before the suspension notice was mailed to you. What steps did you take to have your mail collected/forwarded from your old address? Did you notify the MTO of your change of address after eviction? Have you ever contacted the MTO since 2011 to verify the status of your licence?
Your responsible for having any documentation that you believe will support your defence (i.e housing records). The Crown will not have such documentation nor would they be responsible for brining it to Court.
From your outline of the events, I dont think youre at the point yet where you could argue you took all reasonable steps to ensure your fines were paid off. Perhaps theres more details/circumstances your leaving out though.
Heres a previous Court decision thats somewhat similar to your own. The defendant had outstanding fines from a matter in which a lawyer represented him and never received the notice of suspension since he moved. The defendant was convicted because the Justice of the Peace was not satisfied he exercised due diligence. It's not a binding decision I believe but gives you an idea of what the J.P. looks at for a due diligence defence.
R. v. Summerfield, 2012 ONCJ 183
I went to court and bargained with the prosecutor. He listened to my situation and was very reasonable. I didn't have any proof with me but I decided the best course of action was to take a early settlement and tie up the court as little as possible.
He ended up dropping down my charge to a minor conviction of 'driving without a license' as opposed to the much more major offense of driving with a license. And reduced the fine to $200. I think my attitude towards the situation and my understanding of what I did was wrong had a lot to do with the outcome. I did end up speaking with a lawyer the day of and I was not satisfied with his advice. In the end I believe going with a lawyer would have increased my fine and cost me a lot more money. This was the outcome I was hoping for and effects my insurance very little. Ticket lawyers spend a lot of time scaring people into the worst possible outcome and if things don't go the way you hoped in the prosecutor meeting for early settlement - you still have the right to take 2-3 weeks to reconsider, get legal advice, and challenge the ticket in a court room. Being that this was a serious offense with several possible outcomes - this can cost the court more than taking a early settlement and spending 10 mins with you and is very likely other people in similar situations (suspension due to fines) try this method and be relatively confident in the fact that you were just doing this because you didn't know or had too because of your circumstances.
Prosecutors are real people and see a thousand worst things being done everyday. At the end of the day even know this is a major offense - who would do it if they had the resources to take care of it? Possible outcomes - getting a ticket is the best possible thing that could happen when you have a suspended licence. Consider if you got in a serious accident or something - you would be financially screwed for life and never drive again.
It also helps that I had zero other convictions on my record even though I did some stupid things when I was younger. Knowing your driving history is earased after 3 years from conviction date saved me as I could claim I had no recent incidents.
Hope this gives someone else some light at the end of tunnel.
@Stanton - thank you for your very helpful post which in the end gave me the insight to consider the other options I had when going to court. This information was great and helped me understand I could not truly fight this on my own and that a lawyer would have little to go on to battle this out as well.
Glad it worked out for you. I think it was a good decision to take the plea deal in your matter. While it's always nicer to be found not guilty, the implications of being convicted for driving under suspension are too serious to take a gamble with.
clandestine8 wrote:I went to court and bargained with the prosecutor. He listened to my situation and was very reasonable.
People here have reported mixed experiences with prosecutors. I personally find they'll treat fairly if you're polite and reasonable with them. I think some people make the mistake of thinking being confrontational, etc. will intimidate the prosecutor.
clandestine8 wrote:Knowing your driving history is earased after 3 years from conviction date saved me as I could claim I had no recent incidents.
That's actually a bit of a myth. Insurance providers may only count convictions in the past 3 years against you, but your driving record shows ALL convictions. The prosecutor will probably overlook older (5+ years) charges, but they'll still know of them. I just don't want anyone going to Court and saying they've never been convicted before thinking their records have been expunged.
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