Last March I was pulled over and charged with failing to stop at a stop sign. It was the last Friday at the end of the month and apparently there was a "trap" set up at the intersection. I say it was a trap because it looked like two cruisers were working the corner because one was busy writing a ticket about half a block up the road. It was an "all ways" stop intersection. It was a 30kph speed limit and when I was pulled over I thought that was what i was getting stopped for (try driving at 30 some time... it's actually difficult). When the PC approached I was informed that I didn't stop at the sign. I thought I stopped but wasn't going to argue the point with her. After I received the ticket, I was just a little pissed about it after because my passenger thought I had stopped as well.
I filed my intention to dispute the charge and received a notice to meet with the prosecuter for early resolution on Sept 10. I went to that session and was told they would reduce the charge to something else which carried a lesser fine and 2 demerit points. The amount of the fine wasn't the issue and 2 points or 3 makes no difference to my insurance company. so I opted to go to trial.
The early resolution process was a cattle call with those opting to plead guilty to a lesser offence waiting until there was enough then herded into the courtroom to plead guilty.
When I opted for a tral, I was told by the prosecutor to file a disclosure request once I received a trial date in the mail. The trial notice was stamped Sept 11 and I received it the following week. Because I was out of town I didn't actually read the notice until the 19th. The trial date was set for October 20. I filled out the disclosure request asking for a copy of the ticket (both sides) and all the officer's notes for the day. Because the courthouse was in a town 30 miles away, I brought it in on September 28.
I had not received anything from them on Sept 19. From reading the other posts today, i realized that I should have bugged them about it, but assumed that filing the request would result in receiving the information I requested. I was obligated to show up on time for the first attendance thing at the time the crown requested, and the trial and assumed that the crown would be as dilligent.
Before the court convened on October 20, I approached the prosecutor and showed him the Request for Disclosure. He looked through his file and pulled it out and handed it to me. I told him that was inappropriate and was going to request an adjornment (the PC was in the court so there wasn't any point in proceeding.. Fascinating thing about the thing was that the prosecutor began to argue that they only received the request on September 28 and the disclosure was sent out on October 15. It is now September 21 and I still haven't received the document the crown claimed was sent.
The other fascinating thing about the moment was that the JP actually seemed a little put out by my request. My guess was that he figured I was just stalling and wanted to be sure that I would be ready on the rescheduled date. They set the date for November 27... so 5 weeks later.
Some interesting things about the thing. The disclosure I was given included both sides of the ticket, but the officer's notes for the day amounted to the location of the charged offence and the single line that I think reads "did not come to complete stop". That's it.
The second thing I noticed was that when the case was adjourned, the PC left the court with a second person who arrived with a gaggle of police about 10 minutes before the PC showed up (so they weren't together). This leads me to believe that he was there as a part of the crown's case. If that is the case, I would think that information should have been provided with the disclosure documents.
I wanted the officer's notes for the day because I wanted to determine how long she worked the trap and how many tickets she handed out and what charges were laid.
I would have liked to know where the PC was when she observed me at the intersection but that information was not provided either.
I don't like to accuse the police of having quotas but it was the end of the month and I feel the process was just a money grab. My argument is that the police were there only to write tickets. i thought I stopped, my passenger thought I stopped, but given the money mill nature of the trap, I'm guessing not sure how careful the PC was. My thinking is that of those who got stopped that day, some pleaded guilty and paid the fine, others went to the first attendance and pleaded guilty to a lessor charge... and I opted to go to trial.
My impression was that the prosecutor didn't seem perturbed at all to provide disclosure just before the trial was to start because the outcome was a foregone conclusion and they were just going through the motions to convict me.
So here is my question.
The disclosure I received was woefully inadequate. Do I file another request for disclosure being more specific about what information I require?
I really need to know what other tickets were written that day, and would like to know what the outcome for them was (how many pleaded guilty, how many pleaded to the lesser charge, and how many opted for trial). I would also like to know where the PC was so that I can determine what her perspective was. I'd also like to know who the other person was and whether he was there to as a witness.
Since the second court date is a little over 4 weeks away, my guess is that the crown will stall again on the request citing a lack of time.
I made it clear to the JP that the crown set the date for first attendance, and the crown set the date for the trial so I shouldn't be faulted because they didn't have sufficient time. Remember it's a 30 mile drive to attend the court so it's a cost in time, gas and parking and I've now made 3 trips dealing with this.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance
You can not get information on charges given to other drivers because that violates their privacy. The outcome of their charges has no relevance to your case.
Stop Sign charges are difficult to defend because the officer is always in the best position to see whether your vehicle came to a complete stop. You can not see your rims/wheels stop spinning from inside your vehicle, only someone outside can confirm that.
So an impartial JP listening to evidence from someone inside the vehicle vs. outside, the person outside will have increased weight.
The HTA only requires that your vehicle come to a complete stop, what may feel like a stop inside the vehicle... could be a rolling stop to someone outside, from their POV the rims and wheels continued spinning and never stopped.
This is also why I invested in a cheap dashcam (G1W) and always stop the vehicle with the front bumper behind the white marked stop line, whether it's a stop sign or red light / right turns. You can see the marked line in the video and the vehicle stopping, so there's no question.
The crown is obligated to give you all the information that they have regarding your charge. Where the officer was when he observed your vehicle can be obtained through cross-examination, you could also have a chat with the officer at your next appearance about where they were.
If they didn't write in their notes, then there is nothing for them to give you. They have to have an "independent recollection" of what took place beyond their notes as well.
Just my two cents, I don't believe that Ontario law enforcement officers have quotas; yes, they definitely have to show some results for their work. Ontario drivers in general have bad driving habits, so it's like shooting fish in a barrel. They won't need to make up charges, and lie under oath. They only lay charges if they have evidence and the prosecutor only proceeds to trial if they have a reasonable prospect to secure a conviction.
Trap is also another word for enforcement point, and generally speaking they only do stop-sign enforcement if there are community complaints. I know in my area, there were several residents that contacted our local councilor and for a few weeks we had stop sign enforcement near a school intersection.
http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90h0 ... quote]Stop at through highway
136. (1) Every driver or street car operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection,
(a) shall stop his or her vehicle or street car at a marked stop line or, if none, then immediately before entering the nearest crosswalk or, if none, then immediately before entering the intersection; and
The point i was trying to make was that the PC was there for the sole purpose of writing tickets and my question regarding the incident was whether the repetition of that process left her inured and seeing (or not seeing) what she wanted to see. I am not suggesting that the evidence has been made up, or that she is lying; rather that perhaps she was mistaken.
That the officer's notes consisted of a single line "didn't come to a complete stop" suggests infallability on the part of the PC. The incident was also 7 months ago and unless she has an absolutely amazing memory, I'm not sure that she actually has any recollection of the incident. That was the point I was concerned about... the assumption that I was guilty because the PC said I was so there is no real need to provide disclosure in a timely manner or any notes other than the "didn't come to a complete stop". That is what is upsetting me at this point.
My question regarding volume was to determine her state of mind at the time. I also don't know what perspective she had to view the stop because that information wasn't provided. My mistake was in assuming that the information would have been in her notes and should have been provided. That was why I asked for her notes for the day.
The second issue was the identity and purpose of the second person who left with her after the adjornment. Was he a corraborating witness? If so, should I have been informed of this in disclosure and what he was going to testify?
So the question I have is whether I should make a more detailed request for disclosure.
If I'm not likely to receive any more information, then there isn't any point in wasting any more of my time and I should just plead guilty.
Now elements the prosecutor has to prove, by putting officer on the stand and asking questions, are:
- Identify you
- State that you were the driver
- State that you were driving a vehicle as defined in the HTA
- State that you were on a highway as defined in the HTA
- State that you did not come to complete stop at the white marked stop line
What you need to do is bring reasonable doubt to the officers testimony by (1) cross-examining the officer, and/or (2) your testimony and/or witness testimony.
Let's talk about you and your witness testifying first... normally this is bad idea as most people end up incriminating themselves. You do have the right not to testify against yourself, so you are not required to do this. Should you testify? Should your witness testify? If you are willing to say, UNDER OATH, that you "absolutely did stop", then yes you should testify. If your witness is willing to say, UNDER OATH, that you "absolutely did stop", then yes they should testify too. If either of you are wavering a little on whether you stopped or not, then you should not testify. If you are going to say "I think I stopped" or "I beleived I stopped" then this very weak and you should probably not testify. If you say "I am not sure" or "I think" or "I beleive" then this leaves you open on cross examination to questions from the prosecutor like "so it's possible you did not actually stop completely", to which you would have to answer "yes" and you have then just helped their case not yours. So again, you and witness should probably only testify if you are willing to answer a question like "so it's possible you did not actually stop completely?" with "no, I am absolutely certain that I stopped completely". You probably want to throw into your testimony that you always come to a complete stop at stop signs as you are concerned about safety.
Now if you and witness can testify to you absolutely having stopped, then two witnesses versus officers testimony will most likely lead to reasonable doubt and getting the charged dropped. If only one of you testifies though, then you have your testimony versus officers testimony which will most likely lead to officer being believed over you UNLESS you can bring additional reasonable doubt thru cross-examination of officer.
So first of all, if there is more than one officer that is going to testify then they should have given you the notes for these other officers as well. I would immediately make another disclosure request asking for the notes of any other officers involved, and any witness statements. If they do not provide anything then you know it will only be the one officer testifying. There is no point in asking for anything else, other than the officers notes or witness statements as everything else is irrelevant.
Now the notes are a little sparse in my opinion, so this is good news for you. When the officer first takes the stand, the prosecutor will ask a few questions about their notes and officer will ask JP if they can refer to their notes. The notes are supposed to be to refresh the officers memory of the event and one of the questions that the officer has to answer is "do you have independent recollection of the event". If they say NO then you can object to the use of the notes on that grounds and ask for charge to be dropped. If they say YES well now you can cross examine them on their recollection: What color was my car? 4-door or 2-door? Hatchback or wagon? How many passengers? What color was my jacket? How much other traffic was there?
You can also go down the road of with questions like: How many fail to stop tickets did you issue that day? And you have independent recollection of all of them?
You should also listen closely to the officers initial description of what they say they saw and what they say happened. Anything they say that is not in their notes you can cross-examine them on with something like "You said you watched my white 4-door sedan roll thru the stop sign? YES But there is nothing in your notes about it being white or being a 4-door sedan, correct? YES And when I asked you earlier about how many of these tickets you wrote that day you said 20, correct? YES So it is possible that you are mixing my vehicle up with another that day?"
So anyways you have to bring reasonable doubt to what the officer says. You can only do this thru cross-examination questions and (possibly) your testimony and witness testimony.
+++ This is not legal advice, only my opinion +++