I received my first ticket this week, and it was a "Change Lane - Not in Safety" charge. This is the story I told the officer: I was driving on the right lane and I needed to change to the left lane. I was driving at around 40-45 km/hr (this is a 50km/h) road because I saw the light turned yellow. I signaled, checked all my mirrors, and my blind spot, and I saw that a truck was behind me, on the left lane, but I am 99% certain that there were no cars beside me and it was safe to change lanes, so I decided to do so. But the moment I changed lanes, the truck was just suddenly there and I was hit by the truck.
The truck had no damage, nor were there any injuries, but my car was damaged. The biggest damage was the passenger door behind my seat and near the gas tank -- the door was jammed in, and there's a deep dent near the gas tank area (forgot what that part is called). My driver's door had some dents, and the truck took off my side mirror.
After hearing my story and taking the truck driver's story he came back and told me even though I said I made sure it was clear, because I made the lane change, he has to give me a ticket. But what I didn't tell him (and I wish I had, because I feel like it may have helped my case) was that when I was exchanging information with the truck driver, he told me "if I knew you wanted to change lanes, I would've slowed down and let you" and the driver also claimed that I just "changed lanes and it happened so fast" (I'm not sure if he told the officer that).
I know I'm disadvantaged given the locations of the damage and the fact that I was changing lanes and the truck was just driving in his lane. But based on what he told me, I'm led to believe that either he was distracted and didn't see my signal or he noticed the yellow light and sped up, which instantly put his truck beside mine. I'm pretty sure he was at least 2 car lengths behind me when I checked my mirrors because I could see the outline of the front of his truck in my rearview mirror.
Of course, ideally I would like the entire charge dismissed because I don't want it on my record and to further affect my insurance rates. But it will be great if I can at least get the demerit points taken away and just pay a (hopefully lesser) fine... but before I choose Option 2 or 3, I have a few questions to ask so I can fully understand my options and the circumstances:
1) Are there demerit points associated with this? The police officer only handed me the ticket, and didn't say anything. I called MOT and I've received mixed responses of either no, 2, or 3 demerit points.
2) Is it worth going to trial for this (will there be a possibility of me getting the charge dismissed or at least the demerit points removed?), or is it a losing case and I should plead guilty and ask for a reduction in fines (I understand if demerit points are associated with it, it will remain if I choose to plead guilty). I understand that the damage on my car is working against my favour, because it's the entire side that is damaged (albeit differences in degree of damage/impact).
3) My parents told me I should definitely try to fight it because based on the conversation I had with the driver, I may not necessarily be 100% at fault (though it wasn't documented with the police officer, I'm not sure if it's usable evidence). But they also said that prosecutors will meet with the defendant on the day of the trial just before it starts to see if the matter can be resolved -- and at this time the prosecutors may remove the demerit points, reduce the fines, or even dismiss the entire case -- is it definite that a plea bargain will be offered?
4) Can a judge increase your penalty (in either the fines and/or number of demerit points) if they find you guilty?
5) What does it mean if an officer shows up to court vs. don't show up to court? Will the charge be dismissed and removed if they don't show up? If they do show up, is it basically an automatic loss/guilty charge?
Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
Let's start with whether you're at fault or not. You are. You're the one changing lanes so it's your duty to make sure it can be done safely. Not only that, but you're travelling below the speed limit, the truck in the other lane is 2 cars back at best, and you're approaching a yellow. It's not just a bad lane change, it's a terrible one.
Your questions are the most frequently asked, so don't be afraid to look around.
An officer wont usually discuss points. That's an MTO thing. I'm assuming you were charged under 154(1)(a). It falls under "improper driving when road is divided into lanes", which is three points. Points expire 2 years from the date you were charged and they are rather meaningless. Unless you're a novice driver or someone who gets pulled over multiple times in a 2 year period, they mean nothing. Don't get too hung up on points. Your insurance doesn't use them. They use the conviction.
Whether or not you want to go through the process is more about whether or not you want to do it or not. Generally, it's recommended that a trial should be requested and then you would make the proper disclosure requests to see the evidence against you. At that point you can make a decision on your trial date. If there's an offer to be made, they'll make one. You can take it or you can proceed with your trial.
The other driver hasn't admitted to anything other than being a nice guy. Yes, offers are made all the time for lesser equivalent offenses only. Your ticket is not going to go away unless they can't proceed with a trial.
Officers are paid to show up and it's their job to do so. It's mandatory. It's better to assume that they will be there.
Are you at fault. Yes, because you changed into his lane. Whether he's distracted or sped up is completely irrelevant. Will the officer show up most likely. Your best bet of getting the entire ticket thrown out is if the cop doesn't show up which is slim to none. You will most likely be convicted as it was an accident. In terms of demerits they don't mean sh!t to insurance. MTO only uses it to determine how close you are to having your license suspended. Insurance only cares about the ticket which goes on your record for 3 years after conviction. If you are facing a conviction it's better to delay the trial until after your renewal. Also ask if your insurance has accident or ticket forgiveness I doubt it but it doesn't hurt to ask. Whether you plead guilty or not if the officer shows up you're completely screwed as the conviction will likely go on your record if you do not have a strong defence however, the judge may show more leniency if you plead guilty. Before you decide what to do ask for disclosure. I strongly recommend asking for typed notes as cops have sloppy ineligible writing. Post your disclosure here if you want more advice and to see whether the cop has strong evidence against you or not.
I agree with the other 2 posters. You are 100% at fault. YOU are the one changing in to the other lane---the other driver is simply being nice; they are under no obligation to let you in. Furthermore, the accident speaks for itself---you either didn't have sufficient room to move in to the other lane or you failed to see the other vehicle---either version makes it an unsafe move on your part. Hence the charge. As for points, don't worry about them---your insurance company will already be footing the bill for the accident damages so your premiums are already likely going up (unless you have accident forgiveness on your policy). So, the ticket is only an added expense for you now; it really won't affect your insurance premium since your insurer will have to payout for losses anyway.
As others have said, you can request disclosure if you'd like just to better understand the case against you. However, I believe the odds are highly against you to win this case (perhaps 5-10%). If time is not very valuable to you,then by all means, take it to trial and hope the officer doesn't show up. Otherwise, just pay the ticket and move one. The minimum fine of $60 will still apply anyway so the best reduction you can get is about $25-30 (not really worth the time, travel and parking costs to go to the meeting for most people). Oh, and know that if you DO go to trial and the other driver decides to sue you in civil court for injuries, what you say in this court can often be used in the civil case.
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