Driving without front license plate

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notam
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Driving without front license plate

by: notam on
Tue Sep 03, 2013 4:03 pm

I'm wondering if anybody out there thinks that there is a Charter argument on these facts:

1. Police officer sees car traveling in opposite direction without front license plate;
2. Police officer points at approaching vehicle and points to the curb;
3. Approaching vehicle pulls over;
4. Police officer makes a U-turn and issues a Part I

My thoughts are that the driver's section 9 Charter right against arbitrary detention was infringed. I could argue that the officer was being lazy – he should have turned around and checked the vehicle's rear license plate before pulling the driver over, failing which the offence was not serious enough to justify arbitrarily detaining anyone. The officer had no way of knowing that the driver wasn’t from an out-of-province jurisdiction that didn’t require a front license plate, and if police consistently acted in this manner, our province would receive a “black eye” in the eyes of our visitors from jurisdictions requiring only a single license plate.

The flip side of course is that driving is a highly regulated, voluntary activity for which the police have the statutory power to randomly stop a vehicle to check for a driver's license and insurance. The stop itself was minimally intrusive and the officer quickly determined that an offence had been committed as soon as he made the u-turn and got behind the stopped vehicle. But does this give the police a right to do their job lazy and to potentially detain an out-of-jurisdiction driver merely on a hunch? The driver was not the subject of a random stop (which would be justified under section 1 of the Charter even though it is an arbitrary detention) but rather the driver was the subject of a targeted stop based on a "hunch". I think that the police need to investigate before initiating the stop. The police officer shouldn't be rewarded for having a correct "hunch" or else our Charter rights really wouldn't be worth anything in the end.

If police constantly stop vehicles in this manner without checking the rear license plate, I think that the harm arising from arbitrary detentions outweighs any societal benefit of ensuring two plates are on all vehicles.

I didn't find any caselaw on point from a cursory search. Just wondering what people think of this argument.

Thanks


OPS Copper
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by: OPS Copper on
Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:37 pm

police in Ontario can stop any vehicle on the road to check DL, Insurance, and registration.No offense is needed. Checking for a plate is checking for registration. Maybe the vehicle had no plates at all.

Since they can stop any vehicle to check for those it is not a arbitrary detention. This was fought and decided years ago.

OPS copper


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by: bend on
Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:35 am

OPS Copper wrote:police in Ontario can stop any vehicle on the road to check DL, Insurance, and registration.No offense is needed. Checking for a plate is checking for registration. Maybe the vehicle had no plates at all.

Since they can stop any vehicle to check for those it is not a arbitrary detention. This was fought and decided years ago.

OPS copper
Agreed.

Officers in Ontario can pull over any vehicle in Ontario without reason to:
  • - Determine whether or not you may be under the influence.
  • - Make sure your vehicle is mechanically safe for the roads.
  • - Check for valid license, vehicle registration, insurance.
Doesn't take much to get a ticket for anything else he notices while he goes through his stop.

Put your plates back on.


notam
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by: notam on
Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:46 am

OPS Copper wrote:Since they can stop any vehicle to check for those it is not a arbitrary detention. This was fought and decided years ago.
In R. v. Ladouceur, [1990] 1 SCR 1257; https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/19 ... ii108.html all nine Supreme Court justices agreed that random traffic stops infringed our section 9 Charter right against arbitrary detention.
I agree with my colleague that in light of this Court's decision in R. v. Hufsky, 1988 CanLII 72 (SCC), [1988] 1 S.C.R. 621, there can be no doubt that the random stop in this case constituted an arbitrary detention. In Hufsky, the driver was stopped by a police officer on duty at a stationary check point, circumstances that are less arbitrary than those involved when a police officer randomly stops a vehicle from the position of a roving car.
Although all 9 Supreme Court justices agreed that the driver's right against arbitrary detention had been violated, the court split 5-4 on how to handle the issue. The minority of 4 justices were concerned that "random" stops would not be truly random, and that if police were not forced to give a reason, they could abuse random stops for purposes that extended beyond road safety. They also noted that only 1 out of 37 drivers was unlicensed, and that it was not justified stopping 36 fully licensed drivers to only catch 1 unlicensed driver. The minority, however, felt that the officers were acting in good faith, and that they wouldn't exclude the evidence THIS TIME. They felt that if they were going to change the rules, the police should know about this beforehand. But these 4 justices would have excluded the evidence if police continued with random stops.

The majority focused more on the fact that road safety is a substantial and pressing concern, the difficulty in catching unlicensed drivers, and that road stops aren't exactly a strip search.

At any rate, the supreme court has dealt with RANDOM stops. According to this officer's notes, the traffic stop was TARGETTED. Furthermore, the officer is targetting a group of vehicles that is significantly more likely to be out-of-province drivers. Sure, a one-off doesn't mean anything, but if every officer did this every time, I'd hate to be the person hosting a close friend visiting from Florida and trying to explain why the police always stop their car for no good reason.


Stanton
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by: Stanton on
Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:17 am

I think it would be very difficult to argue it was an arbitrary detention. Typically for police to detain someone, they need a reasonable suspicion of an offence. Courts have defined reasonable suspicion as the possibility of an offence being committed, even if there are other possible conclusions based on the available facts. In my mind, that describes your situation perfectly. A missing front licence plate raises the possibility of an offence, even though it may also be an out of province vehicle. Somewhat related case law would be R v. Harrison, in which an out of province vehicle was stopped in Ontario for no front plate. Police seized a significant quantify of drugs from the vehicle, though the evidence was later excluded. From my understanding, the Courts had no issue with the officer stopping the vehicle due to its missing front plate, however once the officer had determined it was from out of province and didn't require a front plate, he should have let it go. In short, could the officer have waited in your case to verify the vehicle was from Ontario? Yes. Would the Courts be upset that the officer didn't? Probably not.


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