I received my first ticket ever 5 months ago and would like to get some advice on fighting it as my court date is next month.
I was riding my bike eastbound, came to a stop sign, stopped about one meter back from the sign. There was no cross walk and no white line marked on road. I then turned right, came around the corner and rode southbound about 30 meters where an officer was waiting in the middle of the road. He stopped me and said I didn't stop at the stop sign. I was charged me with disobeying a stop sign, HTA 136 (1)(A). I didn't argue with him because I was always told it's better not to say much and then make your arguments in court.
I know for sure I stopped and he didn't see me, either because of cars that were parked along the right side of the southbound street blocking his view of me, or because of the corner of the building on that corner that hid me from his view.
A couple defense ideas:
1. I received my court date today, so went straight to the courthouse and got disclosure. All the clerk had on file was a photocopy of the front and back of the ticket. The back of the ticket had just a crudely drawn intersection with an arrow showing I made a right turn, and another arrow pointing up to indicate North. No other notes. I received the ticket 5 months ago, and my court date is in a month. I thought there would be more evidence, and 5 months should be sufficient for it to be filed. The clerk was surprised to see so little. Could I use that in my favour? Can I use the fact they his notes are just a crude map and do not mention where he was standing, if there were cars blocking his view, etc., to discredit him? I was thinking of asking him questions about the scene, weather, his location, my location, vantage point, etc., and use the fact that he had such poor notes to further prove he couldn't remember. Only problem is if he come out extremely confident in his answers that he remembers everything.
2. Also, the disclosure had no info about the by-law for that particular stop sign. Do they have to give me that? If they don't present that in court, could I use that as a defense, saying the disclosure is not sufficient for me to mount a proper defense? Would they throw the case out for that?
3. I also have pictures of the scene showing cars and a building at the corner where I turned right taken from the point where he was standing. Also I have pictures from my position 1 meter behind the stop sign showing I couldn't have seen around the corner where the officer was. Both photos show, in my mind, it would have been difficult or impossible for him to see me stop if i stopped a meter behind the sign. If i had gone right up to the edge of the intersection, or right up to the stop sign, he probably could have seen me stop. The HTA says you have to stop "immediately" before the intersection if there is no white line or crosswalk. I'm wondering how proper it was for me to stop 1 meter back.
4. A weak defense, not even sure it's worth bringing up, but the ticket has an error. It sites HTA 136 (1)(2) which doesn't exist. My court summons mentions the correct section, HTA 136 (1)(A).
I've never been to court before, so not sure which of these I should use, or if I should mention everything? Start with the strongest, and work my way through the weaker ones too.
Thanks for any advice for a ticket newbie on how to present this!
Stopping 1 metre back from the stop sign should be sufficient. Technically with no stop sign and no crosswalk, you're supposed to stop just prior to the intersection itself, but that shouldn't really make much of a difference unless the stop sign was set WAY ahead of the intersection.
As for the error on the ticket, I don't think that will get the charge thrown out. The lack of including the by-law in the disclosure package also won't help you.
http://www.OntarioTicket.com OR http://www.OHTA.ca
The ticket combat site says that an example of a fatal error on the ticket is "unknown offence (e.g. speeding 70kh/hr in a 64km/hr zone)".
Would the fact that the ticket sites HTA 136(1)(2) which does not exist constitute an unknown offense? The only offenses that exist under HTA 136 are (1)(A), (1)(B), and (2). Have I not been denied my right to know what I've been charged with? I truly don't know which of the 3 possible sections I've been charged with. Do you think the JP would go for that? Would it be worth mentioning that before I plead? Worst case is he allows it to be amended, but then I could request an adjournment to be able to prepare my defense more adequately and hope the office doesn't show up. Of course, I'm ready to go to trial and defend myself at any time if it comes to that. Thoughts?
Also, when I'm cross-examining the officer, and I allowed to present my evidence there? I'd want to show the officer and everyone pictures and ask him if it's possible that I stopped slightly behind the sign where he could not have seen me due to parked cars. Could I also present his own notes as evidence that I got from disclosure? I'd want to show that his notes only have a crude map and do not mention any details whatsoever, his location, color of my bike, presence of pedestrians I would have to stop behind the sign for, or presence of cars obstructing his view.
Thanks for any help!
During cross-examination, you are mostly asking the officer questions. You could show the photograph and ask the officer what vantage point he had, etc., and then indicate where you stopped when it's your turn to testify. No guarantee of success. You need to be unshaken in your testimony, and give enough reasonable doubt to the JP. You will also be cross-examined by the Prosecutor.
Please remember to check our "Courts and Procedures" section for the Guidelines on Submitting Photographs.
http://www.OntarioTicket.com OR http://www.OHTA.ca
I decided to take my chances and bring the "error" up to the Justice and she asked the same question, "does the ticket say the offense you committed?". I argued it does say "disobey stop sign", but because there are multiple sections and sub-sections under HTA 136, it's ambiguous exactly what I disobeyed. She agreed and amended the ticket and adjourned to two months later. Maybe the officer won't be able to come next time, so that's good.
But something else strange happened. I asked to see the officer's notes. His notes and the page I got in my disclosure were completely different. I received a scan of a page from a ticket notebook with a map drawn on it. His notes from his ticket book had the same ticket number on top, but the writing on the page was completely different. Similar map (coincidentally showing a T intersection with an arrow for a right turn), but his notes from his notebook had more detailed written notes. The clerk said it's a computer glitch that some other notes were scanned on top of this ticket number, or another ticket was scanned with the same number as mine. The officer gave me a copy of his notes in court today, but even he thought it was strange that I got a scan of a page with the same ticket number but different notes. He suggested I bring that next time and a different prosecutor might withdraw the matter. Do you think that's likely? Can I argue improper disclosure, or is that avenue gone because the officer gave me his notes today?
Also, the first time I got disclosure, I just went to the courthouse, presented the standard form from the city. I should have written a letter asking for everything (witness statements, all information, etc) and faxed it without a phone number. Is it too late for that? Can I still fax the letter asking for more information in the hopes they forget to respond and I can argue improper disclossure twice (first time I got the wrong notes because of computer glitch), and second time if they hopefully don't respond to me?
I think you lucked out there.
How can you plan a defense not knowing what they have?
I think if you attend court and say not guilty that it will be dropped.
Or more likely dropped before you can say any-thing.
Just my thought
use at your own risk"
I've since faxed the standard letter recommended on this site asking for full disclosure, and giving no phone number. I'm hoping they don't reply. I'll send another fax 4 weeks before the trial. If I hear nothing, that'll be two unanswered faxes, 4 and 8 weeks before the trial date for which I have the fax receipt. That, along with the first mess up of getting the wrong notes should get it thrown out.
I'm almost hoping for a trial though. I'd like the experience of cross examining. The officer was really down to earth and cool, actually recommending me to bring the incorrect disclosure next time to get it thrown out. It was obvious just from chatting with him that he didn't remember me at all. If I question him about details of the scene (which will have been 9 prior to the trial), I'm 99% sure he won't be able to answer with confidence. He's not going to remember if there was a pedestrian that I had to stop 1 metre behind the sign for (which is true), or whether there were cars parked along the street that may have blocked his view of where I stopped. Guaranteed he won't remember anything about me, colour of my bike, etc.
His new notes, which he photocopied and signed on the first trial date just shows a T-intersection with an arrow, and the notes "peddled through". Which I certainly did, after stopping first.
Thanks for everyone's advice so far!