Options for Traffic Court – What to do if Charged with a Traffic Offence under the Highway Traffic Act?

Provincial offences are minor (non-criminal) offences that include, but are not limited to:

  • speeding, careless driving, not wearing your seat belt, or street racing (Highway Traffic Act)
  • failing to surrender your insurance card or possessing a false or invalid insurance card (Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act)
  • being intoxicated in a public place or selling alcohol to a minor (Liquor Licence Act)
  • entering prohibited premises or failing to leave premises after being directed to do so (Trespass to Property Act)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act and Ministry of Environment violations
  • noise, parking and animal care bylaws (Municipal bylaws) 

Most provincial offence charges result in out-of-court fine payments. Even though these types of offences can be classified as “minor” or “non-criminal”, they can still have major implications for someone who receives a conviction.  The lawyers at Capulli Law LLP mostly deal with provincial offences that have been levied under the Highway Traffic Act.

When a person receives a ticket under the Highway Traffic Act, they have 15 days to respond to the charges, or else they will be deemed to have admitted the charge and will be found guilty without a hearing for failing to respond to the ticket.  What this means is that you must act quickly if you intend to dispute the charge.

When responding to a traffic ticket, there are three options to choose from.

Option 1 – Guilty Plea

This is an out-of-court payment option. A defendant who has been served with an Offence Notice (or “ticket”) and chooses not to contest the charge may make payment to the court office on the back of the Offence Notice. Instructions are set out on the Payment Notice.

The defendant must pay the “total payable” in full. Payment is deemed to be a plea of guilty. Demerit points for certain Highway Traffic Act offences may apply.

Option 2 – Early Resolution or Submission as to Penalty

Depending on where the ticket was issued, Option 2 is worded differently. For larger municipalities, it is called Early Resolution – Meet with the Prosecutor and in smaller municipalities it is called Plea of Guilty – Submission as to Penalty.

If you are located in a municipality that offers an “Early Resolution”, such as Toronto, this is an informal meeting with a prosecutor to try to resolve your charge or charges without going to trial. The investigating officer does not attend the meeting and it is not a trial date. If the charge cannot be resolved, you still have a right to a trial.

If you are located in a municipality that offers a “Submission as to Penalty”, this is a plea of guilt but you will be given an opportunity to argue what the penalty should be. If you decide to choose this option, It is extremely important that you understand what a justice of the peace can and cannot do when you plead guilty under this option.

The justice of the peace can

  • Reduce the amount of the set fine
  • Give you an extension of time in which you can pay the fine

The justice of the peace cannot

  • Reduce the charge; e.g. a speeding charge of 20 kilometres over the limit cannot be reduced to 15 kilometres
  • Remove or reduce the demerit points to be applied. Demerit points are applied by the Ministry of Transportation upon conviction and the court cannot change the demerit points to be applied

Option 3 – Trial

The trial option requires you or your lawyer to attend the address of the court office set out on the ticket to complete and file a Notice of Intention to Appear (NIA). A trial date will be set and a Notice of Trial will be mailed to you at the address indicated on your NIA indicating your trial time, place and date. It is your responsibility to advise the court of any change to your mailing address if your address changes after filing your NIA.

One thing that needs to be stressed is that even though a trial has been booked, there is always the option to plead guilty before hand. If you are located in a municipality that does not have a resolution meeting option, then choosing a trial is the best way to go. This allows you to request disclosure (all the information that the authorities have against you) and to look over it. Then you will be ready to make a decision whether to go through with a trial or not.

Why Contact a Lawyer at Capulli Law LLP?

Here at Capulli Law LLP, we never agree to a guilty plea (the first two options on a ticket) before knowing all the facts that led to the charge against our clients. Our interests are getting the best result for our clients. Disclosure is ALWAYS requested and reviewed before any decision is made. You should only consider a settlement after receiving disclosure. You want to see if there is enough evidence against you before pleading guilty to anything. If the evidence is flimsy, why should you plead guilty when you have an excellent chance of being found innocent?