Traffic Ticket Myths
There are many rumors and myths in Ontario about the rules around traffic tickets. There are a number of reasons these get started, but it seems many of them stem from outdated rules/laws, misunderstanding, and hearing about similar rules in various US states. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want to clarify a rumor that is not addressed below.
- 1 The Police Officer made a spelling error on the ticket! Is that enough to have it thrown out?
- 2 If the Police Officer does not show up, my ticket is automatically withdrawn, right?
- 3 If I delay my case long enough, they need to drop it! …Don’t they?
- 4 If I pay the fine early, will the charge still affect my insurance rates?
- 5 Does the Police Officer have to show me the reading on their radar/laser equipment?
- 6 Can the OPP issue tickets inside city limits?
The Police Officer made a spelling error on the ticket! Is that enough to have it thrown out?
Not usually. The courts have a fairly broad power to amend mistakes such as this. In order to have your ticket thrown out, the mistake on the ticket must be something that falls into the category of a “fatal error”. This is generally relating to the references to the actual law you allegedly broke. Tickets being thrown out due to errors like these seems to be less common than it used to be, and this is partly because there have been recent decisions that allow for an even broader range of errors to simply be corrected at the court. If nothing else, sometimes these errors can be used to suggest that the officer was either careless or not paying attention. Who knows what other mistakes they may have made, right? Speak with a Ticket Shield representative to discuss whether or not your ticket has any errors sufficient enough to possibly have it withdrawn.
If the Police Officer does not show up, my ticket is automatically withdrawn, right?
Not necessary. This decision is ultimately up to the Justice of the Peace or Judge. Depending on the reason why the police officer was unable to attend, the prosecutor may ask to have the trial adjourned to another date. An experienced court representative can sometimes use this to our advantage and argue to have the charge withdrawn.
Beyond that, the courts now schedule the trial dates based on the schedule of the police officer involved. They are paid to attend court, and they generally do. On occasion, if you are really lucky, something unexpected can come up and cause them to miss a court date. Years ago it was much more common for tickets to be withdrawn due to the police officer not attending court. In fact, it happened so often that it was common practice for people to schedule a trial date just for this reason. Unfortunately, this little loophole has mostly been fixed.
If I delay my case long enough, they need to drop it! …Don’t they?
This is commonly referred to as an 11b argument. Section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads: “11. Any person charged with an offence has the right:” and “(b) to be tried within a reasonable time;” This vague statement has led to a number of traffic ticket and criminal charges being dropped.
Unfortunately, in recent years, they have removed a lot of the ambiguity around what exactly a “reasonable time” is. In July of 2016, a decision was rendered for the case of R v. Jordan. The extremely brief summary of the decision is that the Supreme Court decided that anything under 18 months is “reasonable”. Traffic ticket cases in Ontario will typically take 2-3 months, with some of the more backed up jurisdictions taking 6-9 months. It is very unusual for a traffic ticket case to get anywhere near this 18 month mark. It is also important to note that usually they do not allow any of the delays to have been initiated by the defendant. This means that if you or your representative are the one causing the case to take so long to complete, they are not going to withdraw it even if it takes more than 18 months.
If I pay the fine early, will the charge still affect my insurance rates?
Absolutely. We occasionally hear about a myth where people believe that if they pay their ticket right away they can avoid having it appear on their record. They often describe this as a “glitch” of some sort. Unfortunately, this is not true. We are not sure where this rumor started but by paying the fine you are pleading guilty and being convicted of the offence. It will be registered on your driving record immediately and the insurance companies often increase your rates because of it. This is why we usually recommend fighting the ticket. Check out our “Should I Fight My Traffic Ticket?” page.
Does the Police Officer have to show me the reading on their radar/laser equipment?
No. It is another myth that the officer must show you their speed reading to enforce the charge. It is up to the discretion of the officer to decide whether or not to show the driver the reading on their equipment. If you ask, they will often show it to you, but be careful because this can sometimes imply that you do not trust or believe them. It is also fairly common practice for them to automatically offer to show you the radar without needing to ask.
Can the OPP issue tickets inside city limits?
It is a fairly common myth that the various types of police officers are limited to issuing tickets in certain areas or jurisdictions. For example, there are rumors that an OPP officer (provincial) can only issue tickets on highways or roads between cities. Unfortunately, this is not true.
In Canada, we have 3 levels of police enforcement: Municipal, Provincial and Federal. The Municipal are the various police forces that are unique to each major city. The Provincial are the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and they will generally patrol the highways and streets outside of major cities, and finally, the Federal are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In Ontario, all 3 levels of police force are able to issue traffic tickets in any city/town or on any highway/street if they witness you commit a traffic violation.
Sadly, the idea that you could flee over the city border and escape the OPP is a myth!
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