Super Fun Adventures
How To Fight A Ticket Starring Mike

How To Fight A Ticket Starring Mike

One important job of being a parent is setting a good example for your children. As such, I try to be a responsible, law-abiding citizen. Recently, though, I found myself caught up in some legal drama. Nothing serious, don’t worry. Let’s get into what went down, and maybe, if you find yourself in a similar situation,  fighting a ticket in court, you can follow my steps and win (Or not. I’m no lawyer,  and this ain’t real legal advice)!

So, I was driving home on a Saturday afternoon last September. As I’ve done thousands of times, I stopped at the two intersections on my street, and proceeded home. As I neared my house, I noticed a police car with its sirens on coming up fast behind me. Weird, I thought, but whatever. I pulled into my driveway, and the police car stopped in front of my house.  Super confused,  is how I would describe my reaction.

You know, like this level of super confused.

 

The officer got out of his car. After a nice chat, where I was totally off-guard, the officer gave me a ticket because I ‘blew through’ a stop sign at the first intersection. The officer said that the police had gotten complaints about that area, and he had been catching people all day.  After he left, and I had time to process what just happened, I, as the kids say, called cap. There was no way that I blew through an intersection!

 

The intersection in question, at that time.

 

 

I had to go back out, to pick up J at a friend’s house across town, so I re-traced my drive home from earlier. I snapped some pictures, too. The intersection could be problematic, so I get why there was complaints. It had parking issues often, along with no crosswalks or other markings. I know that I came to a quick-ish (not rolling) stop, at a spot near (but not at) the stop sign line.

 

How did the cop miss my stop?!

 

I pondered this as I continued on to get J. When I arrived, my friend asked about the police at my house. Super confused was my reaction for the second time that day. Turns out, B had recorded, then posted  on social media, my exchange with the cop, like he was TMZ or something. So, there I was, looking like I was being arrested, for all the world to see,. The world included my friend’s daughter, who saw the clip and showed her.  Awesome.

 

 

My experience with getting tickets was very limited, and I had never seen one like this before. Failing To Stop At a Stop Sign was a not-insignificant offense. My options were:

  1. Plead guilty. This means that I would have to pay a fine of $110 immediately. This conviction would be on my driving record, and the offense would result in me losing three demerit points, both of which would negatively affect my car insurance.
  2. Request early resolution with the prosecutor, who would review things and maybe cut me a deal.
  3. Go to trial.

Option 1 was out, because, like I said, I did stop. I  just didn’t have a dashcam to prove it.  In terms of option 2, that would involve taking time off work. If I got there, and didn’t like the deal, I would have to take time off again to go to trial anyway. So option 3 it was. To paraphrase the late Johnnie Cochran , If you think you came to stop, then fight the cop! See you in court, baby! I checked off that option and mailed it off, to await the City Of Hamilton’s trial date.

My knowledge of the legal system is almost entirely based on TV shows, podcasts and movies. As such, I figured that I needed a lawyer for my trial.  I quickly realized that hiring a lawyer would be costly.  I would have to make up my own case then, which doesn’t seem….fair? The time/cost involved to fight a ticket  probably isn’t worth it for most people, so it’s easier just to pay it and move on. Easy money for the city.

 

Pretty sure that I saw this guy, in the courthouse.

 

My Law And Order watching butt shifted into how to defend myself against a trained prosecutor.   Googling people’s experiences revealed that there was a chance that the cop wouldn’t show up to trial, which would result in me getting off scotch-free. It also revealed that the cop might have dashcam footage, as evidence. Again, I am sure that I stopped, but what if I was wrong?

Turns out, you can request “disclosure”, if you’re going to trial. The prosecution sends the defense their evidence, so the defense can review it and plan accordingly.

In January, as soon as I received the letter for my trial date (set in May), I  requested disclosure via the City of Hamilton’s website.

No response. Weeks later, I followed up. I received this email reply:

 

 

OK, cool. So a few weeks before my trial, I followed up again, where I received this reply:

 

 

 

Argh!

 

They really don’t make it easy for the little guy to fight the Man.

With no clue as to what evidence they had on me, my only hope was to build my  defense. This consisted of emphasizing how much of a mess the intersection was, and that the officer was mistaken in what he saw. Again, I’m no law talking person, but it was my best shot, I think?

Between September and May, a lot of work was done to make the intersection less problematic. Crosswalks and dividing lines were painted, to clearly know where to stop. The congested parking that made it hard to navigate was cleared up by signage/letters to residents indicating bylaw enforcement. I documented this all, and took pictures along the way.

 

The intersection in question, currently.

 

The Trial Of The Century

 

Finally, the big day came. My trial was for 9:00am. Having no clue what to expect, I figured that I should look professional, but not overtly slick. So khakis and a polo, no suit. I also busted out a Toronto Blue Jays Star Wars themed shoulder bag, that I got for $5 at a Blue Jays garage sale, in lieu of a brief case.  I arrived at 8:30, where I went through a security check, and proceeded to the courtroom, which wasn’t open.  Among the people milling about chatting were a bunch of police officers, including the one who issued my ticket. Word to the wise, if you find yourself fighting a ticket….don’t assume the police officer won’t show up to court.

My years of watching legal dramas did not serve me well, folks. The courtroom was what I expected, but the actual proceedings were not. When the judge and court reporter entered, myself and the other people with trials  all had to line up off to the defendant side.  The prosecution side of the court was composed of cops.  There were a bunch of defendants ahead of me.  One by one, we approached the stand, where a single Saul Goodman-like prosecutor stood (not the sleazy Breaking Bad  version of Saul. but the hustling, charming, early seasons Better Call Saul one).

We had to state our names into a microphone, while the prosecutor advised the judge what the offense was. He then explained what the consequences were, for the offenses.  For the most part, he offered plea deals.

When it was the man ahead of mine’s turn, he stated his name, and then said that he shouldn’t be there, because it wasn’t his name on the ticket. The prosecutor scoffed when handed the ticket. Why was he there, then, he said, and he wasn’t going to get off because of a  typo. After some more discussion,  the man asked for disclosure. The prosecutor called up a police officer.  I  think that I heard the officer say, almost sheepishly, that he didn’t have it, and that his precinct was not nearby. The prosecutor then returned to the stand and told the judge that due to lack of evidence, he was dropping the charge.

Feeling cocky after that man’s good luck, I strutted up to the mic, said my name, and handed him my court information. I then said that I requested disclosure numerous times, and wasn’t able to get it. The prosecutor then called up the cop who gave me the ticket. The cop handed the prosecutor some notes, which he then gave to me. I haven’t seen this either, he explained with a shrug.

 

My sentiments exactly, random frustrated person.

 

Ideally, I would have had some time to process this information. Instead, in fast talking lawyer-speak, the prosecutor offered a deal that I didn’t catch completely.  Again, not a lawyer here, but I really wish that I had one in that moment.  People given deals had been told to sit back down, to be called on later. So, in a panic, I said yes to the deal. I wanted to give myself some time to review the cop’s paperwork. I’d back out of the deal, when I got called back up, if I thought that still might win at trial.

Which is precisely what happened.

The officer’s notes stated that I went through the intersection at 20 KM/hour, and that the stop sign was in working order.  What was not included….was a link to any dash cam footage. I did probably go through the intersection at that speed….after I stopped. The stop sign was in working order…but the intersection wasn’t. That’s why so many upgrades to it happened since I got ticketed. To paraphrase the late Jonnie Cochran again, if the deal ain’t right, then you gotta still fight!

 

Stop talking about me, Mike.

Sorry, Johnnie.

The in-person meetings were followed by countless virtual ones. After about an hour of these, the only people left sitting were myself and the cop who gave me the ticket.  I got called back to the stand, before the judge. I told him, and the prosecutor, that I accepted a deal earlier, but upon further thought, I wanted to go to trial, instead. They  seemed surprised,  but I confirmed my decision. They both said some legal stuff, and said that they would reconvene in 20 minutes.

After the judge left, the prosecutor came over to me, and asked what was up. So I told him my story. When I mentioned stopping near the sign, he asked if I was familiar with some section in  a Traffic Act. Obviously, I didn’t know that. He said that once I told the judge that I didn’t stop at the stop sign line, I’d lose. I then explained  the messy intersection, and showed him pictures pulled out  from my $5 bag that  I printed out, of how it was then, and how it is now.

I asked him what he thought. He reminded me that he was being nice now, but if I went to trial, he was going to try to beat me.  I admitted that I didn’t understand his deal before, and  in an unexpected twist, he then asked what I wanted.

What did I want?

 

I didn’t want to lose any demerit points, for one.  Nor did I want my insurance to be affected, for two. I didn’t want to pay $110, either.  The prosecutor thought about this for a second, and then opened up a book on his desk. I’m assuming it was the Big Ol’ Book O’ Hamilton By-Laws. He flipped a few pages and then pointed to a section.  I could plead guilty to some by-law about failing to stop at a sign. It wouldn’t appear on my driving record, and no demerit points would be taken off. I’d still have to pay a fine of $85 plus court fees.  He said that I could think it over, and decide when the judge came back.

 

What would you do?

 

I took the deal, folks. It was my word against a police officer’s. I have no idea if my case was any good. Even it was, it was my word against a cop’s, and an overly eager lawyer just looking to make an example of me. $85 was cheaper than $110, too.

When the judge returned, I went back to the stand, and explained that I agreed to a deal. The cop then immediately stood up and took off, his work for the morning done, I guess.  The worst part for me was, as part of the deal, I had to say that I was guilty into the microphone. I wanted to yell:

I STOPPED AT A STOP SIGN. I’M NOT GUILTY!

I just gritted my teeth and admitted my guilt, instead.

Now dismissed, I went to the court office, to pay for $85 fine. The total came to $110, with court fees.

My sentiments exactly.

And that concluded my day in court, a day that I walked out of it a guilty man. I highly recommend not going to court. It’s not fun, and kind of sucks.  However, if you do find yourself in a situation like I did, fighting the ticket might end up in your favour.

Or not.

I don’t know.

Y’all barely trust me with parenting advice. You really gonna take legal advice from me?!

 

Until the next one, peace!

 

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