Traffic Offences 

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Contents

You Have Been Charged With An Offence, Now What?

What Do You Do Next?

Appearing in Traffic Court

Pleading Guilty

Pleading Not Guilty

What Happens at Traffic trial

Sentencing/ Punishment

Some Common Offences in the Traffic Safety Act

I Need Help Appearing in Court

More Information and Help

 

 

YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A TRAFFIC OFFENCE, NOW WHAT?


If you are charged with a provincial traffic offence, the peace officer will give you one of the following documents:

Violation ticket (see picture)

A Summons 

The ticket you receive should tell you:

What you have been charged with 

The date and time you are required to attend court 

The court’s address. 

It is very important that you carefully read the front and back of the violation ticket. 

All your court appearances will be at the court location indicated on the violation ticket. You should also direct any telephone calls or questions to this court location. 

 

There are two types of violation tickets: 

 

1- Summons Violation Tickets (pink paper)

Your copy of a summons violation ticket will be pink and it will have the words “Part 2, Summons” in the upper right hand corner.  

If the officer has marked the “Court Appearance Required” box,

You must appear in court in person or by agent (someone you allow to appear for you) on or before the date specified in the ticket. 

o If you do not appear in court when you are required to you can be charged with the offence of failure to appear and a warrant for your arrest may be issued. 

If the officer has marked the “Voluntary Payment Option” box with a fine amount, you have the options of paying the specified voluntary payment amount in full OR appearing in court in person or by agent (someone you authorize to appear for you) on or before the date set out in the ticket. By paying the voluntary payment amount you are deemed to have pled guilty to the charge. If you do not pay the voluntary payment amount and you do not appear in court on or before the specified date, you can be charged with failure to appear and a warrant for your arrest may be issued. 

 


2 - Offence Notice Violation Tickets (yellow or white paper) 

Your copy of an offence notice violation ticket will be yellow or white and it will have the words “Part 3, Offence Notice” in the upper right hand corner. 

Read both sides of the ticket carefully. 

If you don’t respond to an offence notice violation ticket on or before the date set out on the front of the ticket, you may be convicted in your absence. The amount set out on the front of the ticket (the Voluntary Payment Option) will be assessed as your fine. The fine and any applicable late payment charge will be recorded at the Motor Vehicle Registry and you will be mailed a Notice of Conviction. The Motor Vehicle Registry may not provide you with services until you pay all fines in full. An accumulation of unpaid fines may result in the suspension of your operator’s license 

 

Lost or misplaced your ticket?

Contact the Traffic Court Clerk at (780) 427-4724 to find out your court date and fine deadlines. 




 

WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT? 

 

1. Voluntary Payment Option

You can plead guilty by paying the amount specified on the ticket in the voluntary payment option box before the court appearance date.

Follow the instructions on the ticket

Payment must received before the date you are to appear in court

If you pay using the voluntary payment option then you do not need to attend court. 

 

 

2. Appear in Traffic Court

If you do not use the voluntary payment option you will need to attend traffic court on the date specified on the ticket. See the section below for more information about appearing in traffic court. 


  

APPEARING IN TRAFFIC COURT

Your First Court Appearance

The date and time of your first court appearance is written on the front of your ticket. 

If the peace officer checked the box that indicates that you must appear between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., you must appear between those times. 

If a particular time, such as 9:30 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. is specified, you must appear at that time. 

In Calgary and Edmonton, you attend the “Justice of the Peace” counter to enter your plea (tell them if you are guilty of not guilty). In other locations, you may be required to go into the courtroom. The charge against you will be read out. You will be asked if you plead guilty or not guilty. Before entering a plea of guilty or not guilty you may ask to reserve your plea. 

Reserving your plea means you want more time to decide if you want to plead guilty or not guilty. 

If you do not fully understand the charge against you, reserving your plea will give you time to get additional information or legal advice. 

If you reserve your plea, you will be assigned another date to return to court. 

 

What is a Crown Prosecutor?  

In court proceedings in Canada the government is usually referred to as the Crown. The Crown prosecutor is the person who presents the government's case.

 

First Appearance Centers 

There are First Appearance Centers for Traffic Court in Calgary and Edmonton. Provincial Crown prosecutors at these offices are available to speak to persons charged with an offence. No appointment is necessary; individuals are seen on a first come, first served basis. 

The Edmonton office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Contact the St. Albert, Sherwood Park (780-464-0114) and Stony Plain (780-963-6205) courthouses for similar services available in those communities. 

If you think there are circumstances that should be considered or want general information about the charge against you, you can speak to one of the prosecutors at the First Appearance Centre. They have the authority to review and deal with the charge.


 

I can’t attend court on the appearance date 

If you are unable to attend court on the appearance date, you can: 

 Arrange to have a lawyer or an agent appear for you. 

 Offence notice violation tickets have a mail-in option available (see the back of the violation ticket for further instructions or options) 

You may go to the court before the specified appearance date. The clerk at the Traffic Court counter may be able to deal with your ticket right away or give you a new date to appear. 

 

Can I transfer the charges to another court location and plead guilty there?  

If the police gave you a summons violation ticket (pink paper) and you want to plead guilty, you can ask to have the charge transferred from the Traffic Court location shown on the ticket to a location that is better for you. For example, if you were charged in Lethbridge and live in Red Deer, you may be able to have the charge waived to Traffic Court in Red Deer for a guilty plea. 

 

If you want a charge to be transferred from one Traffic Court location to another for a guilty plea: 

see the counter clerk at the Traffic Court location where you want the charge transferred. 

You will be asked to sign a request for waiver form. Leave lots of time before your next appearance date because it will take several days for your request to be processed and documents to be transferred. A Crown prosecutor must approve the request for waiver. 

It is not possible to transfer the charge to a different court location if you intend to plead not guilty.

 

PLEADING GUILTY 

There are several things to consider before pleading guilty:

What are the possible consequences of a conviction? 

What is the maximum fine? Is there a possibility of being sent to jail? Is there a minimum fine? Will you get demerits? Will a conviction affect your insurance rates? 

You should consider seeking legal advice prior to entering a guilty plea.


How do you plead guilty?

Get to Court early

Speak to the Crown, who is generally seated at the desk on the right when you walk into the courtroom. Ask the Crown what type of fine, demerits, and/or driving suspension they are asking for if you plead guilty.

Wait until your turn, they will call last names in order, (this will be after the lawyers and student lawyers are finished their matters)

Stand up at or near the desk on the left

Inform the judge that you want to enter a guilty plea

The clerk will read the charge to you, then you say “guilty”

In order to plead guilty you must accept and admit to the facts (for example: that you drove without a license)

Get legal advice before pleading to see if you may have a defense.

 

The prosecutor will tell the Traffic Commissioner about the offence, often reading from the police report. Make sure the facts the prosecutor presents are correct. If you disagree with any of the facts, you should tell the Traffic Commissioner. You will be asked if you agree to these facts, if you do not agree with something that is said, you will have a chance to tell the Traffic Commissioner why you disagree. By pleading guilty you are agreeing that the facts and accepting their consequences. 

 

If you have a record of prior driving offences, the prosecutor should show you a copy of your driver’s abstract before showing it to the Traffic Commissioner. Make sure it is your record and that there aren’t any mistakes in it. If there are any mistakes, tell the Traffic Commissioner

 

For more information about pleading guilty ask for the SLS pamphlet on “guilty pleas and sentencing”. It is also available online at http://www.slsedmonton.com/criminal/how-to-plead-guilty/

 

PLEADING NOT GUILTY 

If you plead not guilty, a trial will be scheduled.

  

Where and when will the trial be? 

The violation ticket contains the address for the courthouse. When you plead not guilty, you will be advised of the trial date and the number of the courtroom where the trial will be heard. On the trial date, arrive at least 15 minutes early and look at the appearance list on the screen outside the courtroom (courtroom 001 in Edmonton). Let the Crown prosecutor know you are there. The prosecutor can usually be found sitting at one of the tables at the front of the courtroom. 

If proceedings were commenced by a summons violation ticket (pink paper) and you are late or do not attend the trial:

You can be charged with the offence of failing to appear and the Court may issue a warrant for your arrest 

Or the trial may be held in your absence. 

If the proceedings were commenced by an offence notice violation ticket (yellow or white paper), and you are late or do not attend for trial, you may be convicted in your absence (found guilty even though you weren’t there). 

 

Find out what evidence there is against you 

You can get copies of all the evidence in your case, (for example: witness statements). This is called disclosure. The process and time required to get this information is different across the province. You should confirm the exact procedure with the Crown Prosecutors’ Office. 

 

You can contact the Crown Prosecutor’s office in Edmonton by telephone at (780) 422-1111. In other areas speak to the clerk at Traffic Court to get information about how to contact the Crown Prosecutor.

  

Preparing your defense 

Before you can be convicted, the Crown prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt 

 That the offence was committed

 That you are the guilty party (not someone else)

 The time, date and place of the offence. 

 

During the trial, the prosecutor will present evidence to the Traffic Commissioner to establish these things. You will be given a chance to question (cross-examine) the prosecutor’s witnesses, and you will have a chance to call your own witnesses to give evidence. Even if you have an excuse, only certain excuses can be used as defenses, and many excuses will not help your case. Get legal advice before pleading to see if you may have a defense.

 

Bringing your witnesses to court.  

Your witnesses must be physically present in court to testify. Letters or written statements from witnesses will not be accepted as evidence. You can subpoena (compel/ make them come) a witness to come to court if they are unwilling or if they need it to get time off work. You can get copies of subpoena forms at the clerk’s office. Fill out one subpoena for each witness and ask the clerk to have it authorized. After the subpoena has been authorized, you can serve it to them by handing it to the individual at least 7 days before the court date. You can arrange for the police or a private document-service company to serve it. You may have to pay a fee for this service. You should allow enough time for the subpoena to be served (at least two weeks). 

 

What if you change you mind and want to plead guilty? 

If you entered a plea of not guilty at your first appearance and you want to change it to guilty at the trial date, you must tell the Traffic Commissioner that you wish to change your plea to guilty. If you know before the trial date that you want to plead guilty, you should go to Traffic Court and have your matter brought forward and dealt with. Dealing with the matter before the trial date gives time to cancel the witnesses and saves everyone inconvenience. 

 

You can bring a matter forward by contacting the Crown’s office at (780) 422-1111.

 

What Happens at a Traffic Trial?

First, the Crown prosecutor calls witnesses and is required to present the Crown’s case first. 

Photographs, diagrams, maps and other visual aids are admissible as evidence if they are relevant and properly identified.

After the prosecutor is finished asking a witness questions, you will have a chance to ask questions. This is called cross- examination. If you disagree with something that one of the prosecutor’s witnesses has told the court, ask the witness questions about the testimony you disagree with. 

After you have finished your cross-examination of a witness, the prosecutor can ask the witness further questions that have come up for the first time through your questions. 

After the prosecutor has finished presenting the Crown’s evidence, you will have an opportunity to put forward a defense. You are not required to put forward a defence. If you choose to put forward a defense, you can do it through your own testimony, by calling witnesses, and by introducing evidence. Remember, you are not required to call any evidence or to testify yourself. 

The prosecutor can cross-examine you if you testify and can cross-examine any of your witnesses. If you do decide to testify and you have a record of prior convictions, for either provincial or criminal offences, the prosecutor can ask you about your record.

After hearing each side’s case, the Traffic Commissioner will ask for argument. Argument gives both sides a chance to persuade the Traffic Commissioner. The Traffic Commissioner will then decide whether to find you guilty or not guilty. 

 

When presenting a defense DO NOT 

Use an excuse as a defence (for example: I was having a bad day).

o Only certain excuses can be used as defences. Get legal advice before pleading to see if you may have a defence.

Blame someone else.

  

SENTENCING/PUNISHMENT 

If you are found guilty, your sentence could include a monetary fine, imprisonment or a combination of these. In some situations, the Traffic Commissioner may order you to pay compensation for loss or damage to property suffered by a person as a result of the commission of the offence. 

 

Before the Traffic Commissioner sentences you, you will be given a chance to tell the Traffic Commissioner something about yourself, about the offence, and about any special circumstances that might affect the sentence. 

 

What Type of Things should I tell the Traffic Commissioner?

You will have an opportunity to “Speak to Sentence” where you can tell the traffic commissioner some things about yourself and the circumstance surrounding the offence. This may include:

Your Background (age, part of a minority group, disabilities, education)

Family circumstances (Do you have dependents, are you married, do you have kids)

Employment information (Where you are working and how long you have been working there)

If you are not working, you can inform the judge of your income situation, for example, that you are on AISH or EI or supported by your partner

Mitigating Circumstances surrounding the offence

o Only bring this up if there was a really good reason for committing the offence (for example: driving without a license to get away from danger)

 

These factors will help the Traffic Commissioner to decide what type of sentence to give you, the amount of time to pay, etc. Remember always to be absolutely honest with the Traffic Commissioner. If you do not want to speak to sentence you do not have to. You do not have to talk about any of the topics listed above if you don’t want to. 

 

If you do not have enough money to pay a fine, tell the Traffic Commissioner that you will need time to pay. If you cannot pay your fine by the due date, you can apply for an extension at the clerk’ s office. This must be done before the due date.

 

You may also be eligible to work off the fine through the Fine Option Program by doing community service work. For more information about the fine option program you can call the Alberta Justice information line at (780) 427-3441. 

 

If you want more information on Speaking to Sentencing ask for the SLS pamphlet on “Guilty Pleas and Sentencing”, it is also available online at http://www.slsedmonton.com/criminal/how-to-plead-guilty/#SPEAK_TO_SENTENCE


Victims of Crime Surcharge 

If you are found guilty and the Traffic Commissioner imposes a fine, a victims surcharge under the Victims of Crime Act will automatically be added to your fine (unless you have been convicted of a by-law offence). If you were given a violation ticket with a Voluntary Payment Option, the amount shown on the face of the ticket will already include the surcharge. The surcharge amount is 15% of any fine imposed.


 

 

 

SOME COMMON OFFENCES IN THE ALBERTA TRAFFIC SAFETY ACT

 

OFFENCE

TSA NUMBER

EXPECTED CONSEQUENCE

Driving without a subsisting licence (don’t have a valid license)

51(a)

$ 270 fine

Driving without license in your possession (don’t have licence with you)

51(d)

$ 203 fine

No Registration

52(1)

$ 200-300 fine

No Insurance (including being the owner of an uninsured vehicle and allowing someone else to drive it)

54(1)

$ 2500-10000 for first offence. (Typically 2875 after the 15% victim surcharge added)

Impaired (drunk or intoxicated) Driving Conviction *

83

One year licence disqualification (first conviction only, if more than one conviction the suspension increases)

A minimum of 1000$ for first offence (s.255 criminal code).

Dangerous driving Conviction

87

One year licence disqualification

Driving while license suspended or disqualified

94(2)

A fine of no more than $ 2000 AND a license suspension for 6 months (The fine is generally 350 for first time offenses, but the circumstances affect the fine)

Careless Driving

 

115

A fine + 6 Demerits

The size of the fine varies depending on which sub-section you are convicted under.

Distracted Driving

115.1- 115.4

$172 (150 and 15% victim surcharge)


 

 I Need Help Appearing in Court?


 

Interpreters?  

If you or your witnesses are not fluent in English, you can request an interpreter for your trial date. To request an interpreter let tell the justice of the peace at your first appearance when your trial is scheduled. If you decide you need an interpreter after your first appearance contact the Traffic Court Clerk can arrange for a request to be made. Make the request well in advance of the trial, because the request needs to be approved. The court will then appoint an interpreter (at no cost to you) to assist you in all proceedings before the court. 

 

Lawyers and Agents 

You may appear in Traffic Court in person or have an agent appear on your behalf. An agent is someone that you authorize to represent you in court. An agent might be a friend, relative, associate or might be a lawyer or a non-lawyer who represents individuals in court for a fee. Paid agents who are not lawyers are not allowed to represent persons in some court locations in Alberta. Agents do not need to have any legal training. If you would like a lawyer or paid agent to represent you on your court date arrange for one as soon as possible. If you do not have a lawyer or agent on the day set for the trial, the Traffic Commissioner might not grant you an adjournment to get one, and might require you to represent yourself. 


 

How Do You Get a Lawyer or Agent? 

You can look up Lawyers who practice in Traffic Court online or in the yellow pages. 

 For paid agents, look in the yellow pages or online under paralegal services, court agents, traffic law representation or traffic ticket agents. 

 

 WHERE CAN I GET HELP OR MORE INFORMATION?

   


 Lawyer Referral Service...................................................1-800-661-1095

Referrals to up to 3 lawyers that may be able to help you (they will be able to speak to you for 30min for free and then will likely want to be hired and paid)

 

 Legal Aid Society of Alberta..................................................780-427-7575 

 website: www.legalaid.ab.ca

Free legal information, lawyers who may represent you for a reduced rate if you earn less than a certain amount

 


Student Legal Services Edmonton……………………………780-492-2226

Student Legal Services of Edmonton is a student run organization that can give legal information and may assist low-income people in Provincial Court with a number of criminal and civil legal issues. SLS can only handle certain driving offences: driving while unauthorized and impaired driving. You can phone SLS for more information. 


 

Dial-a-law…………………………………………………………1-800-332-1091

Dial-a-Law is a service you phone to listen to pre-recorded tapes containing general legal information, including information about Traffic Court matters. There is no charge to listen to a tape. 


 

Native Counseling Services ..................................................780-451-4002

www.ncsa.ca

Court workers provide information on the nature of the criminal charge, rights, and court procedure. Assistance and support with the necessary documents, Legal Aid applications, and other help. 

 

Fine Option Program…………………………………….........780-427-3441

If you cannot pay you may be able to work off the fine in the community


 

Alberta Registries………………………………………………780-427-7013

http://www.e-registry.ca

  

Traffic Court Clerk – Edmonton………………………………780-427-4724 

 

 Criminal Court Clerk – Edmonton……………………………780-427-7868

 

 City of Edmonton Parking Ticket Inquiries…………………780-596-5161