Traffic tickets: big changes coming

There may be big changes coming to B.C.

Bill 52: Motor Vehicle Amendment Act received second reading in the B.C. Legislature last week and, surprisingly, there hasn’t been much media coverage on it.

Don’t let the lack of media attention stop you: I encourage you to read it. You can find it at the following link: Bill 52.

One of the biggest proposed changes in Bill 52 is an overhaul of the current process that is used to dispute traffic tickets.

Put simply, the proposed law takes traffic ticket disputes out of the Courts and creates administrative tribunals to deal with the disputes.

Currently, if you receive a traffic ticket from a police officer, you may choose to dispute the ticket and have the matter heard in Court. In Court, your case will be heard before a judicial figure (either a Judicial Justice of the Peace or a Provincial Court Judge) and the police officer has to present his/her case (that you committed a traffic offence). You are also given the opportunity to cross-examine the officer (on their memories and notes).

Under the proposed new law, a police officer gives you a ‘driving notice’. After that, you may choose to dispute it; but, you don’t go to Court. Instead, you will proceed to a ‘Resolution Conference’ and present your case in front of the ‘Driving Notice Review Board’ (an administrative tribunal). At this Resolution Conference, you will not have the opportunity to face and cross-examine your accuser (the police officer); the police officer does not attend. A Resolution Conference may take place over the telephone, in writing, or in person.

The B.C. government says the new changes will free up court time (reducing backlog) and police resources (i.e. police will no longer have to attend Court for traffic matters).

Reducing Court backlog is a great and laudable goal. But, are these proposed changes the best way to accomplish it?

Remember that we are fortunate enough to live in a country where we are innocent until proven guilty; this applies as much to traffic offences as it does to Criminal Code offences.

Police officers are humans and, of course, are capable of making errors. Sometimes, those errors translate into issuing tickets that are not appropriate.

Now consider: without police attending your Resolution Conference (to discuss/defend their memories and procedures), will you have a greater or lesser chance of being found guilty?

Also consider that the Courts are backlogged because they have been under-funded. As I discussed in a previous column, Justice system in crisis, the B.C. government has, over many years, reduced Court budgets and has not addressed the shortage of judges.

So, let me get this straight: rather than restoring budgets and putting money into the justice system, the plan is to create an alternative process that does not allow for the same procedural protections to those accused of motor vehicle offences? Alight then.

There are more proposed changes in Bill 52; some about how ICBC can charge additional premiums. I encourage you to read about it.

And don’t let me persuade you into believing that the law is bad: you may like the changes. Just think about it and research it for yourself.

And don’t blindly have confidence in your government to always pass good laws.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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