Although the majority of Canadians never become involved with the Criminal Justice System, almost everyone at some point in time ends up with a traffic ticket. These offences generally relate to violations of the Provincial Statute known as the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This law governs what you can and cannot do on the roads of Ontario. It also sets out the penalties one faces when they violate this law. The vast majority of the penalties under the Highway Traffic Act are fines and demerit points. The offences under this act are divided into two types: The first being Part I offences, which constitute the majority of offences. All Part I Offences involve issuing a ticket with a set dollar payout. In that case, the person charged has the option of simply paying the fine and does not necessarily need to go to Court. The second type of offences are Part III Offences. These are the more serious offences under the Highway Traffic Act, such as Driving Under Suspension and very high Speeding charges. A Part III Offence requires the individual to attend Court (there is no set payout).
There has recently been new changes brought by the Harris Government in respect to the Highway Traffic Act. Now, as a result of downloading Norfolk County, Norfolk County is responsible for prosecuting all Part I Offences and pays a Provincial Prosecutor to prosecute the Part III Offences. However, Norfolk County now receives all fines generated under Highway Traffic Act charges.
If you wish to dispute your charge, you have two options: On a Part I Offence you can plead not guilty by signing the back of the ticket and sending the ticket in. You will then be issued a trial notice as to the time and place of your trial. You can then attend Court and represent yourself, or hire an agent, or lawyer to assist you in the trial on your charge.
In respect to Part III Offences, you are required to attend Court and there is no out of Court payment. When you attend, you have the option of pleading guilty and receiving the penalty imposed by the Justice of the Peace, or setting a subsequent trial date. Again, at the trial date you can have the option of representing yourself, or seeking Counsel, or an agent to assist you. It is advisable in Part III Offences to secure the assistance of a professional, as these offences generally carry mandatory license suspensions and large fines.
Other changes under the Harris Administration have brought about a huge increase in set minimum fines. Driving Without Insurance now starts off with a minimum fine of $5,000.00 (up from $500.00 four years ago). Similarly, Driving Under Suspension now has a minimum fine of $1,000.00 (double the previous $500.00 minimum from a few years ago).
Traffic Court like Small Claims Court is still the Court of the common man. It is the Court that people still often attend and attempt to represent themselves. However, even in Traffic Court the axiom, "One who represents himself has a fool for a client" still applies. Whenever you are dealing with a Court matter it is advisable you seek professional assistance if you wish adequate and effective representation at your trial.
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