By Jordan W. Charness
I receive many letters and e-mails from readers asking questions and suggesting topics that they want to hear about in this column. There are some recurring themes that crop up from time to time. The following e-mail is one of the briefest I have received, but it does address a question that many of you have asked: is there a way to get out of a ticket on a technicality?
The email read as follows:
“Hello Mr. Charness!
I enjoy reading your articles.
My brief story is as follows:
1) I received a ticket for going through a stop sign.
2) Two women police officers used laser. They observed the stop sign at a right angle to the intersection.
3) The ticket they wrote had the wrong license number and the wrong vehicle. (It listed a Ford Echo, a car that does not exist)
4) I wrote a letter saying that the ticket was technically invalid.
5) I received a reply recently saying an investigation took place and I still had to pay the fine or appear in court.
6) The infraction took place in Mississauga (Ontario) in October of 2006!
Are tickets with incorrect info on them invalid according to law? I’m sure that readers would be interested. Thank you for your time.”
This email does indeed raise the question that many of us have thought of from time to time. If there is something wrong with the ticket, do I have to pay it?
It is interesting to note that the writer of this e-mail did not suggest that he had come to a full stop at the stop sign. The only question seems to be whether or not he could use the invalid information on the ticket as his sole defense.
The fact that the police officers used radar is as irrelevant as the fact that they were women. Radar is used simply to verify the speed at which a car is travelling. The police officer must actually see you roll through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop in order for you to be convicted of this offense. Although the police may have been using a radar device for checking the speed of traffic, it really has no bearing on this ticket.
So now to the crux of the issue: according to this gentleman, there were two errors on the ticket. The first was that the license plate number was wrong; the second was that the make and model of the car listed does not exist (Ford does not make the Echo). Will that be sufficient to invalidate the ticket?
The ticket is simply a notice that an infraction has been committed. In order for it to be valid, it must accurately state what happened, what you were doing wrong, and where you were when you were doing it. It must also have sufficient information so as to clearly identify the person who allegedly committed the infraction. It must also give you enough information so that you can know what exactly you are being charged with, so that you may properly prepare a defense. Does this ticket do all of that?
Since there was no complaint, it would appear that the infraction was correct (and the writer of the e-mail did actually go through the stop sign). The date and time were properly indicated, as well as the location of the offense. In addition, the reader did not say that his name or driver’s license number were incorrect.
The error in the manufacturer of the vehicle may not be relevant, since the model was accurate. The error in the license plate, however, may cause a problem.
As a defense, this gentleman could point out that is up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. This would include proving the fact that the driver was indeed the driver of the car that they saw going through the stop sign. The ticket should accurately reflect which car they saw. This should be accurately reflected in the license plate number, as well as colour of the car, and its manufacturer and model.
This ticket did not accurately do all of that.
However, in order for the driver to prove that the license plate did not match the license plate on his car, he might be asked to show his registration. This would easily show the judge that there had just been a transcription error when the ticket was written. Since the driver was properly identified and he did own a car that was similar if not identical to the one listed on the ticket, he probably did commit the offense and should be convicted.
On the other hand, if the judge is a stickler for detail, he or she might agree that the ticket was technically invalid, since it did not contain 100 per cent accurate information. The only true test would be pleading not guilty and going before a judge, who could evaluate all of the evidence, and make a decision based on more facts than we were given in this e-mail.