By Jordan W. Charness
In last week’s column I told you about Roger, who was so happy that he had won his ticket in municipal court. He had managed to convince a judge that the only way for him to leave a parking lot was to drive his car in a reserved bus lane. He successfully argued that the numerous police officers that were waiting for people just like him to illegally drive in this reserved bus and taxi lane constituted a ticket trap, and therefore, even if he really did drive in that lane he really had no choice.
In addition to acquitting Roger, the judge also ruled that since the city knew that people were going to illegally drive in that bus lane they should have done something to fix the problem and not just send police officers out to ticket motorists who really were left with no choice.
Roger then made sure to publicize his win throughout the media. The city decided to appeal the judgment.
Although no one can be certain, it is possible that if Roger had not made such a big deal about his win the city would just have let it be. Or perhaps the city felt that a judge ruling that it was a ticket trap was something that the city really did not want to live with. In any case, Roger is now stuck with defending an appeal.
(The following procedure only applies to the province of Québec because that is where Roger got his ticket. The procedure that you may have to deal with may be somewhat different depending on where you live.)
In general, appealing a traffic ticket decision is not the simplest of procedures. Most governments do not want to make it easy. After all, a traffic court offence is usually an administrative fine and points, and really should not tie up the courts more than necessary and certainly not twice.
In Roger’s case, the city appealing his win meant that he will now be subject to a special hearing before the Superior Court, on a much higher level than that of the municipal court in which he lost. There will first be written submissions explaining why the city feels the municipal court judge erred in fact and law and giving legal arguments as to why the city feels that the judgment should be overturned.
Roger will also have to present his legal reasoning before the Superior Court. He may have to file a small written brief and then appear personally and defend the municipal judge’s decision before a judge of the Superior Court. The problem is that Roger is not a legal expert; although he represented himself before Municipal Court, that was mainly on the facts. He would be hard-pressed to succeed in expounding legal arguments before the Superior Court unless he hired a lawyer; an appeal case is mainly on the law.
The city, of course, has a battery of lawyers already on their payroll, so it really won’t cost the city anything to appeal.
To make matters more difficult for Roger, he really is now stuck between a rock and hard place. He cannot easily get out of the appeal procedure. In fact, he has now been forced into appeal by the city. If he just decides not to show up than it is more than likely that his Municipal Court win will be overturned because the judge will not have heard any argument to support Roger’s side.
If he decides to proceed with the appeal, he will be faced with the costs of a lawyer and a loss of work and time that the appeal procedure may entail for him. His legal fees will not be paid by the city even if he wins.
To make matters even worse, the Superior Court judge could, in theory, decide that the first trial judge did not know what he was doing and order a new trial and send the process back to square one. And even if Roger does win in the Superior Court, the city could theoretically ask permission of the Court of Appeal to have the case heard on an even higher level, and once again Roger would end up footing the bill.
Anyway you look at it, Roger’s win may not be a real win at all.