By Jordan W. Charness

In this column, I spend most of my time explaining to my loyal readers how law is supposed to work. Of course, despite everything I learned in law school and my many years of experience, I cannot always guarantee that the real world experience will be as it should be. I have heard more than my share of courtroom disaster stories and have lived through too many myself. It has gotten to the point where I am now researching a new project on Canada’s Worst Judgments! (In fact, if you know of any truly horrible judgments on any topic that was rendered by any court in Canada, please feel free to send me a copy and perhaps it could be included in our new project.)

Of course, there are many courtroom horror stories that relate to the driving world, and I thought I would let one of my readers tell his story so that at least he could get it off his chest.

Hi Mr. Charness,

A while ago, I received notice that a ticket had been issued to me for stopping in a No Stopping zone. If the car was indeed stopped at the location, day, and time specified, then it would actually have been my wife who was driving, as I was out of the country. The ticket was not issued personally, as was indicated on the copy we received in the mail three months after the alleged infraction.

I felt this was an abuse of process. As we had no way of being certain exactly where the car stopped that day three months ago, we had no possibility of a direct affirmative defence. Furthermore, when I researched the municipal code I became certain that no infraction had actually occurred, even if everything had transpired as the police officer described. In that town, it is forbidden to park or stop within five meters of a Stop sign — essentially one car length. Since one is obliged to stop on the business side of the Stop sign, this by-law must refer to parking on the one side and stopping and parking on the other side. 

At the place noted by the police officer, there is a sign that says “No Stopping” from the sign forward five metres to a Stop sign, and then on another five metres to a second No Stopping sign five metres beyond the Stop sign. The Stop sign itself is not at an intersection, and while no pedestrian crosswalk lines are painted, the only reason for a Stop sign to be at that location is to provide safe crossing for students going to and from the high school. The ticket indicated we were stopped in the five metre-long zone on the business side of the Stop sign. So what sign has precedence: the Stop sign or the No Stopping sign? I wanted to make that point, so pleaded not guilty.

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