By Jordan W. Charness
It was just a little speeding ticket – only two points – but the client was the son of a colleague of mine and only 19 years old. He was, therefore, only allowed to have four demerit points before losing his licence and these two points would mean that he was halfway gone. In addition, he really didn’t think that he was guilty.
The charge was that of speeding at the rate of 55 km/h in a school zone. A school zone in this part of the country allows for a maximum speed of 30 km/h even though the rest of the street would be a 50 km/h zone.
Ordinarily, I have no sympathy at all for those who would speed through school zones, but in this case my young client was sure that he was not in a school zone when he was picked up by the police officer’s laser machine. A 55 km/h readout could be related to foot pedal fluctuation and really would not have been a big deal if it wasn’t a school zone.
As is my usual practice I requested a full copy of the proof. Every time you get a ticket, the police officer writes down all the details and attaches it to your file, but it may or may not be appended to the copy of the ticket that you receive. You have every right to ask for all of the proof so that you can properly prepare to defend yourself at trial.
Although it is really hard to beat a speeding ticket that is based on a laser machine capturing your speed, it is possible if you really are innocent. A careful review of the additional proof showed a few glaring anomalies which I cheerfully pointed out to the judge.
In the first place, while the ticket alleged that it was a school zone it did not actually demarcate where the school zone began or where it ended. It also failed to show where the sign was that indicated the school zone had begun and where my client’s car was at the time of the alleged infraction. What it did say, however, was that there was a diagram available.
The judge agreed with me when I claimed that, if I had asked for the proof, that meant I wanted the whole proof and nothing but the proof. It did not mean that I wanted to know what else was available but not sent to me. The charter of rights guarantees a fair trial, which means that all the possible proof that will be used against the client must be presented to in advance of trial.
In addition, if I had actually received a copy of this diagram, both I and the judge would know exactly where my client was alleged to have been caught and if indeed it was a school zone. In addition, there is some jurisprudence which says the judge is not supposed to know whether or not it was actually a school day on the day that my client was alleged to have been caught in a school zone. That was also a fact that should have been conclusively proven by the Crown attorney.
In this jurisdiction, school zones are not in force 24-7 but are only in effect during actual school hours during actual school days. If there was no proof that it was a school day then this particular infraction could not have been committed. (Note to reader: different jurisdictions treat school zones differently so the place where you live may indeed require you to observe a school zone speed limit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
The judge took all of these factors into account and rendered a decision that he was not convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that my client had been speeding through a school zone or that indeed it was a school zone at all on that day.
My colleague’s son was acquitted. Client happy, and justice for all.