By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy Tom Corser

Just when I think I have seen it all I see or hear something new that surprises me. After all these years as a lawyer and legal expert in traffic and automobile law, I truly thought that I have heard every possible excuse that someone would make.

I have heard everything from, “Suddenly that tree jumped out and hit me!” to, “It was late at night so there was really no need to stop at the red lights.” When it comes to justifying yourself it appears that people will latch on to just about anything.

Of course, that is not to say that every ticket issued is a valid and true ticket. The police are human, and can and do make mistakes from time to time. Sometimes their vantage point is not the best and the police officer really did not see exactly what happened. Equipment can malfunction and even laser machines and breathalyzers can occasionally give false readings.

The new licence plate scanning technology that is employed in many jurisdictions in Canada these days is not foolproof either. It rapidly identifies licence plates and verifies it against the database to see if there are any outstanding issues with the car or its registered owner. It does it very quickly and, for the most part, accurately, but is not always right.

There are also some instances that truly are judgment calls. Was a light yellow or red when you went through it? Did you stop at a stop sign or fail to stop because it was icy, and slid through it? Was the parking meter broken and not measuring the time accurately or were you really just late in your return? All of these questions may validly be put before the courts for a judge to decide on what really happened, always bearing in mind that the accused in Canada is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. (This legal maxim means that a judge must be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that you committed the offense that you are accused of in order to find you guilty.)

But like I said at the beginning, I have never heard an excuse quite like the following: a lady was pulled over in Ontario and given a ticket for speeding. I asked her if she was speeding. She answered in the affirmative.

I asked her if she was going the speed on the ticket of 135 km/h? Once again she said, “Yes.” I finally asked her for her defence.

She said that she thought she was being chased by a car behind her and was trying to get out of the way. It seemed to be coming upon her rather quickly and she was afraid that she might be hit by it. So she sped up. The car behind her sped up, too, and althought that car never got too close to her, she did think that it was moving quickly. Instead of pulling over she kept going faster.

Once she hit 135 km/h she pulled over to the inside lane. The car behind her did the same. It was only then that she noticed that the car that had been chasing her was a police car with full lights flashing and siren blaring. She said that it was daylight so she didn’t really notice the lights and her stereo was on so loud that she didn’t hear the siren. She said she was really only going about 110 when the whole business began and that was perfectly acceptable since it was only 10 per cent over the speed limit.

She was wrong in oh-so-many ways. It is not acceptable to go 10 per cent over the speed limit. It is not legal to crank your stereo so loud that it completely blots out any sounds from the outside world. There is no excuse for failing to recognize a police car with its lights flashing. She’s lucky she only got a speeding ticket.

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