Judging by the traffic ticket section of the DriveSmartBC forum, one of the first responses people have after receiving a traffic ticket is to find a defect, real or imagined, as a justification for not having to pay or to justify a dispute in traffic court. Contrary to what you might think, an officer may make a number of errors or omissions without causing the ticket to be null and void.
Right above the officer’s signature blank on a violation ticket is the advice “Shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.” These shaded areas contain information such as your driver’s licence number, address, birth date, vehicle licence number, vehicle type and the name of the registered owner. There are only two critical shaded boxes on the ticket and they are the dispute address and provincial court hearing location. As long as they are completed correctly the ticket could be held to be valid.
The location of the offence specified on the ticket is prefaced with the words “at or near.” If one end of the block is Burnaby and the other is Vancouver, it is possible that either one could be used successfully if the offence occurred slightly to one side or the other of the city boundaries. Getting out your tape measure to prove that you were a few metres into Burnaby and the ticket says Vancouver probably won’t get you off the hook.
Traffic tickets do have to give you sufficient information to understand the offence that you are being charged with. The act or regulation, section number and ticketed amount must be exact or it will be cancelled by the ICBC Ticket Unit.
The description of the offence is a bit more flexible. There are wordings provided in the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation but it is not mandatory that they be used precisely. Speed Against Highway Sign could be replaced by Speeding Contrary to Sign and still be acceptable.
If the officer fails to sign the violation ticket, that will be the end of it. Should you decline to sign, the officer simply completes the Certificate of Service on the back of the original copy.
Before we get to traffic court, the final opportunity for the officer to correct a problem with the ticket is to track you down and issue you an amended copy. They have up to one year from the date of the alleged offence to do this.
The Offence Act allows for amendments to the ticket in court. The first method is for the officer to ask the court to amend the ticket prior to accepting a plea from the accused. The second is for the officer to ask that the ticket be amended to conform to the evidence at the conclusion of the Crown’s evidence. In either case it is up to the presiding justice do decide whether to allow this or not. In my experience, I’ve found that they are generally reluctant to do this.
Even clerical and spelling errors may be excused. Unless you can convince the justice that the ticket does not sufficiently identify you, a transposition or mistake in the spelling of your name could be overlooked.
Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)
DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.