The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses your appearance in Traffic Court.
If you are issued a traffic ticket, which is usually white or yellow and has the words “Part 3, Offence Notice” written on the top right hand corner, you may either pay the fine amount specified on the traffic ticket or plead not guilty and set a trial date. If you pay the fine as stated, you will not be required to attend Court. If you are issued a traffic summons, which is usually pink and has the words “Part 2, Summons” written on the top right hand corner, you must appear in Court on the specified date on the summons. If you intend to plead guilty, you may be able to negotiate with the Prosecutor for a guilty plea to a lesser or reduced charge. Approach the Prosecutor before Court session begins. When you enter a guilty plea, the Court may give you credit for an early guilty plea. Ask the Judge to consider this when you are being sentenced.
If you intend to plead not guilty, refer to the Court date written on your ticket or summons. You must attend the Court and set a trial on that date. In Calgary and Edmonton, you will go to the “Justice of the Peace” counter and enter your not-guilty plea. If you are unable to attend the court on that date, you can arrange for a lawyer or agent to appear for you or attend the Court on a date prior and speak to a clerk at the counter for alternative options. If there are no hearing officer in your area or you do not get a chance to speak to the Prosecutor before your Court appearance, attend Court on the specified Court date and enter your plea of not guilty when the Judge asks you how you plead. The Court will set a trial date for you on a date that is convenient for all parties to attend.
Begin to prepare for trial as soon as the trial date is set. Make the necessary arrangements for your witnesses to attend the trial. Witnesses may attend voluntarily. If you do not personally know the witnesses or are unsure they will attend, it is better to serve them with a Subpoena (It means a usual written document to invite/call the witnesses or submissions of evidences, as records or documents to present before the court.). You may pick up the Subpoena forms from your local Traffic Court. You may be required to pay witness fees to the witnesses you subpoena. Prepare yourself and your witnesses for trial. Go over the questions you will ask your witnesses and think of any questions the Crown might ask. You may also request from the Crown Prosecutor disclosure of all evidence available against you. This is an effective way of preparing for the possible issues that may arise in the trial.
On the trial date, come to Court looking clean and neat. T-shirts, shorts and jeans are not appropriate dress for Court. Stand when the Judge addresses you or when you speak to the Judge and speak politely and clearly. If you have witnesses appearing on your behalf, advise them of the same.
It is good practice to arrive 15 minutes early. Look at the “Appearance List” outside of the Courtroom. Also, let the Crown Prosecutor know that you are present. If witnesses for the Crown Prosecutor do not appear on the trial date, the Crown may ask for an adjournment. Assuming you have prepared for trial, inform the Judge that you disagree with an adjournment. Explain to the Judge that you have subpoenaed witnesses and both the witnesses and you have taken off work to attend Court. You are ready to run the trial. If the Judge denies the adjournment, the charge may be withdrawn by the Crown Prosecutor or dismissed by the Judge.
If you are convicted of a traffic offence, you will most likely receive a fine and a surcharge. The fine may be worked off through the fine option program. Check with the Traffic Court Division for information on the Fine Option program. The victim surcharge cannot be worked off through the Fine Options program; you must pay the victim surcharge.