Appearing in Traffic Court


The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This topic discusses appearing in Provincial Court, Traffic Division.

Violation Ticket – Offence Notice

A Violation Ticket – Offence Notice is usually white or yellow and has the words “Part 3, Offence Notice” written in the top right corner. If you receive a traffic ticket, you may either (a) pay the fine amount specified on the ticket or (b) plead not guilty to the offence and set a trial date.

If you pay the fine, you are deemed to have pleaded guilty and not be required to attend Court. If you do not pay the fine and do not appear in court when required, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. Unpaid fines may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

Violation Ticket – Summons

A Violation Ticket – Summons is usually pink and has the words “Part 2, Summons” written on the top right corner. If you are issued a traffic summons, you must appear in Court on the date specified on the summons. A Traffic Summons can only be paid if there is an amount in the “Voluntary Payment” box.

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 the Court session begins to discuss your options for pleading guilty.

If you intend to plead not guilty, refer to the Court date written on your ticket or summons. You must attend Court on that date to enter your plea and set a trial date. In Calgary and Edmonton, you will go to the Justice of the Peace counter and enter your not guilty plea. If there is no Justice of the Peace counter in your area, attend Court on the specified Court date, wait for your name to be called, and enter your plea of not guilty when the Judge asks how you plead.

If you are unable to attend court on that date, you can arrange for a lawyer or agent to appear for you or attend Court on a date prior and speak to a clerk at the counter for alternative options. The Court will set a trial date for you on a date that is convenient for all parties to attend. Additionally, offence notice violation tickets have a mail-in option available. See the back of your ticket for further instructions. Finally, you may go to court before the appearance date and a clerk may be able to give you a new date or deal with your ticket right away.

Traffic Court Trial

Begin to prepare for trial as soon as the trial date is set. Prepare yourself and your witnesses for trial.  Request for an interpreter if necessary to the court, who will appoint someone at no cost to you.

Make the necessary arrangements for your witnesses to attend the trial. If you do not personally know the witnesses or are unsure they will attend, it is better to serve them with a Subpoena. This is a written document that requires a witness to attend court or make submissions of evidence in the form of records or documents to present before the court. You can pick up the Subpoena forms from your local Traffic Court. You may be required to pay witness fees to the witnesses you Subpoena. Go over the questions you will ask your witnesses, and think of any questions the Crown might ask.

You must request disclosure of all the evidence from the Crown Prosecutor in advance. The disclosure will include police notes and statements from Crown witnesses. Having all the documents is an effective way of preparing for the possible issues that may arise during trial.

On the trial date, make sure you attend at the time indicated on the ticket. If a time period is given, you must appear between those times. Attend Court looking clean and neat. T-shirts, shorts and jeans are not appropriate clothing for Court. Arrive to Court early, and look at the “Appearance List” outside of the Courtroom to confirm your name is present. Let the Crown Prosecutor know that you are present.

During Court, stand when the Judge addresses you or when you speak to the Judge and speak politely and clearly. Traffic Court judges are addressed as “Your Worship.”  If you have witnesses appearing on your behalf, advise them of this. If witnesses for the Crown 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, that both the witnesses and you have taken time off work to attend Court, and that 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.

Before entering a plea of guilty or not guilty you may ask to reserve your plea, for example, if you do not fully understand the charge against you. Doing so will give you time to get additional information or legal advice. You will be given another date to return to court.

Traffic Offence Conviction

If you are convicted of a traffic offence, you will likely receive a fine. In addition, a victim surcharge may be imposed. This surcharge is used to provide assistance to victims of crime. The surcharge amount is 15 of any fine imposed.

A fine may be worked off through the Alberta Fine Option Program. Check with the Traffic Court for information on the Fine Option program. The victim fine surcharge cannot be worked off through the Fine Option program; you must pay it.

Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.