The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. 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 will discuss some reasons a person may want to dispute a traffic ticket.
Defending a Traffic Ticket
When a person receives a traffic ticket the ticket will provide a date on which the person may appear in court to defend or dispute the charges on the ticket. A person may want to defend the charges on a traffic ticket for a variety of reasons, including:
- There are errors on the traffic ticket;
- They believe that they are not guilty of the offence they have been charged with;
- The Crown Prosecutor cannot prove all the elements of the offence;
- Demerit points associated with the charges may result in a licence suspension;
- Insurance rates may increase significantly;
If a person has accumulated more than 15 demerit points, they may want to defend the charges on the ticket to avoid having their licence suspended. To check how many demerit points you have on your licence, obtain a copy of your drivers abstract from an Alberta Registry.
Finding an Error on a Traffic Ticket
After receiving a traffic ticket, carefully check for errors. Some errors might include, failing to provide a date on the ticket, the police office failing to sign the ticket, a misspelt name, or an incorrect address. If there are no details about the offence written on the traffic ticket, or the particulars are wrong (in your view), the ticket will not necessarily be considered invalid.
If there are errors, contact the Crown Prosecutor a few days before the Court date (written on the ticket) and ask them what they intend to do. The Prosecutor may withdraw the charges if the traffic ticket has an error. The Prosecutor can also apply to the Court to correct the information, or to introduce the correct information on the Court date, and the charges will stand.
Defending the Charges on a Traffic Ticket
If a person thinks that they are not guilty for the charge on the traffic ticket, they may want to defend against the charge in Provincial Court.
After the incident, approach any witnesses who may be able to provide a statement about what happened. For example that an accident was not your fault or that a police officer treated you unfairly. Get each witness’ full name, phone number and address. Write down any details of the incident immediately, as this will keep the details of the incident fresh and clear in your mind. Do not exaggerate any of the details, as the police officer will have made their own notes.
Receiving another Charge
Generally, the police have 6 months from the date of an incident to charge a person. If a person was able to have their original charges withdrawn, the police may issue another traffic ticket for another offence related to the same incident (as long as they are within the 6 month period).
Conviction for a Traffic Offence
When a person is convicted of a traffic offence, they are guilty of that offence. This can occur if the person charged pays the amount on the ticket, or if the Court determines a person is guilty at trial. If a person is convicted of a traffic offence their insurance premiums may increase, depending on the offence.
Most insurance companies require that their clients to advise them of any traffic convictions received. A simple speeding ticket is not likely to increase insurance rates, especially if it is a first offence. Similarly, if a person is in an accident for the first time, their insurance premiums will typically not increase. However, if a person is found guilty of an offence (such as Careless Driving, Failure to Stop for a School Bus, Failure to Stop for a Peace Officer, or Driving While Under Suspension), their insurance premiums could increase by 50% or more.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.