- Step 1FIGHT THE TICKET
If you don't want to fight your ticket or go to court, read this section!
- Step 2REQUEST A TRIAL
We show you what to do. It only takes 15 minutes. How easy is that!
- Step 3PREPARATION
Preparation is the key to success. Do your homework.
- Step 4PRE-TRIAL STRATEGIES
Your trial has been scheduled. Now the fight begins. Here's what you need to do.
- Step 5TRIAL STRATEGIES
What to do, what to say, and what not to say.
Step 1: Fight The Ticket
- Review your traffic ticket options in detail.
- Reasons why you should fight the traffic ticket.
- Busting myths like: "I'm guilty" or "I don't want to go to court".
On the back of your traffic ticket are three options. The first two options allow you to plead guilty and pay the fine, the third option is to request a trial.
Option 1: Plea of Guilty. This option allows you to voluntarily pay the traffic ticket out of court. There are many ways to pay your traffic ticket: online, by telephone, by mail, use your credit card, etc. In other words, many ways for you to hand over your money. If you are one of the lucky few who make too much money, then this option is for you.
Option 2: (formerly known as "Plead Guilty With An Explanation"). Depending on where you got the ticket, Option 2 is worded differently. For larger municipalities it is called Early Resolution – Meet with the Prosecutor and in smaller municipalities it is called Plea of Guilty - Submission as to Penalty.
Option 2 allows you to take time off work, go to court and say a few words about how much you don't like handing over your money. After your court appearance, the clerk will hand you a slip demanding you pay an amount similar to Option 1 above. The difference with Option 2 is that you took time off work before being forced to plead guilty.
Pleading guilty is pleading guilty. It doesn't matter whether you have an explanation or not. It doesn't matter how good your explanation is. You still have to pay the full amount of the fine. Most fines are set by statue. That means the justice can't reduce it. There are some exceptions but you won't be one of them. If they offer you a reduced charge, you are still pleading guilty. You end up with a conviction which will affect your insurance and driving record.
The key point of Option 2 is that it gives you hope. You are charged with a traffic offence and Option 2 suggests it may go away or be reduced somehow. This is an illusion.
Option 3: Trial Option. This is the option you want. Notice how Option 2 and Option 3 make you do the same thing: appear in person at a court office. If you are going to the court office anyway, then you might as well request the trial without pleading guilty. One bizarre thing people do is line up to pay their traffic ticket. It's the same line to request a trial. If you've already made the effort to come to the court office and waited patiently in line, why would you pay the fine when you can just as easily request a trial instead?
What They Don't Tell You
Beside the options on the back of your traffic ticket, you have more options that they don't tell you about.
Option 4: Do Nothing. As bizarre as this sounds, doing nothing can actually work to your advantage in certain situations. Many errors on a traffic ticket like incorrect fine, misspelled name or wrong time are not fatal errors. That means the errors can be corrected at your trial. But the law doesn't allow any errors to be corrected if you ignore your traffic ticket. In your absence, the justice must look at the traffic ticket (including the errors) "as is". He must decide if it is still valid. For a detailed explanation of when to use this option, see How to Force a Fatal Error.
Option 5: Request a Trial Then Don't Go To It. If you request a trial and then don't show up in court, the same rules apply as in Option 4 above. Even minor errors cannot be corrected. That means they could become fatal errors. But if you show up, they can correct the errors. The advantage of this option is that it gives you more time than the 15 day limit. You can request a trial which will take months to schedule. That gives you more time to research and decide what to do. It also allows you to request disclosure (covered in Step 4). You can see the evidence they have against you before the trial. Then you can decide whether to fight the charge or force a fatal error.
Option 6: Request a Trial Then Pay the Fine. Just like Option 5 above, requesting a trial gives you more time than the 15 day limit. It delays the insurance implications of a conviction, it gives you more time to pay and it gives you time to do some research. You can pay your fine any time up to the day of your trial. However if you decide to do this, you should do it one or two weeks before the trial date so that the paperwork that you did pay is in place on the day of your trial. The prosecutor will then withdraw the case from the court since it's over. If they don't know you've paid, the justice may convict you a second time unnecessarily and you will have some paperwork to sort out with the court office.
Don't become overwhelmed with the amount of information that's on this site. Don't let the number of options confuse you. What you must do is crystal clear…
1. For parking tickets some jurisdictions have a variation of these options or renumber them. For example, the City of Whitby offers voluntary payment as option 1 and online payment as option 3. Option 2 is the trial option. The City of Brampton and the County of Wellington have only two options, pay or request a trial. The City of Kingston changes the second option to review the infraction at a "ticket inquiry" centre. Regardless of what option number it is, always choose the trial option.