New rules could affect ability to challenge tickets in Ontario

WATCH ABOVE: Critics are saying that the new rules considered by the government could prevent Ontarians from being able to fight traffic tickets. They say only the penalty, not the offense, would be considered. Christina Stevens reports.

TORONTO — The provincial government is looking into new rules for driving offences, which some say will make it harder for Ontario drivers to fight traffic tickets.

Ministry of the Attorney General spokesman Brendan Crawley says the province is exploring new ways for Ontarians to pay or challenge traffic tickets and other Provincial Offences Act charges, by shifting to an online payment system.

A consultation was held in March and April of this year to gather input on the merits of a potential administrative monetary penalty system that could, if implemented, replace in-court procedures for resolving disputes, with an online system.

READ MORE: Ontario increases penalties for drivers who text, email, talk on handheld phone

“Should the government move forward with implementing a new system, it will honour the protections that the law requires to ensure just and fair outcomes for Ontarians,” said Crawley.

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“Persons wishing to dispute provincial infractions are entitled to a fair process. They are entitled to receive and challenge the evidence against them and are entitled to make a defence. The matter must be resolved by an impartial decision-maker.”

Crawley added that any new system would “have to withstand the scrutiny of the courts” and that the province anticipates a number of benefits to the public.

Stephen Parker, President of the Ontario Paralegal Association, says the proposed changes could impact Ontarians’ rights to challenge allegations and the right to be found innocent until proven guilty.

“All that would go out the window. You would simply have received from the officer or bylaw officer a penalty notice which will indicate an amount of money,” he said, adding that the possibility of being suspended or losing demerit points is still up in the air.

“You will not have the right to face your accuser as you currently do.”

Parker said that drivers currently have the right to the disclosure of the arresting officer’s notes, which would not appear to happen under the new AMP system.

“So you could end up with demerit points and still not have a  right to challenge the allegation made against you,” he said, adding that further consultations will be held with the ministry in August.

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Geoff Greene says he was hit with a $700 ticket two years ago for allegedly speeding in a construction zone on Highway 401 in the town of Greater Napanee, Ont. where there were workers present. He said he spent two years fighting the allegations.

“I knew I was innocent of the allegations, I knew he was mistaken or he wasn’t telling the truth, and I knew I had to fight this,” he said.

“I took pictures on the side of the road that day knowing I only had one opportunity to gather the evidence, and my photos showed that there was no construction and there were no workers present.”

Greene lost one hearing, lost another appeal and then finally won his second appeal – which cleared him of all charges.

“So two years later, probably about $1,400 spent, my record stays clean, thank God  – but it was quite the ordeal,” he said.

“Overall I’m grateful that I at least had the ability or the opportunity to challenge the allegations in court. It’s one thing to have the right and not use it but to not have the ability is a real travesty.”

Greene says the new changes are completely unacceptable to him and doesn’t think the changes would reflect the progressive nature of the province, or the country.

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“It’s going to generate extra revenue for municpalities, that’s who benefits, but so what? At what expense?” he said.

“We enter a slippery slope and once we give up the right to challenge a parking ticket where does it end up?”

With files from Christina Stevens 

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