Tackling this topic can be challenging. We’re not advocating for people to not obey traffic laws in any way. Before we get into how to most efficiently beat a traffic ticket, we should make it clear that if you’re driving drunk, or extremely recklessly (driving more than 40km over the posted speed limit), you deserve some punishment and this article won’t apply to you anyway. But for those with minor traffic offences, we’re happy to share some strategies to fight and beat a ticket so you can avoid a rate increase for your car insurance.
The True Cost of a Speeding Ticket
The actual cost of the ticket should not be your primary concern. The far greater consideration is that your insurance costs will rise. Young people already pay the highest insurance rates, so a ticket or two can really jack up the monthly amount taken out of your bank account. It’s these costs that add up faster than a $200 slap on the wrist for a traffic infraction.
It’s Not the Fine, It’s the Insurance Hit
The hit to your insurance is also the reason why you should almost never take a plea deal when you fight a ticket. Just for showing up in court, the judge will likely offer you 50% off of the ticket if you plead guilty and save the court a bunch of time and energy. (Our courts are generally so backed up that this is considered a good deal for them.) Don’t take this offer. While you may pay as little as $30 or $40 upfront, it will likely still affect your insurance. The cop, judge, and prosecutor may try to pressure you to take a plea deal, but stand your ground and fight it. A plea deal will still impact the amount of insurance you pay.
If you are tagged by a red light traffic camera, just pay the fine instead of going to court and to plead your case. The reasoning behind this was that red light traffic camera infractions cannot be held against you by your insurance provider since no one can prove it was you driving. (The camera catches your car and sends the bill to whomever it was registered to.) Fighting a red light camera ticket is a lot more difficult and it’s not worth it in terms of the cost versus the benefit. Most people are probably better off paying the fine and moving on in this case since your insurance company won’t be involved and your rates should remain the same.
Get the Best Deals on Car Insurance
It’s all about keeping more bucks in your wallet, right? Aside from fighting certain traffic tickets, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re getting the best deal on your car insurance. How do you do that? Shop around, naturally, but forget about wasting your time contacting a heap of insurance providers individually to get quotes. There’s a much smarter way. We suggest using an online platform to do the heavy lifting for you. Here are a couple of our favourites:
Kanetix.ca can access quotes online from more than 50 trusted insurance providers and help you compare rates quickly. The site boasts that it could save you up to 30% on the average market rate. That’s plenty of incentive to take the time to enter your data on the year/make/model of the car you drive, how many kilometres you drive as part of your daily commute and what kind of mileage you rack up each year. It will also ask you about your driving and insurance history. Have all that info handy before you start filling in the forms online. Once you have everything, they won’t take long to complete. Shortly after you submit your data, you’ll get a summary of quotes from a variety of insurance providers to choose from. Kanetix has been around since 1999 and has a good track record for customer service. Its online insurance comparison platform is free to use.
InsuranceHotline.com is also a winner. The company started offering insurance in 1994 and has provided more than four million quotes to Canadians over that time. That kind of longevity means they know their stuff and can help you find what you need. It’s free to use, too, and will get you rates from more than 30 companies. You will have to fill out the online form to input all the pertinent data about your vehicle and driving history, then the software does the rest – quickly in about five minutes. Users like Insurance Hotline because it will identify possible discounts that you might have missed or not been aware of. Looking for insurance using an online comparison platform is super easy and the competitive rates you find are likely to save you heaps of money.
Fighting the Traffic Ticket
So you got a ticket for going 10% over the speed limit and the officer was not empathetic to your case. What are your best options if you want to dispute it? Here are some possible strategies. Some of the rules do differ slightly from province to province, but the broad process is generally applicable everywhere.
- Step 1: You’ll win some of the time just by showing up in court.
When you make the decision to take a day off of work and go down to the court, there is a decent chance the police officer who issued you the traffic ticket won’t be able to make it for a variety of reasons (sick, vacation, got tied up with something else, etc.). As long as your offence wasn’t serious, this is almost always an automatic win.
- Step 2: Immediately request disclosure.
After filing for a court date (the details usually will be on the ticket to do that), you’ll receive a letter telling you when your court date is. At this point (ASAP – do not procrastinate this step or you give the court some leverage), file for disclosure. This means that cop’s notes will have to be presented to you in advance of the hearing. Some law enforcement officers take excellent notes. Others don’t.
If an officer’s notes are inconsistent as to where the infraction was, what you were charged with, specifics about your car, or several other details, these ommissions or errors might be enough to win the case all by itself. Worst case scenario, you still need to know what evidence there is against you in order to fight the charge.
If your ticket was given with a radar gun, ask for a copy of the calibration records to be disclosed as well. Sometimes you can get lucky and the calibration will render the whole case invalid.
If an officer’s notes are not legible, you can ask for a typed version at the trial and request an adjournment on that basis. Even if they are bad quality, this dramatically improves the chances of the judge throwing the case out. Remember, it’s all a numbers game, police officers don’t want to be tied down with someone who was 9 km over the speed limit. Finally, when you request the disclosure, make sure you get the names of people you are talking to so if documents aren’t sent to you, you have some accountability in place.
- Step 3: Keep track of your calendar.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 11 (b) states that (paraphrasing) you have the right to a fair and speedy trial. Basically, if your court date is over a year from the date of your offence, you can make the case that the courts should throw out the case on 11(b) alone. If you have done anything to postpone the case for your benefit, this won’t work. It has to be through no fault of your own. Still, some people advocate several delay strategies for the express purpose of claiming this law.
- Step 4: If you’re going to lose, don’t go to court.
If your court date is prompt and your officer had impeccable note-taking skills, then you might want to pay the fine. If you had a more serious charge, you might want to hire a lawyer. This article doesn’t really apply to serious offences.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Fighting Speeding Tickets in Court
There are numerous professionals that will promise you that they can get you out of your ticket. The truth is that most of these people will simply advise you to take the plea deal they “get you” (that would have been offered anyway) and hope that the officer doesn’t show up.
If you have a case or don’t see the officer in the room for the start of the court session, don’t take a plea deal. Remember, the worst-case scenario here is that they’re going to make you pay the ticket that you already have.
If you plead “guilty with an explanation,” that is still a guilty plea and will affect your insurance. “Not guilty” is the goal and you’ll see how it plays out.