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What happens if I take my traffic ticket to trial on my own?

A cop writes a traffic ticket. Stock photo by Getty Images

You have decided you’re going to dispute your traffic ticket and take it to trial. Here is some information to help you through the process. 

Regardless of which province or territory your trial is in, the first thing is to provide the correct address to the court. This way your notice of trial does not get lost in the mail and you don’t miss it. If you don’t show, you may be found guilty in absence. 

If you feel the ticket was rightfully issued but want a lower fine you have the option of telling the prosecutor — on the day of the trial — that you would like a break. The prosecutor will look at the evidence and your prior record, and decide whether or not to lower the fine (and demerit points if applicable). 

If you completely disagree with the ticket, you can go to trial to tell the judge your side of the story. 

What happens during trial?

To prepare for trial, you’re entitled to receive disclosure from the prosecutor. Disclosure is the evidence against you, which may include the officer’s hand-written notes and photos taken. You must request disclosure before your trial by contacting the court. 

You should also contact any witnesses you will be calling on and ask them to attend the trial.

On the day of the trial, if you still don’t have disclosure you can ask for it. The judge may change your trial date to another day.

Going to trial means you intend to dispute the ticket and are telling the court you are not guilty.

The prosecutor starts the trial. She will ask her witness to take the stand — usually the officer who wrote you the ticket. The prosecutor will ask the officer questions about why the ticket was issued. You may take notes. The prosecutor may have other witnesses and put them on the stand too. 

After the prosecutor is done examining the officer, it’s your turn to ask the officer questions. This is called cross-examination. 

After all cross-examination is done, the prosecutor’s side ends. It’s now time to tell your side of the story. 

You can take the stand and tell the court why you disagree with the ticket. If you have witnesses, they go on the stand next and you can ask them questions on what they saw. 

The prosecutor gets to cross-examine both you and your witnesses. 

Next, you and the prosecutor can make your final points and the judge will make her decision. The judge will either find you guilty or not guilty.

What happens if I am found guilty?

If you lose at trial, the prosecutor will suggest to the judge what the appropriate fine will be. She may ask for a higher fine than the one written on your ticket if you have a prior record.  If you have financial difficulties, you may tell the judge.  It’s ultimately in the judge’s hands to determine the penalty. 

If you lose at trial, you can appeal to a higher court. Most provinces allow 30 days for an appeal to be filed. 

What happens if I am found not guilty?

If you are found not guilty, you will walk away with no fine. The prosecutor may disagree with your win and appeal the decision to a higher court.  This does not happen very often. If the prosecutor appeals, you will have to attend another court on another day. The prosecutor will have to convince a different judge why your trial outcome should be changed.  

Click on the name of your province to access information regarding traffic tickets in your province or territory: