The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 194 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
Traffic tickets can be serious. If you’re convicted, you may get a large fine or points against your driver’s licence (called driver penalty points). These points can increase your cost of driving. If you don’t pay the fine, the government may take the money from your bank account or paycheck. It may also refuse to renew your driver’s licence and car insurance. And your car insurance may cost a lot more. So if you get a traffic ticket, take some time to decide whether to fight it.
Two ways you can be charged with a traffic offence
1. Summons or Appearance Notice for more serious offences
If you are charged with a more serious traffic offence, such as careless driving or hit and run, you will get written notice of the offence in the form of a Summons or an Appearance Notice. A Summons is mailed to you or personally delivered to you. An Appearance Notice is given to you by a police officer at the time of offence. These documents describe the offences you are charged with. They also tell you when you have to appear in court.
If you receive a Summons or Appearance Notice, talk to a lawyer for some initial advice. Then decide whether to hire a lawyer. Send the prosecutor (or crown counsel) a written request for the police report on your case. Or ask for it at your first court appearance.
First court appearance
At your first appearance in court, you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty, or if you need more time to decide what to do. If you plead not guilty, you will get a trial date. At the trial, witnesses and police officers will tell the judge what they think happened. You will get a chance to do the same, by giving evidence. The judge will then decide whether you are guilty.
You must attend the court hearing. If the Summons or Appearance Notice was personally given to you and you don’t attend the hearing, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you plead guilty, or the judge finds you guilty at trial, the judge can fine you up to $2,000, order you not to drive (for as long as the judge considers appropriate), and send you to jail for up to 6 months. Penalties are stronger for more serious offences.
2. Violation Ticket for less serious offences
The police will give you a Violation Ticket (an ordinary traffic ticket) for less serious offences. It is used for many provincial offences, including overtime parking, driving without insurance, and several offences under the Motor Vehicle Act. Read the ticket carefully, because it should show the offence you are charged with. The ticket will normally show a penalty beside each offence.
If you don’t want to fight the ticket
If you don't want to fight the Violation Ticket, you can pay the fine as described below. If you pay it, you don't have to go to court, but you are convicted of the offence. Most tickets over $58 are reduced by $25 if you pay them within 30 days.
If you don’t fight the ticket within 30 days, you will be automatically convicted. You may receive penalty points against your driver’s licence and not be allowed to drive for a certain time. You won’t be able to renew your car insurance or your driver's license until you pay the fine.
If you want to fight the ticket
If you want to fight the Violation Ticket, tell the government office shown on the ticket in person or by mail, before the due date on the ticket. Say that you want to have a trial. You will be notified by mail of the trial date and location, and can fight the ticket at trial (there is no first court appearance). Well before the trial, send the police a written request for their report on your case. The police (not a crown counsel) prosecute these cases.
At the trial, witnesses and police officers will tell the judge what they think happened, and you can do the same, by giving evidence. The judge will then decide whether you are guilty.
If the judge finds you guilty, the judge will normally fine you the same amount that is shown on the ticket. In some cases, the judge may increase the fine—for example, if you have a poor driving record. If you can show real financial hardship, the judge may reduce the fine unless the Motor Vehicle Act sets a minimum fine for that offence. You might also receive penalty points against your driver’s licence. If you are guilty, penalty points are automatic—you can’t fight them in court. You may also not be allowed to drive for a certain time.
There are many ways to pay fines: by phone, in person at banks, other financial institutions, most Autoplan brokers, driver licensing offices, ICBC claim centers, government agent offices, and courts. You can pay by cash, certified check, money order, and credit or debit card. You can also pay online at many bank and financial institution websites. Or you can mail payment (by certified check or money order, but not cash), as follows:
For red-light camera ticket payments:
Ticket Payment Processing
Bag Service 6300 STN Terminal
Vancouver BC V6B 6G6
For all other payments:
Ticket Payment Processing
PO Box 3505
Victoria BC V8W 3N9
If you don’t pay a fine, the government can use a collection agency. This could hurt your credit rating. Money to pay the fine can be taken out of your paycheck or bank account. Also, you won’t be able to renew your driver's licence and car insurance until you pay the fine.
If you want to fight just the amount of the fine, or ask for time to pay
You can do this without going to court. Fill out the following two forms available at any court registry:
- “Violation Ticket Notice of Dispute”
- “Violation Ticket Statement and Written Reasons”
Fill in both forms and file them at the court registry. By doing this, you admit you are guilty of the offense on the Violation Ticket. A judge will look at your forms and make one of the following decisions, which is mailed to you:
- Not approve your request (then you must pay the fine immediately).
- Reduce your fine (then you must pay the reduced fine immediately).
- Give you time to pay.
- Reduce your fine and give you time to pay.
Check script 187, called “The Points System and ICBC” and the following 3 websites:
[updated May 2018]
The above was edited by John Blois.
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