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James Wanless

this is where I write

A considerably smaller BC speed limit cash grab

It’s been quite some time, twenty months and one week to be exact, since I was given an excessive speeding ticket on Christmas Eve 2013. You can read all about the incident here. That’s a rather long post that also outlines my feelings on the logic, or lack thereof, with regard to how speed limits are determined and used, seemingly, more to extract cash than to balance the safety and movement of people.

To recap briefly, I was going south on the Surrey side of the Patullo Bridge and was clocked doing 100km/hr in a 50 zone. I was at probably peak speed of just having accelerated to change lanes to pass and wasn’t just bombing along like a maniac. Almost never driving in Surrey, I wasn’t aware that the Pattullo was 50, since it changes to 60 the rest of the way up King George into Surrey.

Potential Costs

In addition to the $368 this ticket would have cost me had I simply pled guilty and paid, my vehicle was also impounded on the spot for seven days, and I was already out the $365 it cost me to get it back. Another wrinkle of which many people are unaware, is the DRP (Driver Risk Premium) applicable to criminal code convictions, driving prohibitions and excessive speed. Having one such conviction on my record would have cost me another $320 on my birthday in each of the next three years. All in, this conviction would cost me over $1700 through October 2018.

I disputed it within 30 days, requested disclosure and (aside from confirmation of my dispute) heard nothing from either the province or the officer for about 1.5 years. In roughly May of this year I finally received notice of my hearing date, August 31st. I only received the disclosure documents just before I received the court date, so clearly the ticketing officer decided to send them when the province had arranged the date based on his court availability. I don’t have an evidentiary way of refuting his accusation, it was a laser gun not radar (far more accurate and difficult to dispute), he included the pre/post shift calibration and distance at which the reading was taken and I could find no inconsistencies or mistakes on the ticket or in the notes.

Strategizing

When I received my hearing date, I did some research on my approach and decided that I would talk to the officer outside of court at the very least. As I am a roadstar, no moving violations and not so much as a parking ticket in longer than I can remember, my plan was to assure him of my lesson learned, very good driving history, explain the circumstances of passing in clear weather and roads, and that I feel for someone in my situation, three annual DRPs of nearly $1000 seems punitive, and ask if he’d be willing to bring it down to regular speeding. I had no intention of arguing the DRP system as that’s an ICBC licensing surcharge not related to the court (despite the fact that the penalty scale is very odd).

This is where my planned approach may have gotten tricky. Originally, my thinking was if he was adamant that I be convicted of excessive speeding the only thing I planned to raise in court is how long it’s taken to get to court (11[b] charter of rights argument). As I feel that over 20 months is far too long to wait for a hearing and I hoped to demonstrate stress and being disadvantaged after so long a wait, I was planning to raise a charter argument. However, I only became aware about a week ago that one must apply in writing 14 days prior to the hearing so that it can be moved to provincial court and heard by a judge. I mistakenly thought I could raise this with the JP.

I didn’t really want to go down that road, but based on my research I probably would have had a better than 50/50 chance of getting it tossed.

Pleasantly Surprised

I’m happy to report my initial strategy worked pretty much perfectly. I didn’t really want to go to the length of adjourning this again, then having to prepare an argument for a judge in provincial court. Plus, I’m pretty sure the amount of time I would have spent preparing for that hearing would have been worth far more than $196 I’d pay by getting the charge reduced.

Sitting outside the Richmond courtroom, the three officers there for hearings were summoning the various people they’d charged with traffic offenses. When mine talked to me, he assessed my identity, went over his evidence and the ticket and asked me what I was looking for. I spoke to pretty much all the points that I’d strategized above. Much to my pleasant surprise, when I indicated that I felt a good driver with a spotless record paying an $1000 over three years on top of $740 and a week without their vehicle was somewhat excessive, he essentially agreed with me. He said he’d be willing to accept a plea bargain down to speeding against the posted limit. I gladly accepted, resulting in a $196 fine, and no additional DRPs on my birthday for the next three years.

While I’m still out about $560, that’s a far cry from nearly $1700. If I’m totally honest, while I still have problems with how and where speed limit changes are placed, I feel I was more than treated fairly and can’t really complain. Sometimes, it’s really quite amazing how far being polite can get you.

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