Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Things that will not invalidate a traffic ticket

A violator’s signature is not required to make the ticket valid.

By Tim Schewe

“I refused to sign the ticket that I got for speeding last week. Does that mean this ticket is invalid and I don’t have to pay it?”

Questions like this one are common from readers who were not happy following their roadside encounter with traffic enforcement. However, a violator’s signature is not required to make the ticket valid.

Some errors and omissions on traffic tickets can be fatal to the charge, but you may be surprised at how much information on a ticket can be left out, or even be incorrect and the ticket will still stand. In addition, some errors can be corrected in traffic court before or during the trial as well.

Refusing to sign a ticket is your prerogative. Personally, I would want a mark on a legal document about me that I could recognize later and a signature is one way of accomplishing this. If you choose not to sign, the officer completes a certificate of service on the back of the original copy and this has the same effect as your signature.

Electronic tickets are now being issued for Motor Vehicle Act offences in some areas of B.C. instead of the old school hand written tickets. This new ticket form does not require a signature from either the officer or the driver to be valid. In fact, there is no place to sign them.

Just above the officer’s signature on the ticket you will find the words “shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.” The gray shaded areas of the ticket include your birth date, address, driver’s and vehicle licence number and vehicle description. If these spaces are left blank or there are errors in the information they contain, it is not grounds to dismiss the charge for that reason alone.

The Offence Act allows amendments to be made to a traffic ticket prior to trial. An officer can also give evidence about the incident and then ask the Justice to amend the ticket to conform to the evidence that was given. In either case, this is at the discretion of the Justice.

The surest way to amend a ticket is simply to complete a new one and serve it to you with the advice that the old one will not be proceeded with. An officer has one year from the date of the alleged offence to do this.

So, before you get your hopes up and dispute hoping to win on a technicality, you may wish to consider proper legal advice to ensure your success. The British Columbia chapter of Canadian Bar Association operates a lawyer referral service at 1-800-663-1919 that will refer you to a local lawyer with expertise in the required situation. A half hour consultation is free of charge.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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