Disobeying signs

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHARGE

Stop Sign Ticket

If you have received a failure to stop at a stop sign ticket, then you are being charged under section 136(a) of the Highway Traffic Act.

Under section 136(a), the prosecution must prove that:

(1) You were approaching a stop sign AND

(2a) You did not stop your car at a marked stop line OR;

(2b) You did not stop your car before entering a crosswalk OR;

(2c) You did not stop your car before entering a intersection.

Basically, there are two elements to stopping.

You must stop in any of the following places: (1) at the marked stop line; (2) before the crosswalk; or (3) before the intersection.

Section 137 of the Highway Traffic Act is also relevant to a stop sign charge:

"In addition to stop signs required at intersections on through highways, (a) the council of a municipality may by by-law provide for the erection of stop signs at intersections on highways under its jurisdiction; and (b) the Minister may by regulation designate intersections on the King's Highway at which stop signs shall be erected, and every sign so erected shall comply with the regulations of the Ministry."

Basically, by-laws must create stop signs. A by-law is a law set by a city or municipality. In your disclosure, you should receive a copy of the by-law. If you do not receive a copy of the by-law you can make an additional disclosure request for it. If you are not provided with the by-law before trial you may be able to argue that you have received incomplete disclosure. 

Failure to Yield

If you have received a failure to yield to traffic ticket, then you are being charged under section 136(b) of the Highway Traffic Act.

Under section 136(b), the prosecution must prove:

(1) that you did not yield the right of way to traffic in the intersection OR;

(2) that you did not yield the right of way to traffic approaching the intersection on another highway that was close enough to constitute a hazard (you did not yield to opposing traffic).

The word stop is defined under section 1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act:

stop” or “stopping”, when prohibited, means the halting of a vehicle, even momentarily, whether occupied or not, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or of a traffic control sign or signal; (“arrêt”)

A failure to stop at a stop sign ticket or a failure to yield ticket, is a strict liability offence (R v. Locke (2008) and R v. Kanda (2008)). Therefore, the prosecution only has to prove that you actually failed to yield to traffic, not that you meant to. 

Things to ask for in your disclosure request:

  • Officers notes
  • For stop sign tickets, ask for the by-laws
  • Video/audio evidence, if available

REVIEWING YOUR DISCLOSURE

  • Most police officers tend to stick to their notes when testifying. By reviewing your disclosure you can anticipate what the officer is likely to say. You can also start developing your own theory of what happened. Study these notes carefully and frame the day you were pulled over into a story.

  • Review your disclosure and also think about the following:

    1. If the elements of the offence mentioned above can be proven;
    2. Are there any details about the encounter that you remember, that the police officer did not write down?;
    3. Is there anything that the police officer wrote down, but you do not remember?;
    4. Is there anything missing or unclear, that could be clarified with additional disclosure?;
    5. The location of where the police officer alleges he observed you disobeying a sign;
    6. The time of day;
    7. If there is a mention of road and weather conditions (i.e. clear or rainy or sunny/dry or wet roads);
    8. If there is a mention of traffic conditions (i.e. busy or heavy traffic, light traffic);
    9. Were there any similar nearby vehicles?;
    10. Where was the police officer located when they saw you (i.e. what side of the road?);
    11. Is there an admission from you written in the police officer's notes that you disobeyed the sign? (ex. the police officer wrote down that you told him/her you ran a stop sign);
    12. How detailed are the police officer's notes? (the more detail, the more convincing the police officer will likely sound at trial);
    13. Think about the day you were pulled over. Are there any important details that you think the police officer missed in his/her notes?
      • Was the police officer's view clear or was it obstructed?
      • Was the sign clearly visible to motorists? If visible, from how many meters? Remember, drivers should not be punished for poor stop sign construction! If you believe the sign was not visible then go back to the location you were pulled over around the same time of day you were pulled over. Make sure the weather conditions are similar to the day that you were pulled over. Take photographs of where you were alleged to have disobeyed the sign, the corner of the intersection, the white line, and your visibility of the sign from the inside your car. Examine your actual point of view of the sign or white line from your car. Be sure to also take photographs from the point of view of the police officer. Go to where the police officer was stationed when you were pulled over and take photographs.
      • Was the road or area unfamiliar to you?
      • Where was the sign located? Was it at the end of a curb? Did the road curve?
      • As mentioned above, go back to where you were pulled over and take pictures. If you received a stop sign ticket, examine where the stop sign is, where the white line is, and examine the corner of the intersection. Crouch, because remember, the officer would have been seated in his police car when he saw you. Look around. Did he have a clear view of everything? Is it possible the officer did not see you stop?
      • If you received a stop sign ticket - Was there an advance warning signal (possibly a sign) that indicated that there was a "stop sign ahead"?
      • If you received a stop sign ticket - Does the police officer's notes indicate that your vehicle slowed down?
        • If you were going to run a stop sign, why would you start to slow down? Slowing down indicates that a vehicle intends to stop.
      • Do you recall seeing the police officer before seeing the sign?
        • If one saw a police officer before a sign, they would probably be less likely to disobey the sign. 

LEGITIMATE DEFENCES

  1. That your car had a mechanical problem unexpectedly and you could not stop (you would likely need to provide evidence that your car was towed or have evidence from a mechanic to verify this).
  2. You were rear-ended by a vehicle and that moved you past the line where you had to stop.
  3. Emergency situation
  4. Involuntariness
  5. Collision avoidance
  6. Due diligence - Because a stop sign ticket or a failure to yield to traffic offence is a strict liability offence, you can use a due diligence defence if your case supports it. 

OTHER TIPS

  • The 3 second rule: There is no requirement to stop for three full seconds. This is something they teach you in driving school, but legally, there is no time requirement. You only have to come to a full stop.
  • It is not simply enough to only stop and proceed. You must yield to the right of way before continuing.
  • If you are sure that you stopped your vehicle and that you did not create a hazard when you moved forward, you should testify to this. Sincerely inform the court that you were completely sure you came to a full stop, without any hesitation.
  • Your testimony has to be rock solid. Usually a police officer has a clear, credible testimony while a normal person trying to defend themselves lack credibility. You cannot be shaken on cross-examination if you want to win.
  • Did you have any passengers? See if you can get them to testify in court that you did not in fact stop.
  • Do you have a clean driving record? Use this to prove that you are a safe driver who takes precautions.