ELEMENTS OF A SEATBELT CHARGE
In order to convict you, the prosecution will have to prove two elements under section 106 of the Highway Traffic Act:
- You were not wearing a seat-belt as a driver.
- You were not driving in reverse (i.e. for a parallel park).
Like many other defenses, you may challenge a seat belt violation on the basis of reasonable doubt. See the below section on "things to look for disclosure" for more details.
If you were driving backwards (i.e. for a parallel park), you cannot be charged.
Alternatively, you can also make an argument from due diligence.
In order to do this, you need to show that although you were not wearing a seatbelt, you are not morally to blame. This was established as a viable defence under R v. Kanda.
First, establish that you understand the importance of wearing a seatbelt— as well as how, with the exception of the incident, you always wear one.
Then, you must establish how this was a highly unusual incident. Perhaps your seatbelt warning light which you rely on was not working. Perhaps you had taken off your seatbelt to reach for something, and had a moment of forgetfulness where you didn't put it back on.
Ultimately, the goal is to show that you did everything a reasonable person would do, and are therefore morally innocent. You must display to the Justice of the Peace that it would be unjust to punish you in this instance but you must not seem like you're reaching for an excuse.
Having evidence, such as a repair record indicating a defective seatbelt or defective seatbelt warning light, could be great for establishing your credibility.
Things to look for in disclosure
- Was there photographic evidence of you not wearing your seatbelt?
- Did the officer get a clear look at you? Or was it just a momentary glimpse? Was the officer driving?
- Did the officer write down the colour of the shirt you were wearing, or the colour of the interior of your car? Depending on this, it may have been tough for them to tell whether you were wearing a seatbelt or not.
- When did they observe / photograph you without a seatbelt? Is it possible you were taking it off to get out of the car?
- How detailed are their notes? Is it likely that the officer, relying on these notes, will be able to construct a credible story on the day of the trial?
PASSENGER SEAT-BELT TICKET
In order to convict you, the prosecution will have to prove one of the two elements under section 106 of the Highway Traffic Act:
- A passenger was not occupying a seat with a seatbelt, or
- A passenger was not wearing a set belt.
Unless it involves a child, this offence is relatively light, and will not appear on your insurance. It is recommended that you consider Early Resolution to plea down the charge.
If you are intent on fighting it, you may rely on the defence of due diligence. In order to do this, you need to demonstrate that you did what a reasonable person would to prevent the violation. Therefore, it would be unjust to punish you, as you are not morally culpable.
It was established in Gupta that merely telling your passengers to put their seatbelt on is not enough. But if you took additional steps to ensure that your passenger(s) had their seatbelt on (i.e. checked that your passenger(s) were wearing their seat belts, but then they took them off later), then you may have a defence.
Bringing in witnesses can be very helpful in raising this defense.
Things to look for in disclosure
Given the nature of the charge, it is unlikely that there will much you can use in disclosure. However, if you request disclosure, and there are no officer's notes, you can then make an application for a stay based on insufficient disclosure.
Stays are covered here in our Traffic Ticket Guide.