Be Fully Informed When Attending Early Resolution Meetings in Traffic Court

In 2012, a new procedure was introduced in the Ontario Highway Traffic Court. If you receive a traffic ticket (Offence Notice), you (the defendant) will find printed on the back of the form “OPTION 2 – Early Resolution – Meet with Prosecutor”. This option allows you to meet with the prosecutor to reach an agreement to plead guilty to the ticket you received or to plead guilty to a lesser charge (see Note 1).  Pleading Not Guilty is not permitted in Option 2.

This new procedure may create some difficulties for unrepresented defendants (those people who want to deal with the ticket themselves) for the following reasons:

  1. nowhere on the ticket does it explain that the defendant may request to see the evidence (in legal terms this is called disclosure) that the prosecutor has against the defendant (the evidence could include material that might be helpful to the defendant’s case);
  2. nowhere on the ticket does it explain that the defendant MUST REQUEST this evidence from the prosecutor (see Notes 2 and 3);
  3. if the defendant does request and receive the evidence, in many cases the defendant will not be aware of how to use this evidence to help him challenge the ticket.

 

Once the defendant has met with the prosecutor and if the defendant agrees to plead to the charge that the prosecutor offered him, a date will be arranged for both parties to appear before a justice to advise the court on the agreement reached. The justice can accept or reject the agreement.

 

NOTES

1.  Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. 33, s. 5.1(1-3, 7-9)

Availability of meeting procedure

5.1 (1) This section applies where the offence notice requires the notice of intention to appear to be filed in person in the form prescribed under section 13.

 

Option for meeting with the prosecutor

5.1 (2) Instead of filing a notice of intention to appear under subsection 5 (3), a defendant may request a meeting with the prosecutor to discuss the resolution of the offence by, (a) indicating that request on the offence notice; and (b) delivering the offence notice to the court office specified on it within 15 days after the defendant was served with the offence notice.

 

Notice of meeting time

5.1 (3) Where a defendant requests a meeting with the prosecutor under subsection (2), the clerk of the court shall, as soon as is practicable, give notice to the defendant and the prosecutor of the time and place of their meeting.

 

Agreement on plea of guilty and submissions

5.1 (7) At their meeting, the defendant and the prosecutor may agree that, (a) the defendant will enter a guilty plea to the offence or a substituted offence; and (b) the defendant and the prosecutor will make submissions as to penalty, including an extension of time for payment.

 

Appearance before justice

5.1 (8) If an agreement is reached under subsection (7), the defendant shall, as directed by the prosecutor, (a) appear with the prosecutor before a justice sitting in court and orally enter the plea and make submissions; or (b) appear without the prosecutor before a justice sitting in court within 10 days, enter the plea orally and make the submissions in the form determined by the regulations.

 

Conviction

5.1 (9) Upon receiving the plea and submissions under subsection (8), the justice may, (a) require the prosecutor to appear and speak to the submissions, if the submissions were submitted under clause (8) (b); and (b) enter a conviction and impose the set fine or such other fine as is permitted by law in respect of the offence for which the plea was entered.

 

2.  R. v. Stinchcombe, [1991] 3 S.C.R. 326 The obligation to disclose will be triggered by a request by or on behalf of the accused. Such a request may be made at any time after the charge. Provided the request for disclosure has been timely, it should be complied with so as to enable the accused sufficient time before election or plea to consider the information. In the rare cases in which the accused is unrepresented, Crown counsel should advise the accused of the right to disclosure and a plea should not be taken unless the trial judge is satisfied that this has been done.

 

3.  R. v. Blencowe, 1997 CanLII 12450 (ON SC) The obligation to disclose is not absolute. It arises as a result of a request for disclosure by an accused. Disclosure may also be withheld, or delayed in certain circumstances. Initial disclosure should be made before the accused is asked to elect mode of trial or to plead.

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