Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cops Get Paid Overtime to Be Present in Court

We get a lot of clients calling us that seem to be debating hiring legal representation because the officer told them to fight the ticket in court. One of our clients had indicated to us that the officer was pleasant, but still gave her a speeding ticket and told her to choose the trial option on the back of the ticket and to be present at court. She was still undecided on if she was going to hire representation to defend her case because of the officer’s statement, thinking that he may have been trying to indicate that he would not show up for the court date. She called looking for our advice on whether we believed the officer would show up in this sort of situation, and if he did, why would he tell her to be present the way that he did?

Unfortunately, there is no way for us to predict if an officer will be present or not on the day of your trial. Over the past few years we have noticed an increase in the number of officers that ARE present in court, with evidence in hand.

The Toronto Star recently published an article indicating that many officers are attending court because it is now so lucrative to do so. The article stated that, “under the Toronto Police Association collective agreement, police officers who attend court as witnesses during a scheduled off day are paid a minimum four hours at 1.5 times their basic wage, even if the appearance lasts for 10 minutes. Officers receive three hours of pay at time and a half if they appear in court before beginning a regularly scheduled shift.”

In a bulletin from the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, it seems that the number of officer’s that are benefiting from this overtime is growing rapidly. In 2008, 1,006 employees of the Toronto police service earned over $100,000; 628 of which saw that amount because of a combination of their base salary (under $100,000) and the premium pay, overtime and call backs. The number of highly paid officers is climbing quickly if you take into consideration that in 2004 (only 4 years ago) the number of officers earning more than $100,000 was only 250 and in 2006 it almost tripled that amount to 708.

“ It’s the best game in town”, a retired police officer said in reference to the overtime pay that officers can receive for court appearances. The city pays out around 6 million dollars a year for overtime costs to police officers that attend court.

The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition bulletin also indicated that the number of police services employees earning over $100,000 has increased from 3.5% in 2004 – 14% in 2008. This includes uniformed officers and civilian staff. What is not indicated is how much of that 14% is made up of civilian staff, the number of uniformed staff that has a base salary of over $100,000 to begin with and of the remainder, what percentage of their pay is made up of court appearance overtime as opposed to on duty overtime and bonuses.

Back to the initial question of, “the officer told me to go to court…does that mean he won’t show up?”, that we were speaking about before. Keep in mind that just because the officer told you to go to court does not mean that your ticket is false, invalid or made up by the officer. If you are breaking the law and the officer is getting paid to uphold that law in court, you will need to think about your responsibility in the matter before you take the position that, “the officer is just in it for the money” would be a valid defence for your case. Remember that an excuse or explanation is NOT a valid defence for a ticket and if the officer is present, you will need to prove that you are innocent of the offence.

At Traffic Ticket Solutions, we will review the officer’s disclosure, prepare a defence for your matter, try to find any errors in law and search for any applicable motions to help increase the chances of having your ticket reduced or eliminated. We urge everyone to not base their defence on the luck of the draw, especially when demerit points, high fines and the state of your licence is involved! We can make sure that your case is given the best chance to be reduced or even eliminated completely from your record whether the officer is present or not!

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