Friday, September 11, 2009

Stunt Driving Ruled Unconstitutional in Ontario?



On September 4th 2009, Justice G.J. Griffin overturned a conviction of Stunt Driving that Jane Raham, a grandmother from Oakville, received from an earlier court date. During this appeal decision, Justice Griffin ruled that a section of the controversial stunt driving law in Ontario is, “unconstitutional as it creates an absolute liability offence for which one can be imprisoned for six months, contrary to Section 7 of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” This decision has been a long awaited one, especially by people facing a stunt driving conviction that feel it is an unjust charge against them.

Now, before you go rip up that stunt driving ticket you received last week and excessively speed down the highway in celebration, you should first realize that this in no way will make your ticket automatically void, nor will it stop police officers from issuing stunt driving tickets. It is also still legal for an officer to impound your car and suspend your licence on the spot if you are charged with stunt driving or speed racing.

Only a section of the law has been deemed unconstitutional and that is to do with a speeding offence (which is considered an absolute liability offence) being charged under the “name” of Stunt Driving (which is a strict liability offence) which potentially has a jail sentence associated with it.

An Absolute Liability Offence is an offence that does not allow for a defence of due diligence. This means that the prosecution is only required to prove that the accused performed the prohibited act. Speeding under section 128 of the Highway traffic Act is an absolute liability offence because the officer only has to prove that you were speeding and there is no defence that you can rebut with. Not knowing that the speed limit dropped or, as in the Raham case, passing a truck out of fear are explanations and cannot be a defence for the act of speeding. If the officer has proper evidence against you in court, you WILL be found guilty of the ticket no matter what the excuse. (Life or death emergencies are the exception)

A Strict Liability Offence is an offence where, once the accused has been proven to have committed the offence, the accused is able to put forth a defence of due diligence. This means that even if they did clearly commit the prohibited act, they are given the opportunity to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that they did everything possible to prevent the act from happening or that there were extenuating circumstances that created the prohibited act.

In the original trial for Raham, the Justice of Peace, J. Chiang, convicted Raham of stunt driving because the officer had ample proof that she did indeed speed. He did not, however, take into account Raham’s testimony with reasoning of why she was speeding and whether her testimony gave rise to a due diligence defence. By disregarding any due diligence, Justice of the Peace Chiang proceeded as if the matter was an absolute liability offence where Raham was actually charged with stunt driving which is a strict liability offence. In the appeal, Judge Griffin noted, “He did this in my view because the reality of the situation is that section 3(7) of Regulation 455/07 is a speeding offence, albeit a speeding offence by another name namely, stunt driving. One is reminded of the words of William Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet, ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’"


This stunt driving law created uproar from the start with the general public and law professionals alike, that could clearly see the flaws in the law. As we have stated in a previous blog, there are many reasons we at Traffic Ticket Solutions feel that this law is unconstitutional, but this ruling was strictly about the simple fact that an accused could receive jail time for a stunt driving offence even if the only reason they received this offence was because they were speeding.

So what exactly has this ruling changed??

If you are an excessive speeder that drives in a manner that is outlined as the definition of a “stunt” or “race” as outlined in the HTA… nothing! There are rumours and speculations on the internet asking if this means that you cannot be pulled over for speeding or charged with a stunt driving ticket because of this ruling and that is absolutely not true. Officers issued many stunt driving tickets over the long weekend as speed racers and stunt drivers are still able to be charged with the section 172.1 stunt driving. “We’re continuing to do business as normal,” Sgt. Dave Woodford of the OPP stated. The only difference is that it is now unconstitutional to convict an accused that received a stunt driving charge solely on the fact that they were speeding. However, Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the attorney general’s department had stated that, “We will be seeking leave to appeal the decision of the Ontario Court of Justice. In interim, people should understand that the street racing provisions are still in effect and police can still lay charges.”

If you have a stunt driving ticket that you would like advice on, call a professional to help you determine which course of action you should take with your specific case. Traffic Ticket Solutions always offers free, friendly and informative legal advice and can answer any questions that you may have in regards to your situation.

We will regularly be updating the status of the appeal of this decision and what it means to stunt driving charges in the future.

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2 Comments:

At October 20, 2009 at 12:19 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are an American Citizen, and you received a Stunt Driving Ticket, what should you do? should you show up for the court date or just ignore it? Please advise about this manner.

 
At October 20, 2009 at 10:45 AM , Blogger Traffic Ticket Solutions Law Firm said...

Hello Anonymous,
If you come here to Ontario and break the Stunt Driving Law, you will be charged the same as Canadian Citizens. Your car can be impounded on the spot and your licence taken away for 7 days. This may go on your driving record if our Ministry (MTO) and the American Ministry (depends where you live) have an agreement.
We have clients who live in the states, and who have had their cars taken and licences suspended. We attend the trial dates for them, and they do not need to attend.

I hope this has answered your question, if not please let me know.

 

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