Traffic Stop in Smiths Falls: The Trial
I’m driving around my hometown, Smiths Falls. I get pulled over by police. It’s one of the cops I’ve posted to YouTube. He says very, very little to me. He issues a ticket and we go on our way. I think to myself that I was sure I stopped at that stop sign. I think about contesting the ticket for a few days and decide to do it. I’ve really got nothing to lose and I am sure I stopped. If I don’t contest it I will have to pay the fine and, more concerning to me, I will receive three demerit points on my perfect driving record. I go to the town hall and put an “X” on option three, on the back of the ticket. I am officially debating my first traffic ticket. The town clerk says I will receive my trial date and more information in the mail.
I get the disclosure package about a week before my traffic court date. There is a video of the officer pulling me over, but not of the actual alleged infraction. I read the police notes and notice the officer wrote that he never saw my wheels stop. I go to the intersection where it happened. I notice a hill that could have obstructed the officers view of my tires. I go to where he said he was and observe the passing cars. I make a video so I can take screen shots of exact moments when cars enter the intersection. When I get home, I take three specific screen shots. One of a car at the stop sign, one at the stop line and one at the edge of the intersection. I notice that you can only see the back of the tires in the first picture, at the stop sign. The wheels are completely obstructed by this hill in the other two pictures. Based on this, I form my defence. I only have to establish reasonable doubt that I committed this traffic offence. After all, I am sure I stopped.
It is traffic court day and the room is packed. I have never done a trial before and I am nervous, like sick-to-my-stomach nervous. I am a fairly shy, socially awkward kind of person. I contemplate just paying the ticket to avoid the anxiety of having to present in court. But I am sure I stopped. I am more principled than scared so I decide that I have to try. Only two cases in the room are set for trial. We are put off to the end.
My trial begins. I recognize the Judge. I have been in his court before. I know he is strict and by the book. He does not like wasting his time and will verbalize his displeasure if you are doing that. I have my little black note book that I use for everything. The Judge explains the process for trial to me. I listen very carefully. The Crown calls the police officer that stopped me, to the stand. He asks about employment history and the traffic stop. He asks if there were any obstructions in the way of seeing my vehicle. The officer mentions a few trees and hydro box, but not the hill. I take notes in my book. The Judge asks if I want to question the officer. I do. I ask where he was in relation to me. He says he was parallel to me, on a private drive and behind me just a little bit. I mention the obstructions, the trees and hydro box and then say, “what about the hill?” He gives me a look that makes me think I’ve won this. I bring out the pictures, and ask if they were taken from about where he was. He agrees that the pictures are fair and they are accepted as evidence. I point out where the wheels are visible and where they are not visible. I ask the officer if it is possible that he did not see me stop at the sign, and then decided he would pull me over, before he could see me stop at the stop line, which was two feet from the sign. I point out in the pictures of where he would have been, that you cannot see the wheels of my vehicle at the stop line, because of this hill. His stone, cold straight face says he knows I did not stop. I have no further questions.
The Crown begins a submission. He says that, by law, you must stop at the stop sign, not the stop line. I know this is wrong as the entire purpose of the stop line, is to indicate where to stop at the stop sign. I am feeling more confident that I will win this case, my first ever case. The Judge asks if I want to take the stand and I say yes.
I begin a short speech about myself, my credentials and a few other things that were not really relevant to the case. I finish my testimony by saying,
“I am sure I stopped.” The Crown perks right up, and asks me to repeat myself. I am mentally slapping myself in the face now. When I get off the stand, the Crown and I make our final submissions.
The Judge takes a few minutes to look something up. The hard part is over, now we wait and see. The Judge looks up from his reading and begins to summarize both sides of the case. He says I brought up many good points. He is kind and not verbalizing displeasure that I wasted his time. He says he believes that I believe I stopped, however, he rules that because I said, “I’m sure I stopped,” and the officer said he knew I didn’t stop, that it would seem more likely than not, that I didn’t fully stop. I am found guilty of disobey stop sign.
You can’t always win and this is fine. I learned a lot from this experience and I am still glad I went through it. I trust the legal process and believe that justice was served. I feel that I have been deterred from ever not coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign. The officer in this case did a great job and I have a lot of respect for him, the Judge and judicial processes.