Jeez. My first day in court and I barely had time to appreciate it.  It took all of 20 minutes!

I had to head out to Nepean to contest a parking ticket that I got back in April. I had parked in an area that was designated for snow removal – or so I was charged with. When I drove around the area looking for parking, I did notice some snow removal signs; however, there were none on the block where I finally stopped. In fact, there were even several other cars parked nearby. I figured I was safe, since I would only be gone about 90 minutes, and the signs all said 2-hour parking.

And yet, when I got back to the car, the tow truck was preparing to haul it away! Thankfully I was able to get them to drop the car, but the ticket had already been issued.

Standing Up to the Man!
Now, I’ve paid traffic tickets before – for both parking and speeding – and if I’m in the wrong, I don’t mind. It’s my own fault. This, however, just rubbed me the wrong way. No way I was gonna pay the city when I hadn’t done anything wrong. So I contested the charge.

Seven months later, here I was…finally on the docket.

I didn’t know what to expect, never having been to court as a participant before. It was all very efficient:

  • I showed up and saw the day’s docket had about two pages of names on it. I was at the bottom of page one. Clearly I was gonna be there all morning!
  • As 9:00am approached, the courtroom was far from full. I can only assume the first snowfall of the year – we got about 5cm last night – had dissuaded some defendants, keeping them from pleading their case at the courthouse in Nepean.
  •  Once the proceedings started, the pace picked up. Each defendant was called in turn to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this point it became clear that about 70% of the defendants hadn’t shown up.
  • Defendants who pleaded guilty could ask for a reduction in the fine, but basically they just agreed to pay, and so they didn’t take up much of the court’s time. And there was only one of them.
  • Those of us pleading not guilty were put into a queue. Those cases would be heard once all the pleas had been entered…unless the officer who issued the ticket wasn’t present. In that case, charges were dropped.

I waited nervously as the Justice of the Peace called out names. The morning was proceeding fairly quickly, what with so many absent defendants, but I had been listening to some of the cases before me and by the time my name was called I had already heard several references to Bylaw Officer O’Sullivan, who wasn’t present in the courtroom. I checked to see who my ticketing officer was: Bingo!

My name was called. I rose to enter my plea of not guilty, and – wham, bam, thank you Officer O’Sullivan – my charge was dropped. The prosecution had no evidence. I was free to go.

I have no illusions. I know this speed is not the norm in our over-burdened court system. Clearly the only reason things happened so quickly today was because of the snow, which helped me out twice: Once to keep the number of defendants down, and once to cripple to prosecutor’s case (I’ll give O’Sullivan the benefit of the doubt and assume he was waylaid rather than just disinterested or lazy).

So really, I should be thankful that it snowed today, of all days.

I’m not, of course. But I should be.


4 responses »

  1. Steve says:

    Yay for you! My limited experience with the small claims court was similar: efficient and it had a happy ending 🙂

    I think the justice system can be intimidating and mysterious, but I’m glad to see that it seems that an average person can navigate it without a lawyer (or law degree). The law should be accessible to all.


    • RoC(k)r says:

      I think a lot of that intimidation comes from our misconceptions of what court is like – because of all the TV dramas we see. There’s really not much badgering of witnesses etc… in small claims. 🙂

  2. jandjsmum says:

    I know you aren’t a reality TV fan, but have you ever watched “Parking Wars”. Its stinkin’ funny watching people that park illegally get tickets and towed and the fights that they put up. Im glad your case was dismissed though. Johnny parked in a handicap spot once (I know that is bad, but their work parking lot has no parking at all, and he was going to be 10 minutes, so he gambled and lost) and he went to get his ticket reduced- it was $500 and he reduced to $300……which to me is ridiculous because parking in front of a fire hydrant is $50……REALLY? Which is more dangerous City- blocking a fire hydrant or taking up a handicap spot. Anyway, I digress. Good for you!

    • RoC(k)r says:

      Never watched it, but if fines are regularly $500 I can see why they’d be upset. There’s no call that a fine for parking in a handicap spot should be that high. MAYBE $120 … at most. It’s meant to be a deterrent – it’s not supposed to bankrupt you. People wouldn’t park there if they knew it might cost them $100 any more than they would if they knew it would cost $500. Unless they’re obscenely rich… and in that case, they’d likely have a driver anyway. Ridiculous!

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