It is possible to get a ticket even if a police officer didn’t see you commit a driving infraction? (Submitted)

Column Drivesmart: Investigating complaints when officer didn’t see offence

“The officer wasn’t even there! How can they issue a ticket?”

By Tim Schewe

“The officer wasn’t even there! How can they issue a ticket to me based only on the word of the other driver?”

A question similar to this one is posted in the DriveSmartBC Discussion Forum fairly often and its author seems to be completely surprised that something like this could happen. It’s possible, but the procedure is not that simple.

First of all, anyone may make a complaint about someone’s driving to the police and expect to have it investigated and dealt with. The first step in the investigation was for me to attend and speak personally with the complainant. I would listen to the circumstances to see if there was enough information to satisfy me that an offence had in fact occurred.

At minimum, the licence plate number of the offending vehicle was needed, but any other details to identify the vehicle and driver were welcome.

If the complainant was willing to attend court as a witness I would take as detailed a written statement from them as I could. This statement was necessary to preserve evidence and could be used by the complainant to refresh their memory of the event if the ticket was disputed and they had to testify.

I would also take statements from any other witnesses that were present if they could be identified.

The content of the statement, but not the identity of the witness, could also be disclosed to the accused driver if an application was made in preparation for a dispute.

My next step was to determine who the registered owner of the suspect vehicle was. A check of the ICBC licence plate database furnished the name and address I required along with a description of the vehicle. I made sure that the vehicle described in the statement matched what I found here.

A personal visit to the registered owner would be made. When advised that their vehicle had been involved in a breach of the Motor Vehicle Act or Regulations, it is the responsibility of the owner (and any passenger in the vehicle at the time) to identify the driver. This is one reason that you must exercise care when you loan your vehicle to someone else. “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” leaves the investigator with no option other than to ticket the owner as they are responsible for its use, even if they are not the driver.

Generally at this point I now had a driver that could be interviewed.

I now had to make a decision based on all the evidence that I was able to gather. If there was a clear offence and I issued a ticket, could I successfully conduct a trial that would result in a conviction?

If so, I would write the driver or registered owner a violation ticket. If not, it was time to conclude my investigation and move on.

Either way, I would advise the original complainant what had happened.

In my experience, it was not common for the suspect driver to dispute the ticket. When they did and the ticket proceeded to a trial I was never unsuccessful with the prosecution. I think that this had less to do with my skill as a prosecutor and more to do with the significance of the offence committed.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Wilkinson column: It’s not too early to reflect

It’s time for the next great migration! A migration back out of the house. To ‘somewhat normal’.

Cowichan residents invited to join Walk for Alzheimer’s online

Taking place on Sunday, May 31, the online event will start at 9 a.m.

Duncan Lanes bowlers take on the best in B.C.

The best results for the Cowichan Valley bowlers came in the intermediate girls division

Sonia Furstenau column: Now the time to make changes for the better

This coronavirus has given us opportunity to identify what matters most in our day-to-day lives.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

Most Read