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Going to court... 

What grounds are there to fight a photo radar ticket?
This is the most important information on this page:
Photo radar has a legislated presumption of accuracy -- the justice must assume that the equipment is functioning accurately unless you provide evidence to the contrary (that is: contrary to the evidence of the Crown). This evidence must be credible -- that credibility will likely rest upon your credibility. The evidence must be founded on something concrete, and not be fanciful or mere belief. And, there must be more than a possibility that something went wrong -- the alleged event/error must be plausible (1 in a million won't work, 1 in 10 might). General attacks on the equipment do not work.

Unless you are very, very lucky, you will not win by using the following types of statements or defences in court:

NEW!From our observations in court, the most successful defences generally fall into the following categories:
  1. Defence of Necessity
    • "circumstances of imminent risk where the action was taken to avoid a direct and immediate peril."
    • For example: medical emergency, avoiding an impending collision, etc.
    • The accused has to establish three elements: imminent peril, no reasonable legal alternative, and proportionality.
  2. Defence of Due Diligence
    • In lending the vehicle to another person, the owner "exercised all reasonable care by establishing a proper system to prevent commission of the offence."
    • See our page "preventing tickets" for detailed information.
  3. Vehicle was stolen / driver not entrusted
    • Under section 83.1(3)(a) "the person who was, at the time of the contravention, in possession of the motor vehicle was not entrusted by the owner with possession"
    • If your car was stolen or used without your express or implied consent.
    • If there is implied consent, this will probably not work (e.g. a pattern of allowing the driver to use your car without express consent).
  4. Unreasonable Delay
    • Section 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that "Any person charged with an offence has the right [...] to be tried within a reasonable time."
    • There are not specific time frames, but around 16 months from the filing of the dispute to the first hearing seems to be frequently used in BC traffic cases. Delays caused by the accused (e.g. adjournments) count against you. Delays of the system and failure to serve you notice within a reasonable time period count in your favour. See under the heading "Constitutional Issues" below.
  5. Evidence to the Contrary -- you must raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the justice, through credible evidence, not mere speculation.
    • For example: a specific recollection that at the time of the alleged offence, the accused was travelling at or below the posted speed limit (all the highlighted elements are essential).
    • "...generally involves the defendant asking the trier of fact to take a view of some component(s) of the photographic evidence found in the captured image which contradict the evidence in the data line, or certificates. It may also take the form of direct evidence to establish a discrepancy relating to date, time, or location of the alleged violation."
    • "circumstantial evidence must not only be consistent with proving the accused has committed the offence, but must also not be inconsistent with any other rational explanation." (Wild v. The Queen (1970) 4 CCC 40 (SCC)).
    • Must be based upon something concrete, not mere belief or something fanciful. For example:
      • "I know that I was travelling at 48 km/h when I went through the camera." -- strong.
      • "I believe that I was travelling at about 48 km/h when I went through the camera." -- weak.
  6. Insufficient Evidence
    • For example: a defect in the certificates:
      • Licence plate in photograph does not match licence plate charged in certificate.
      • Discrepancies between the three certificates and/or the photograph may break the link with the alleged registered owner of the speeding vehicle.
    • For example: a defect in the photograph:
      • Crown has failed to establish identity beyond a reasonable doubt because the numbers/letters on the license plate in the photograph are indistinct or subject to alternative interpretation.
      • The photograph shows other vehicles proceeding in the same direction as the alleged speeding vehicle, thereby raising a doubt as to which vehicle produced the speed reading.
      • "The relative darkness and/or poor quality of the photograph may create a reasonable doubt that the identifiable vehicle in the captured image is the actual source of the speed reading. A person may actually lose the opportunity to observe other visual cues such as weather, location, driver or number of occupants in the vehicle, etc. This may impair their ability to make full answer and defence to the charge."
  7. Registered Owner not Owner on date of offenceNEW!
    • Under section 83.1(5)(b) "the registered owner is not the owner"
    • If ICBC records incorrectly identify you as the registered owner.

Listed below are a number of possible approaches to challenging a photo radar ticket. SENSE will be testing a number of defences (including several not listed for strategic reasons). However, without the evidence to the contrary, you'll be wasting everyone's time by simply fishing for a defence. If you got what you are asking for, could you interpret it? Would you need expensive expert witnesses to make your case?

People have won simply by credibly stating that at the stated time of the alleged offence, they were driving the vehicle elsewhere, but not anywhere near the location of the photo radar. Was the clock wrong on the photo radar van? Perhaps. Others have won because they credibly recalled to the court that they saw the van before passing it and ensured that they were travelling at the posted speed limit (and their speedometer was reliable). Did another vehicle or some malfunction cause the picture to be taken? Perhaps.

Before you get to court, you might want to check out some of these resources:

Case Law
If you plan to challenge the ticket with some specific defences, you may need to be familiar with the case law.

Before going to court...
Before going to court, request that the Crown provide to you copies of the particulars (the certificates and any other evidence or case law which will be used against you in your case). Review the particulars carefully before going to court -- check for mistakes, transpositions, and that they were certified. If you find an error, do not inform the Crown, but object to the forms only when introduced in the court.
Photo Radar Crown Counsel
(If the appropriate number is long distance, call Enquiry BC to be call-transferred toll-free)
Region Office Address Contact
Vancouver, Richmond,
North Vancouver,
Squamish, Sechelt
moved Photo Radar Clerk
604-660-4347 Fax
Burnaby, Maple Ridge,
Mission, Port Coquitlam
6263 Deer Lake Avenue
Burnaby, BC  V5G 3Z8
Photo Radar Clerk
604-660-1485 Fax
Surrey, Abbotsford, Delta,
Chilliwack, Hope, Langley,
New Westminster
14340 57th Avenue
Surrey, BC  V3X 1B2
Photo Radar Clerk
604-572-2398 Fax
Vancouver Island 137 850 Burdett Ave
Victoria, BC  V8W 1B4
Photo Radar Clerk
250-387-2828 Fax
Interior 401 - 455 Columbia Street
Kamloops, BC  V2C 6K4
Photo Radar Clerk
250-828-4080 Fax
Northern 462 - 1011 4th Avenue
Prince George, BC  V2L 3H9
Photo Radar Clerk
250-565-6058 Fax

In the court...
If you plan to challenge any of the information contained in the certificates, you might want to request that the presence of the police officer, enforcement officer, photograph processor, etc. You have the right to cross examine the officer under MVA section 83.2 (4), but you will be challenged by the Crown to produce a valid reason why the officer should be called to court. Generally, you should be asking a question which is not answered in the certificates, raise a "live issue", or provide some "evidence to the contrary". If you succeed, another court date will be set for the attendance of the officer, etc. Some examples of questions are: However, the following general attacks will usually not work:

A few words to the wise:

What to look for...
How does the photo radar law work?
In British Columbia, photo radar tickets are issued under the Motor Vehicle Act, and disputes of traffic tickets are handled under the Offence Act. The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations describe requirements generally of the motor vehicle such as: turn signal specifications, minimum and maximum light bulb wattage, size of highway signs, etc.

Note: as of April 21, 1997, the statutes of British Columbia have been consolidated. This means that the section numbers have changed. For instance, speeding against a highway sign was Section 151(3), but is now Section 146(3). You can cross-reference sections using the Table of Concordance if required.

In order to bring in photo radar, the Motor Vehicle Act and Offence Act have been substantially amended through Bills introduced in the Provincial Legislature since early 1995.

SENSE has hyper-linked the specific photo radar legislation for your review, and included some other relevant sections:

  • Motor Vehicle Act - certificates and owner's liability for tickets (sections 82-83.2 [was 75, 76, 76.1, 76.2])
  • Motor Vehicle Act - speeding offences (sections 138-148 [was 143-5, 151, 152, 152.1])
  • Offence Act - disputing tickets (sections 14-16 [was 14, 14.1, 14.2])
  • We have attempted to accurately list all the current photo radar legislation, but amendments can be enacted at any time..

    Printed copies of the Motor Vehicle Act, Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, and Offence Act are available in most library reference sections, or for purchase through the offices of the Queens Printer (currently about $9.10, $16.50, and $8.15 respectively plus GST).

    What is the law on obscuring my licence plate?
    This section has been moved here.

    What causes a licence to be suspended?
    SENSE occasionally receives enquiries from drivers who are threatened with licence suspension by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. This problem particularly affects drivers who spent a lot of time on the road (in other words, high "exposure" to tickets). Typically, these drivers have full Roadstar discounts and have not had an accident for years, if ever. Good drivers who have a bad couple of years can quickly find themselves with a threatening letter, and also find themselves caught between bureaucracies more intent on appearing to help traffic safety than actually doing so.

    The criteria provided to SENSE is:

  • 9 points in 2 years: warning letter
  • 15 points in 2 years: 6 month probation
    • while on probation:
      • 1 offence: 2 months prohibition
      • 2 offences: ~4 months prohibition
    If you feel that you are being treated unreasonably, you can appeal to the Superintendent and we would suggest that you get your MLA involved. SENSE can't do much to directly assist you, but we are interested in the details if you are treated unreasonably.

     Rev: 2000.05.26 contact SENSEtext map of SENSE web siteback to SENSE home pageback to top of this page