Lippa's client avoids jail time, large fines
An Ontario judge acquitted a man of three driving-related offences that carried large fines and potential jail time under the Highway Traffic Act and Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act after Toronto paralegal Marian Lippa represented the man on appeal.
“He was facing jail time because of the driving under suspension charge and would have to pay thousands in fines — in addition, insurance companies would never have insured him again,” Lippa tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“The implications of being convicted of these offences would have been horrendous.”
The man was facing one charge under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act — driving under suspension, which carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and possible jail time. He was also facing two charges under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act — operating a vehicle without insurance (carries a fine of $5,000) and surrendering false evidence of insurance (carries a fine of $5,000).
Lippa, a Law Society of Upper Canada bencher, says her client attended court for his first appearance on traffic charges but was told the court didn’t have the Information on the charges. The court told him he was free to go and that the court could relay the charges and he would be notified.
“But unbeknownst to him, the court found the Information about two weeks later and officially processed the charges,” Lippa explains. “The court was supposed to issue a bench summons but it wasn't served. The court went ahead and set a trial date and then he was convicted on the three charges in absentia.”
Lippa says, "It appears no one at the court realized that he hadn’t been served and he was convicted when he didn’t turn up to court for trial."
Lippa says the basis of the appeal was that the court lost jurisdiction because the Crown failed to issue a new Information after the court didn't process the charges for the man's first appearance.
She was prepared to rely on s. 485 of the Criminal Code — a section on procedure irregularities — to argue the jurisdiction issue.
“The Provincial Offences Act (POA) — under which the Highway Traffic Act and Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act fall — imports the Criminal Code provisions when the POA is silent on an issue,” she says.
Lippa was successful in getting the man acquitted of the three charges on March 17.
“He was so relieved,” she says of her client. “He always intended to defend himself — that’s why he went to court for his first appearance.”
Lippa says a "key lesson arose out of this case that just because a client’s Information is not before the court and they tell him to go home, it’s important to always call the court to find out if something has happened since — in case the Information is walked back into court without the client knowing."