First Attendance

Some jurisdictions require a First Attendance meeting prior to scheduling a trial. The point of this is to reduce the backlog of cases before the courts. If they can get a settlement (your money) without a trial, this is much easier on them, not you.

The prosecutor will try to convince you to hand over your money. They will try to intimidate you. They will explain in great detail how you have no hope of winning and how they can easily convict you. They may make you beg for the "privilege" of pleading guilty to a lesser offence or they will "generously" offer you a reduced charge.

Your stomach may not be able to take this. This session may be really hard on you. You will be nervous; you will feel intimidated. It will be very tempting to accept a lesser charge or a lower fine. It will bring quick relief to something that is hanging over your head.

Don't fall for this ploy. Any conviction will raise your insurance rates, not just demerit points. Once you get a conviction, you have to live with it: insurance companies look at convictions (regardless of demerit points) for five to ten years.

A simple $60 traffic ticket could produce an insurance increase of $100 to $500 a year. Over five or ten years, your "reduced" charge could end up costing thousands of dollars.

We Win or It's Free

Too often people hire traffic ticket companies to fight their ticket. These companies used to offer a "we win or you don't pay" policy. They defined "win" as any reduction or change in the ticket like a reduction in demerit points or a lesser fine.

You ended up paying the fine, paying the company to represent you and paying higher insurance for the next several years. That was a very expensive "win".

When Ontario paralegals became licensed in 2008, the law prohibited offering a money back guarantee. Now you no longer "win", you just end up pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

What these companies do is the exact same thing as what the prosecutor is offering you in a First Attendance meeting. In fact, if your city doesn't have a First Attendance, you can arrange a meeting with the prosecutor prior to your court date to negotiate a resolution. The contact information is on your notice of trial.

You should only consider a settlement after receiving disclosure (see step 4). You want to see if there is enough evidence against you before pleading guilty to anything. If the evidence is flimsy, why should you plead guilty when you have an excellent chance of being found innocent?

Is It Worth It?

Is pleading guilty to a lesser charge worth it? This is something you will have to decide. If you are afraid of losing, if the charge or fine reduction is acceptable to you, if multiple charges are dropped for lesser ones, or if you just want the whole thing to be over, a settlement may be right for you.

If you decide to plead guilty to something, try and get a charge that is a non-moving violation which won't affect your insurance. No seatbelt as a passenger, red light camera tickets and expensive parking violations like parking in a fire route, in front of a fire hydrant or no stopping or standing charges do not affect your driving record.

These types of charges offer a trade-off. The city gets to collect a hefty fine from you, but you will avoid the insurance implications which is the real benefit.

Agreement Reached

If you and the prosecutor come to a resolution about what you are going to plead guilty to, it is still not over. A prosecutor cannot withdraw a charge, reduce a charge or convict you. You must appear before a justice since the charge is with the provincial court not the prosecutor who works at the municipality.

For an explanation of what happens next, please see the trial section, Guilty Plea Procedure.

No Resolution

If you and the prosecutor cannot come to an agreement, you still have options. The obvious one is to request a trial if you haven't done so already. At your trial you can meet with (most likely) a different prosecutor before court starts and try to negotiate again. You will have gone through one negotiation session already and will have more confidence. You may also get a nicer prosecutor.

Another option is to still request a trial but then also try and meet with another prosecutor before the court date. You may get lucky and get one who is more receptive to you. You may also wish to try some of the arguments under the sentencing section which may help you reduce the charge or fine.

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