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Provincial Offences Act

The Provincial Offences Act is a "regulatory" law passed for the safety, health or well-being of the community. [1] Regulatory offences that are "everyday matters" are enforced under this act in a less formal manner than crimes (murder, assault, robbery, and all the other serious offences which are handled under the Canadian Criminal Code).

That's why provincial courts are a lot less formal than what you see on TV. Traffic courts are not like criminal courts. Criminal courts have judges who have been to law school. Traffic courts have justices. It is extremely rare that either the prosecutor or justice are lawyers and usually they have never had any formal legal training.

There are three different types of offences under the Provincial Offences Act.

  • Part 1 Traffic Tickets (where an officer stops you and hands you a ticket, no arrest)
  • Part 2 Parking Tickets (where a ticket is left on your windshield)
  • Part 3 Serious Offences (you are issued a summons to appear in court, you may be arrested)

For charges under Part 1 you request a trial at any Provincial Offences Office. The maximum fine you face is $1,000. More details can be found in the fines section and information on how to reduce the fine can be found in Step 5: Sentencing.

For charges under Part 2 you must go to the municipal parking tag office in your city to request a trial. The fine you face is the set fine written on your ticket and cannot be greater than $1,000.

Part 3 charges require you to appear in court. Obviously you don't need to request a trial because you are going to court anyway. Penalties under this section are far more severe and may include incarceration (prison).

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1. Note that there is an emphasis on "community". When you go to court many of the arguments you make will be about the community's interests: is it in the interest of the community to charge you or even try the matter. Under sentencing, the justice must consider the community's interest when deciding whether to give you a harsh penalty.