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Case Study

The defendant, a 32 year old construction worker, ran a stop sign. He did not slow down, he just drove through the intersection. The police officer testified he estimated the vehicle speed at about 40km/h. It was dusk, clear visibility and a debris free, dry road. The officer was specifically stationed at that intersection to watch for people running the stop sign. The construction worker was returning from a new job site that day and was unfamiliar with the road. He stated that he did not see the stop sign.

Avoid the Obvious

Running a stop sign is a straightforward conviction. The only way to defend against it is to change the rules, alter the perspective, switch the assumptions, and create a situation that favours you, not the Crown.

At first glance, this appears to be a slam-dunk for the prosecution. But with a change of perspective, it is anything but.

Request Disclosure

The defence requested disclosure. Specifically they were expecting the officer's notes, where he was positioned, the number of tickets he wrote for stop sign infractions at that intersection, and the by-law creating the stop sign.

Establish A Strict Liability Offence

The defence made a motion prior to trial for the court's opinion on the type of offence the charge falls under. They cited R. v. Locke, 2007 and R. v. Kanda, 2008 in support of their position that the charge is a strict liability offence subject to a due diligence defence.

Get Them to Support Your Case

At trial, the following exchange occurred during the cross-examination of the police officer:

Q.  Was the vehicle speeding when it went though the stop sign?

A.  No. The speed limit is 50 km/h and the vehicle was going about 40 km/h

Q.  And there was good visibility and dry roads?

A.  Yes.

Q.  So the vehicle was traveling slower than the speed limit and slower than would be allowed for the road conditions?

A.  Yes.

Q.  Did the vehicle slow down at the stop sign?

A.  No.

Q.  It drove through as if the driver was oblivious to the sign?

A.  Yes.

Q.  Why were you there?

A.  To enforce the stop sign at that intersection.

Q.  Why that intersection?

A.  There has been a problem with people running the stop sign at that intersection.

Q.  The intersection where the offence allegedly occured was a four-way intersection with stop signs for every direction of approaching traffic. The stop signs are no longer there and have been replaced by a traffic light, is that correct?

A.  Yes.

Mount a Due Diligence Defence

The defendant provided a due diligence defence, stating that he always stops at stop signs. As this was an unfamiliar road, he was taking extra care by traveling well below the speed limit. Had he seen the sign, he would have stopped.

He pointed out that the road curved and the stop sign was located at the end of the curve. Motorists did not have good visibility of the sign and definitely not the required 60m as per section 45 of Regulation 615. There was no evidence that the sign was visible from 60 metres away, the officer only testified that there was no immediate obstruction to the sign like a tree or shrub.

The fact that the officer was specifically stationed there, admitted that many people were not stopping at the sign and the fact that it was replaced by a traffic light suggest that the sign was not erected properly. Why would everyone choose to ignore this particular stop sign and not others in the area?

The sign's visibility is the real issue and a cautionary warning sign "STOP AHEAD" should have been placed before the curve to warn motorists that they were approaching a stop sign.

Drivers should not be punished for poor stop sign construction. The defendant is morally innocent of the charge. It was never his intention to run a stop sign. He was exhibiting due care and attention as he was driving. As this is a strict liability offence, the court should find the defendant not guilty.

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