What do speeding, littering on a beach, parking on the street during a snow storm, hunting while disqualified, creating a disturbance while on a trail, and being intoxicated in a public place have in common? If you do any of them, you might get a summary offence ticket.
This information is for adults (18 or over) who have a ticket. For information about youth tickets (under 18) visit www.nsjustice.com. This page gives legal information only, not legal advice.
Q - What is a summary offence ticket?
A summary offence ticket is one issued by a peace officer under Nova Scotia laws, such as the Motor Vehicle Act or the Liquor Control Act, or under some federal laws, such as the Canada Wildlife Act or National Parks Act. It is not a criminal charge. Examples of a summary offence ticket include a ticket for:
- operating an off-highway vehicle without a permit;
- parking on the street during a snow storm;
- littering on a beach or in a provincial park;
- constructing a building without a permit;
- being intoxicated in a public place; or
- having open liquor in your car.
Q - What is a traffic ticket?
Generally there are two types of traffic tickets. Provincial offences under the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act generally apply to a moving vehicle. Examples include speeding, failing to obey traffic signs and improper passing. A parking infraction notice is either a provincial Motor Vehicle Act offence or a municipal by-law offence involving parking violations, such as parking at an expired meter, parking on private property and parking during a restricted time period.
Q - What is a liquor violation ticket?
A liquor violation is an offence under the Nova Scotia Liquor Control Act. These offences include supplying alcohol to minors, public intoxication and having open liquor in a car.
Q - Do you have to give your name and address to the police officer writing the ticket?
Yes. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, you must give the officer your name and address, the name and address of the vehicle's owner, your driver's licence and the car registration. You should also show proof of insurance. If the officer is writing a ticket for a liquor violation you should give him or her your name and address. Click here to read more about "You and the Police".
Q - How do I dispute a ticket?
If you got a ticket before April 1 2011 and you want to dispute the ticket you must go to court on the date and time on the ticket and go in front of a judge or justice of the peace to plead not guilty. You will be given a trial date.
If you got a ticket on or after April 1 2011 and you want to dispute the ticket you must go in person to the court listed on your ticket, or to any Provincial Court, and speak with court staff to file a form called a Notice of Intention to appear in court. You have to do this before the due date given on the front of your ticket. Once you have filed the Notice of Intention form, court staff will notify you of your trial date. Go to www.nsjustice.com for more information.
On your trial date you must go to court and either present your own defence or have a lawyer represent you.
If you are defending yourself, take some time before your court date to decide what you are going to say and whether you have witnesses or other evidence to support your case. Think about what questions you want to ask witnesses. If you think that a witness might not turn up you should arrange with the court administration office to have them subpoenaed (ordered) to come to court. Do this well before your court date.
If the Crown has witnesses you will be able to ask them questions. This is called cross-examination.
You might want to attend court before your hearing date, just to watch some trials and get a feel for how the process works.
Click here to read 'Going to Provincial Court', which gives more information about preparing for a trial in Provincial Court.
Q - What if I need time to pay, or cannot pay the fine?
If you want to plead guilty to the offence, but make a submission to the court about the penalty (for example, ask for time to pay the fine), you must appear in court in front of a justice of the peace or judge. If you are convicted of the offence after a trial, you can make a submission to the justice of the peace or judge about the penalty when you are sentenced.
For example, you may ask the justice of the peace or judge
- for extra time to pay the fine, or
- to reduce the fine.
Nova Scotia's Remission of Penalties Act allows a judge to 'forgive' part or all of a provincial fine if the offender can show that he or she cannot reasonably afford to pay the fine. For example, if you and your family would suffer serious financial hardship if you are required to pay the fine.
You may qualify for the Fine Option Program. The Fine Option Program involves doing volunteer work to pay off a fine. The program is only available for certain types of offences. It is not available for Motor Vehicle Act offences. For more information about the Fine Option Program :
If you have unpaid motor vehicle fines you may be prevented from renewing your driver's licence and registration.
Go to www.nsjustice.com for more information, or contact your nearest Provincial Court by calling the Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1 877 445-4012.
Q - How do I pay the fine?
For information about fine payment:
- visit the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Online Services website at www.nsjustice.com, or
- call the Nova Scotia Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1-877-445-4012,
- go to any Provincial Court to make your payment. You will find Provincial Court contact information online at www.courts.ns.ca , or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of your telephone book.
Q - What happens if I don't pay the fine by the due date on my ticket, or don't show up in court on the required date?
If you do not pay your fine by the due date on your ticket, or you do not show up in court on your court date, you may be convicted of the offence without a hearing.
A judge might also issue a warrant for your arrest.
Contact the court as soon as possible if you are unable to go to court on the required date. Go to www.courts.ns.ca for Provincial Court locations, or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of the telephone book for court contact information.
Q - I was convicted because I did not pay the fine by the due date on my ticket, what can I do?
If you were convicted because you did not pay the fine in time, and you want to
- plead not guilty and have a trial, or
- plead guilty, and make a submission about the penalty,
you have 60 days from the date you were convicted to go to the court to speak with court staff and ask to have your conviction set aside (cancelled). You will then get a court date for your trial, or to make a submission about the penalty. This process applies to tickets given on or after April 1 2011.
See the next question if it has been more than 60 days since you were convicted.
Q - I was convicted because I did not show up in court on my trial date, what can I do?
If you were convicted because you did not show up in court on your trial date and you still want to have a trial, or plead guilty, but make a submission about the penalty, you must apply to court to appear in front of a justice of the peace or judge and show that you:
- have a defence to the offence you have been charged with
- have a reasonable excuse for not showing up on your trial date, and
- acted within a reasonable time
The same process applies if you were convicted because you did not pay your fine by the due date on your ticket, and it has been more than 60 days since the conviction. The process applies to tickets given on or after April 1 2011.
Contact the Provincial Court for more information.
Q - Is the ticket still valid if my name is wrong or other information is incorrect?
If information on the ticket is incorrect it doesn't mean that you can ignore the ticket. You will still have to go to court to plead not guilty.
A minor spelling or typographical error does not invalidate a ticket. However, if your name is seriously misspelled and this puts your identity into doubt, you may have grounds to challenge the ticket. Also, if the ticket contains incorrect information concerning the date and location of the offence, or does not adequately describe what you have been charged with, you may have grounds to challenge the ticket.
The information that the Crown Attorney presents to the court must be consistent with the information set out in the ticket. The prosecution may be allowed minor amendments to the information on the ticket. However, if the ticket is full of errors, it may not be accepted as reliable evidence.
Q - Is the ticket still valid if the police officer doesn't sign it?
When an officer gives you a provincial summary offence ticket, other than a parking infraction ticket, the officer will print his or her name on the portion that he or she gives you. Once the officer has given you your copy of the ticket, the officer will sign the affidavit of service at the bottom of the police and court copies. The affidavit states that the officer personally delivered the ticket to you (the Defendant). The court copy of the ticket will have the officer's signature, and will be used as proof of service (proof that the ticket was given to you) in court. Your copy would not have the officer's signature on it.
When issuing a parking infraction ticket, the officer must certify how the ticket was served and the date of service. The officer can complete the ticket and sign it by electronic means.
Q - Does the police officer have to give me a warning the first time?
No, the officer can give you a ticket if he or she has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that you committed the offence. There is no requirement that the officer give you a warning.
Q - If I get a ticket, do I have a criminal record?
You do not get a criminal record if you are convicted of an offence under a provincial or municipal law such as traffic or liquor offences, or parking violations. However, a record of convictions for summary ticket offences, such as traffic or liquor offences, may appear during a CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) or JEIN (Justice Enterprise Information Network) search. Although not a criminal record, this information can be used at sentencing if you are later convicted of other offences.
You only get a criminal record for conviction of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and certain other federal laws such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is what most people refer to as a Criminal Record - it is a record of convictions for criminal offences.
Q - Where can I get more information?
- review 'Going to Provincial Court', which provides an overview of the court process.
- your local Provincial Court can provide information about issues such as court scheduling and fine payment. Visit www.courts.ns.ca for Provincial Court contact information, or look under 'Courts' in the government blue pages of the telephone book
- call the Nova Scotia Provincial Court Contact Information Line at 1 877 445-4012
- Visit the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Online Services at www.nsjustice.com
- Call LISNS' Legal Information Line at 1 800 665-9779 or (902) 455-3135
If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer.