More than half of COVID-19 violation tickets being disputed in B.C. courts
VANCOUVER -- As of Jan. 30, police, bylaw officers and other enforcement agencies in B.C. had issued 377 COVID-19 violation tickets worth $352,000. But only 12 per cent of people who’ve been ticketed have paid the fine. Fifty-two per cent have chosen to dispute the ticket in court.
“I think a lot of people who’ve been defying these orders, if they are guilty, it’s because they don’t believe the law is valid or the law is just,” said Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee. “And so it makes sense to me they have a natural inclination to want to dispute the ticket, potentially to challenge the law.”
If COVID-19 fines for infractions like breaking quarantine or hosting an illegal gathering aren’t paid within 30 days, they go to collections, unless the alleged offender chooses to dispute the ticket.
“Some people may be thinking, ‘You know what? I’m going to delay this or put this off, see what happens with this legislation down the road before I pay it and am deemed guilty of the offence,” said lawyer Sarah Leamon.
While legal arguments about COVID-19 fines have already failed in other provinces, Lee believes some of the people disputing tickets think it could go the other way in B.C.
“Obviously, every province has different laws and so there are going to be unique issues that are going to have to be decided in British Columbia,” said Lee.
A favourable court ruling on a single ticket could set a precedent.
“If there is a constitutional challenge to this legislation, it will first of all move slowly and secondly be very likely to impact all or the vast majority of these tickets that have been issued,” said Leamon.
But Lee is skeptical a judge would issue a ruling that would lead to all COVID-19 violation tickets being tossed.
“I don’t think the orders will be struck down or the orders will be found to be unconstitutional,” she said. “So, while we may see some people successful in their disputes, I think anybody who has hope there’s going to be a mass decision that cancels all of them is probably hoping for something (that has a) pretty slim chance of happening.”