Toronto man fights $85 traffic ticket for 2 years
Tanvir Islam, 34, is adamant that he broke no laws and claims he’s fighting the traffic ticket on “principle and integrity,” refusing to plead guilty.
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It’s the $85 question that has trundled into provincial court and transfixed the passions of a Toronto law student for almost two years — did he or did he not stop at an Etobicoke stop sign on the night of Nov. 12, 2014?
Tanvir Islam, 34, is adamant that he broke no laws and claims he’s fighting the traffic ticket on “principle and integrity,” refusing to plead guilty to a lesser offence or accept a lower fine.
At the same time, Islam contends that his drawn-out case is an ugly example of a court system that’s wasting time and money pushing back against his assertion of innocence on an $85 traffic ticket.
“They’re in control of what matters (cases) they want to litigate,” Islam told the Star this week.
“It’s a gong show gone wild.”
To hear Islam recount this story is to hear of a man claiming to take on an “outrageous” and obstinate court process. He claims he’s been told by the ticketing officer and Crown prosecutors that a dashboard camera from a police cruiser shows him committing the $85 offence — stopping his car improperly at a stop sign. But despite multiple requests for the Crown to disclose the video, which Isam says have been made orally in court and in writing, no video has been produced.
“I am extremely confident that this video will exonerate me,” Islam said.
Dennis Morris, a Toronto defence lawyer who once represented former Mayor Rob Ford, said he knows Islam and has given him some advice on the case. “A lot of times these things go on and on and on,” he said. “You can imagine he’s spent countless hours on this.”
The ticket saga began just days after the alleged traffic offence, in November 2014. Islam said he applied in writing to appeal the ticket in court and also filled out a form requesting disclosure of the dashcam video.
He didn’t hear anything for about a year, he said. The matter resurfaced when he went to renew his driver’s licence and was told he had an outstanding conviction and fine, he said. Shocked, Islam said he filled out a one-page application to get the matter reopened, which he said was approved by a Justice of the Peace, who set a trial date for Feb. 4, 2016.
Islam said he asked for the disclosure of the video that day and was told by the Crown lawyer — who spoke with the ticketing officer, who Islam said was in court for every hearing up until that point — that they would produce it for him. The matter was adjourned until May, he said.
In the meantime, after speaking with lawyers that he knows, Islam said he went to the Crown office at the courthouse, to see if they would toss out the ticket. They wouldn’t, but said he could plead guilty to a lesser offence, and Islam said he refused. “I’m not going to plead guilty for something I didn’t do,” he said.
The case proceeded. In May, Islam said he filed a Charter application to have the case thrown out because of unreasonable delay — an argument which has gained prominence after a Supreme Court ruling in July capped provincial court cases with an 18-month limit, barring convincing justification for the delay. Islam said the case was again adjourned because he was arguing that he was told he could see the dashcam video, and now the Crown wouldn’t give it to him. Islam said the justice of the peace wanted transcripts from the previous hearing, but there were none. The case was put over again, he said.
On Monday, there was another hearing, to discuss the unreasonable delay application and another that Islam said he filed: abuse of process for the lack of video disclosure. But another issue came up, he said. Islam used a website, GetFreeFax.com, that emailed his affidavit and court files to the Crown fax machine. The issue, as Islam explained it, was whether this is a legitimate way to submit documents to the court.
The judge adjourned the case again to deliberate on this, and the next date is scheduled for late January 2017, Islam said. “It’s completely ridiculous.”
Toronto Police Service spokesperson Mark Pugash declined to comment on the case Wednesday. “There are a number of key uncertainties that remain about this, not least whether Mr. Islam filed his documents correctly,” he said.
In an email, City of Toronto spokesperson John Gosgnach said about 55 per cent of traffic tickets given out in the city are contested. Of those, about one third are resolved without a trial, usually through an “early resolution” meeting with a prosecutor, where the ticket is amended or withdrawn, Gosgnach said.
“A prosecutor is not concerned about having a ticket paid, but rather in addressing conduct which is in breach of the regulations for the road which have been put in place by the legislature for the orderly flow of traffic and the safety of the public,” he wrote, on behalf of the city’s legal services department.
“Where there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe an offence has been committed a prosecutor has an obligation to put the case before the court.”
Islam, meanwhile, claims the government is wasting money and that the video should prove his innocence. But why not just pay the 85 bucks and get it over with?
“Out of integrity, out of principle, but most importantly to hold the state accountable for their assertions,” he said. “This would amount to a potential wrongful conviction.”
He said he’ll be in court again Jan. 26.