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By Hailey Burkitt

The Criminal Codes states clearly in section 19 that “ignorance of the law by a person who commits an offence is not an excuse for committing that offence.” Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46.

However “ticket traps”, specifically fire hydrants placed far from the curb, tucked away as to make it difficult to see, have created a new issue. Is ignorance of fact still ignorance of the law?

These “ticket traps” in Toronto have been catching media attention as a Lawyer, Robert Holland, stands up to the injustice. The hard-to-see-hydrant on the East side of University Avenue, North of Queen Street, has generated over $280,000 in ticket fines between 2008 and 2013. The curb in question remains unmarked to this day and unknowing citizens are getting caught in the ticket traps.

The defence is that the hydrant is unseen and unknown. Being so far from the curb, obstacles like snow piles and pedestrians make the hydrants even harder to see. Without any signs or markers identifying the area, there is little way of knowing the hydrant is there at all. It is in fact, a trap.

It is no longer ignorance of the law but instead ignorance of fact. Applying the reasonable person test it would be determined that a reasonable, law abiding citizen, that knows and obeys the laws around parking in front of hydrants may unknowingly break the law. This does not mean they are unaware of the law, simply unaware of the fact the hydrant is there.

An arguably unknown “taxi stand” downtown Peterborough creates a similar problem. The City of Peterborough’s City Parking By-Law 09-136 states that there is no stopping from the South curb line of King Street to the North curb line of Sherbrook Street between midnight and 3:00am. The only exemption is for taxi cabs and the only nights it is applicable are Friday to Sunday. Tickets for this offence are $30.00 each.

Where is the ticket trap near you?