Montreal is a Snake Pit of Fines and Tickets

Whats your stupid ticket story?

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If you’ve lived in Montreal for any extent of time, you probably have a stupid ticket story. Maybe you’ve been ticketed for jaywalking near campus, targeted by STM agents, or received a questionable parking ticket. But no matter who you are or where you live, these stupid ticket stories unite us all as Montrealers. As much as we love Montreal, there is some child’s play that goes down in this city when it comes to ticketing. 

The other day I heard one of the more ridiculous ticketing stories to emerge from the Montreal Stupid Ticket Lexicon. My colleague Matthew called me to say that he had just gotten out of court where he had been contesting a parking ticket he’d received earlier this year.

Matthew, a single dad, was with his kids (ages 5 and 7) at the Jean-Brillant outdoor market in the summer. He only had to pop in to grab a few things, but being a parent, knowing what it's like to try to do any “quick and easy” errands with your kids, he knew it would take more than a hot second. So he put money in the meter, like a respectable law-abiding citizen. He came back a few minutes later, his kids growing increasingly fussy in the blazing sun, his hands full of strawberries and whatever else is good in the summer, fumbling with loading the trunk and strapping his kids into their carseats, meanwhile the meter is running down. 

Long story short: Just as the meter ran out, and Matthew was finishing up with his kids, he saw a hand emerge from a car window, slap a ticket on his dashboard and drive off.

As respectable law abiding citizens, we have the right to contest tickets- which is what Matthew decided to do, since the officer didn’t even get out of his car to issue the ticket so he had no fair way to explain his situation to the agent. When he was in court, contesting the ticket, Matthew explained to the judge that he understood the agent has a job to do, and that the meter had in fact run out. However, he argued, “I wasn’t going to leave my kids unattended in the car in order to go put more money in the meter when I was already leaving- thats crazy”. The judge replied, “I understand, I believe you, but you’re still guilty”. 

“It’s not about the money,” Matthew explained to me over the phone, “it’s the principle. They’re saying there is absolutely no grace period for leaving your parking space, so following that logic, you’re supposed to leave before your time has even run out.”

Here’s what gets me though: the ticket agent didn’t even get out of his car to issue the ticket.

“Maybe the agent didn’t see me,” Matthew sympathized, “because my car is quite tall, and if I’m standing loading my kids on the sidewalk, maybe you can’t see my from the inside of a car on the street.” All this is to say that if part of the ticket agent’s job is to assess the situation, the agent should be required to get out of his vehicle to distribute the ticket so that he can actually see whats going on. Like, what if one of his kids was being violently ill? He would still be expected to prioritize leaving his parking spot? Come on. 

It seems to me, that the whole reason we are given the right to contest these tickets is in the event of extenuating circumstances and unfair judgements. However, if a judge can stand by and say that despite acknowledging the particular difficulty of the situation- a single parent trying to wrangle his kids, groceries etc- the ticket stands, it defeats the purpose of having these contention courts in the first place. Sometimes situations emerge that aren’t so black and white, and it takes a human perspective to reevaluate the circumstances. But whats the point if you’re faced with an unmoving institutionalized perspective even after you’ve gone through the lengthly contention process?

Let us know your stupid ticket stories- if we can’t beat ‘em, at least we can commiserate about ‘em and know that we’re all in this ticket crapshoot together. 

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