Don't drive? Then don't pay that bylaw ticket

On Monday, city councillors are getting a report from staff to help them decide if two additional officers will help curb spitting, loitering and public urination in the dowtown core. But will their tickets mean anything?
Patrons linger around the Right House at Main and Hughson in the downtown core Wednesday. (Jeff Green/CBCHamilton)

If a municipal bylaw officer issues you a ticket, do you have to pay it? 

Not if you don't plan on driving any time soon. 

On Monday morning, Hamilton's task force for cleanliness and security in the downtown core will debate adding two extra officials to downtown patrols to curb municipal bylaw offences such as spitting, loitering, public drinking and urination. The proposal would mean adding one police officer and one bylaw enforcement officer.

But even with two extra officers, officials say the bylaw tickets may not mean much. According to police and the city, no one can make you pay for bylaw offences. You don't even have to provide photo ID. 

The only time a bylaw ticket will catch up to you is when you want to renew your driver's licence, said Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinning, spokesperson for Hamilton Police Service.

"Without a driver's licence, we don't have a mechanism to ensure compliance in the form of a payment," she said. "This has no bearing on whether the infraction is enforced or not. The payment portion will still remain on record, and if they were to apply for a driver's licence, they would have outstanding fines that would have to be paid prior to them being issued a licence."

"In the past, there was such thing as a committal warrants to ensure payment was made (or jail time was served)," she added. "This has been removed."

If police are issuing a bylaw offence, McGreal-Dinning said, "One must ID themselves to police in this case. This can be verbally as well."

The task force is not expected to make a final decision Monday, but rather to debate what's in a staff-prepared report.

Picture this: a person in the downtown core urinates on a wall.  A municipal bylaw officer issues them a ticket. They rip that ticket up. The bylaw officers issues a littering ticket. They can rip that up, too.

All of this can happen without penalty, as long as the person never planned on driving again. If they did, the pile of fines will be waiting to be paid before the person can get a driver's licence again.

If someone is stopped by municipal bylaw enforcement (MLE), they only need to verbally give a name and birthday, the city says. No photo ID is required. 

"A MLE Officer can request ID but it does not need to be provided," said Ann Lamanes, a spokesperson for the City of Hamilton. "Bylaw officers cannot arrest anyone or detain anyone for bylaw infractions."

"MLE officers can issue tickets as long as ID is provided verbally or documentation, we require name and birth date but not address."

The task force meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the council chambers at city hall.


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