Government introduces amendments to simplify and streamline how minor offences are enforced
Bill 9 proposes two sets of amendments that would make the enforcement of provincial laws and municipal bylaws more effective, efficient and proportionate.
One set of amendments in an Act to Modernize Enforcement of Provincial Offences would, if passed, end the practice of issuing warrants for unpaid fines for minor infractions such as not shoveling a sidewalk or not paying a transit fare. Instead, these infractions would be enforced using other civil measures, including restriction of motor vehicle registry services, filing writs against property, and garnisheeing wages, bank accounts, income tax refunds and GST rebates.
These proposed changes would free up police, court and correctional resources to focus on serious crime while still holding those who commit minor infractions to account.
“Our government is committed to finding efficiencies that will help address the challenges of these fiscal times to ensure stability for key public services. It makes sense to stop issuing warrants for unpaid fines for vulnerable people who, in the past, have ended up in jail—potentially putting their safety at risk, perpetuating a cycle of incarceration and poverty, and working against our goals to create a safer community for everyone.”
“The introduction of Bill 9 will allow police to free up officers and civilian staff to focus on predators and serious criminal offenders. As a result of modernized technology and this new approach, a significant reduction in administrative processes and paperwork is expected.”
It is estimated that court staff spend 9,000 hours each year processing warrants for minor infractions. Thousands of additional hours are also spent by other justice system partners, including justices, judges, police and corrections dealing with these warrants. The issuing, managing and executing of warrants for minor infractions is a costly, labour-intensive process that is not effective in holding offenders to account, ensuring compliance with the law or reducing repeat infractions.
“At the John Howard Society we see many people who are caught up in a cycle of poverty and incarceration and often their stories started with unpaid fines and other minor administration of justice issues. We truly feel that these amendments will help to break this cycle, ultimately saving taxpayers money while at the same time enhancing community safety.”
Bill 9 also introduces an amendment that would help modernize how tickets are processed, making it easier to use electronic tickets in place of paper tickets. This proposed change would streamline the ticket processing steps for police to allow them to file tickets electronically with the courts rather than in paper form. Individuals who are issued a ticket would still receive a paper copy. If Bill 9 is passed, the benefits of electronic tickets include fewer ticket errors, faster filing, improved service for Albertans, lower costs and the elimination of redundant data entry for police and court staff.
The amendments would not change the standard for charging someone with an offence or create new opportunities to issue tickets. Officers would still be required to have reasonable grounds to believe an offence was committed in order to issue a violation ticket. Other provinces, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, have implemented a similar process.
The amendments in An Act to Modernize Enforcement of Provincial Offences amend the Provincial Offences Procedure Act and the Traffic Safety Act.