Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation is formally live …

 

I would like to formally welcome you to the new website of Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation.  Please be patient as we perfect its transfer from TCS Paralegal into our combined efforts of myself – the new firm’s founding director, Angela L. Browne, and Bruce Parsons, an Associate, who is patiently showing me how to author on these sites.  Our firm is located in the heart of downtown St. Catharines, Ontario, and we operate across the Niagara Region (Welland, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls), Hamilton, Burlington, Milton, Cayuga and Brantford areas.  We now can offer an expanded array of services in the areas of small claims, employment, contractor law, landlord and tenant board, provincial offences, traffic tickets, minor criminal matters (for offences carrying a maximum jail sentence of six months or $5,000 in fines),  and regulatory issues (e.g. regulated health professions, school boards, college of trades, college of teachers).  We could also appeal your CPP, WSIB, EI and ODSP claims.  Find out more by calling us today at (905) 688-5598!

 

Major Announcement

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT – TCS Legal Services/Bruce Parsons has joined Browne and Associates Legal Services of St. Catharines, Ontario. You can expect the same great service, now expanded to include WSIB, Human Rights Tribunal and additional areas of Administrative Law and additional coverage/ administrative support is now available. 905.688.5598, ext 203. I look forward to continuing working with you and being able to provide assistance in even more areas of law! Brucehttps://www.facebook.com/legallyours/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

When you need help… thoughts on finding the right legal assistance

One thing we all struggle with when facing potential legal issues is defining that moment when we need professional assistance. When we seek assistance beyond ourselves, when we need another human being, we are vulnerable. So, frequently, we turn to those we trust most. Our family. Our friends. Our coworkers. People we already have share trust with. Emotionally, this is a safe decision. Intellectually, we know it is probably not the correct decision.

As technology advances and we become more and more specialized in what we do, it becomes maybe a little easier for each of us to understand the value of knowledge. Once Lawyers, Doctors and Judges were held in awe. Now we know that they merely hold knowledge the rest of us do not, and that knowledge has value. It allows the mechanic to fix our car, the hairdresser to cut our hair and the more important the issue is in our lives, the more important it becomes to obtain that knowledge.

Thankfully, we live in the age of information. At our fingertips, frequently in our pockets, we have computers capable of summoning vast stores of knowledge. And we can take our potential legal issue and look up what we believe are the relevant laws and find them, without issue. In a google search or two, we can receive all kind of advice on how to proceed. Some of it may sound helpful, some not at all. Some may be correct. And that is where we begin our journey, many of us, to wisdom. How do we know what’s right and what isn’t? Who would know? And that elephant in the room, what is this going to cost, can we afford it? Can we not afford it?

GOOD NEWS! finding out is NOT going to cost us anything. Depending on our issue, and our knowledge, we may already know the type of legal professional we need. If we have a matter with a tribunal, with Small Claims Court ($25,000.00 or under, not so small, I know!) with a Tenant or Landlord, with a Traffic Ticket or with your license, it is a paralegal that likely fits the bill for a free consultation. If it is a family law matter, a real estate matter or a will, we need a lawyer. Maybe we aren’t sure. So we can contact the Law Society of Upper Canada, where they run a free referral service that will assist. (https://www.lsuc.on.ca/lsrs/) First, they will figure out who we need, is it a lawyer or a paralegal? Then they will set us up with a recommendation for local service provider to give us a free twenty minute consultation. And, knowing who we need, paralegal or lawyer, we can phone around and arrange our own consultations as well. We can now find someone whom we feel comfortable with.

Elsewhere on this website there is an article about what to do to prepare for your consult, it is older but valid, regardless of your legal issue. The more prepared you are, the better the advice you can receive. You may need representation. You may only need some assistance. You may be fine acting on your own. It is important that you know, with certainty, what your legal rights and options are. You should NEVER feel pressured to sign up during an initial interview with a legal service provider, paralegal or lawyer. You should receive clear information on your rights and options. You should feel comfortable with your choice of legal representation, always.

Professionally, I operate in three advocacy areas. Small Claims, Landlord/Tenant, and Provincial Offences, primarily Highway Traffic Act matters, which folk generally think of as traffic tickets. I don’t cover all practice areas paralegals do, and I do not accept all clients within my chosen sphere, the fit has to be both ways. As I have practiced and grown in the profession, I find that a certain amount of emotional investment in my client’s situation works best for me. That’s a personal thing, it doesn’t show in correspondence or in court, but it helps me feel that I have accomplished something I believed in at the end of any given day. So I take those files I am comfortable with and pass on those I do not to my colleagues. Many of my colleagues feel professional detachment is important and this is a valid and, I believe, important position for legal professionals.

I do refer potential clients out to other paralegals and lawyers I know personally. I don’t take referral fees from those files, that, again is a personal thing. If I refer you, I think of you as my client and I am sending you to where I believe you will receive great service. Where I don’t have a personal referral, I direct clients to the Law Society referral service.

When should you choose to seek legal assistance? Early. As soon as you identify a potential problem. You can get a free consultation, most legal professionals will offer one. It is available through the Law Society Referral Service. Use it. Give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowledge. It is a gift beyond measure, and, truly, this is the age of information.

Insurance to be Checked in Real Time

In the past, the Ministry of Transportation has relied on proof of insurance, some stubs and information and they assumed you had valid insurance. Still, the number of suspected drivers without insurance has been on the rise and in an initiative with the Insurance Bureau of Canada the Ministry of Transportation is bringing the process of checking automobile insurance into the modern era.

The Uninsured Vehicles Project (UVP) began on November 29th , 2010 and now allows the Ministry to check your insurance electronically using the Vehicle Insurance Number (VIN) to make sure that the vehicle is registered with mandatory automobile insurance. Those drivers who are unable to show valid auto insurance will not be allowed to renew plates.

Perhaps just as importantly, the UVP is allowing the government to send notices to those drivers who have issues preemptively. Now, 120 days before your license renewal, the Ministry will send out what they are calling a 120 day letter which informs you that you have either insurance or VIN issues showing on their system. If you have no issues, you are not sent this letter although not receiving the letter is not a guarantee that everything is valid on the day you renew your plates. Individuals are still responsible for ensuring they are in compliance with Ministry requirements.

To renew your plates, all of the same information is still required – including proof of insurance.

The Ministry Announcement can be found here: http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2010/11/no-insurance-no-plate-renewal-1.html

P.S. – a conviction for No Insurance carries a minimum fine of $5,000.00 (plus substantial surcharges, equalling to 25% of the fine +$5.00 for court charges (6255 minimum) ) for a first offence and can carry a license suspension. We strongly recommend any individual charged with operate motor vehicle – no insurance or, permit drive motor vehicle – no insurance obtain legal advice at their earliest opportunity.

Editor’s Note: This article was first posted in 2010, shortly after this program began. It is reposted here, on our new site for your information.

Tougher Sanctions for Suspended Drivers


Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2010 regarding changes to the law regarding Drive Suspend. Since knowledge of all these things are still relevant and not known necessarily that well publicly, we’re re-posting it here from the old site.

As of December 1st 2010, the Ontario Government and the Ministry of Transportation have implemented another part of the Road Safety Act, 2009. This part of the Road Safety Act, has to do with the impounding of vehicles which are being driven by suspended drivers.

In short this portion of the Act gives the officer the authority to impound the vehicle on the spot if the driver is:
 Driving over the legal limit (.08) or failing and/or refusing to provide a breath sample
 Unpaid Family Support- Highway Traffic Act Suspension
 Driving without an Ignition Interlock Device when one is required
 Or if your license is suspended for Highway Traffic Offenses such as:
 Demerit Point suspensions
 Careless Driving, Stunt Driving, Driving while suspended,

A notable exception is that defaulted fines resulting in suspension will not lead to the impounding of a vehicle.

The impounding lasts for 7 days and is not appealable, This is part of the government’s policy that you are responsible for knowing the status of who is driving the car along with promoting their phone and internet ways to check the status of a driver’s license. The exception to this is that if a Police Officer may direct the release of the impounded motor vehicle before the 7 days are up if they believe the car was stolen at the time of it being driven.

In all cases, the owner of the car is responsible for paying the fees related the towing and storing of the car before it is released to them. The owner may attempt to recover the costs from the Driver via a court action if the Driver is not willing to pay for this. Exact methods of how impounding are handled for these vary on location as they are the responsibility of the police and not the Ministry of Transportation for 7 day suspensions (including Stunt Driving suspensions).

Large Commercial Vehicles (Those weighing over 3000 kilograms) are offered an alternative program. This alternative says that as long as the driver has not been suspended for 100 or more days, the vehicle will not be impounded, for Highway Traffic Act suspensions. This does not apply for suspensions of over 100 days, having a blood alcohol level of over .08 or lacking an ignition interlock device when one is required. In any circumstance the driver still faces all penalties for Driving Under Suspension and any other applicable charges and is not allowed to continue the trip.

The reasoning given for this is that 100 days is enough for business’ to conduct quarterly license reviews, the higher costs of towing a larger vehicle (estimated at 1200 to 1500 by the ministry), the number of passengers a bus may have, the issue with having trailers stranded and needing a new driver and vehicle to continue the trip. For those who do not meet the alternative programs restrictions, the vehicle will be impounded.

The Ministry of Transportation announcement can be read at http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2010/12/end-of-the-road-for-suspended-and-impaired-drivers.html.

P.S. A conviction for Driving Under Suspension carries a minimum fine of $1000 (in addition to substantial surcharges) for a first offence, and up to 6 months in jail. TCS strongly recommends any individual charged with Driving while driver’s licence suspended, seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity and not drive any more!

P.P.S. To find out if a person is suspended or not the MTO provides some tools:
– First you can call 1-900-565-6555 with the driver’s license and check. A charge of $2.50 will be added to your phone bill.
– Second you can check online at the MTO Website at $2.00 payable by credit card
– Last you can order a driver’s abstract either online or at a service ontario centre, though that option is normally only available for yourself. Read more about Drive Abstracts on the MTO Site here.

Fire Hydrants, Parking Tickets and You

CBC recently ran a story on fire hydrants and the parking tickets from them that are given out in Toronto. At $100 a ticket since 2008, Toronto has collected $24 million from people parking within 3 meters of a fire hydrant.

In particular one fire hydrant in Toronto has done its duty to help collect money for the city by providing more than $289 000 in fines since 2008. Situated near the downtown courthouse in Toronto, at a major intersection at 383 University Avenue, it’s been significantly more prolific in parking tickets for vehicles in front of it than any other place.

Parking tickets like this and other ones are given out under Part 2 of the Provincial Offenses Act. Part 2 tickets like this are essentially just a fine – you can protest them like others but there is less reason. Why, you may inquire? Because the main reasons to protest a ticket are insurance, driving record and demerit points – none of which apply to Part 2 offenses. Perhaps due to the fact they cannot confirm who was driving at the time, the penalty for these ones are limited to the fine that appears.

That said there is sometimes reason to file a Part 2 offense such as a Parking Ticket or even a Red Light Camera Ticket (which is a part 1 offense, though sharing many similarities in penalty). In many cases, the crown will offer a lesser amount on the fine to solve the matter and move onto other matters. Thus filing the ticket yourself if you have the time and desire can make some sense.

However it doesn’t particularly make sense to pay representation to contest a parking ticket in most cases as the reasons you would contest do not apply. There are some exceptions to even this though – in Hamilton we offer our Red Light Camera service for free where we will file your ticket and get you the reduced fine at no cost. In Toronto several agents fight parking tickets commonly and presumably at a cost efficient rate.

Other than our Red Light Camera program (which while not a parking ticket, has a similar consequence) we don’t fight parking tickets because it isn’t a good use of your time, or money. Paying us to fight a ticket would cost you money and all we could do is get some of the fine knocked down – or even get it gone but for something like $100 or $300, it is not worthwhile to pay us several hundred to go through fighting it given it has no effect on your insurance or driving record.

One last note regarding all of these tickets – they have to be paid when you renew your plates and/or val tags. If they are not paid, you have to pay them then or they will not allow you to renew them!

It can’t hurt to park safe – and especially away from fire hydrants!

Don Parsons
TCS Legal Services

The Magic G

Editor’s Note: This article was written a couple years ago to discuss the value of a G license as many people don’t realize the value it has compared to a G2. This still holds true today, and it required minimal updating for reposting. I hope you enjoy!

One of the most underrated things as far as driving goes in Ontario is that of a G license. Many people get their G1 or G2 and are happy driving on those not knowing the costs they cause themselves inadvertently. What can G do for you? Let’s see…

Lower Insurance Cost

Your insurance cost doesn’t start lowering in any real amount until you’ve got your G license. The G license tells the insurance company that you’ve complete road tests and are judged fully capable on the road so they start counting your safety rating from that time.
Higher Demerit Point Cap

No one wants to get demerit points and for the most part people aren’t given many tickets. Regardless though at some point everyone can bend a rule in an officer’s opinion or speeding or have your tires still moving at a stop sign… any of them get you some points.

On a G2 license you have a cap of 9 points, a letter from the ministry with any points and a meeting with the ministry at 6 points where you can be suspended. Compared to a G license – where you get a letter at 6, a meeting at 9 and a cap of 15 when you’re off the road.

Not only that, but with a G2 license, any ticket with 4 or more demerit points gets you an automatic suspension! No questions asked; it’s a 30 day suspension that arrives in the mail after you pay the ticket, compliments of the MTO. Any G2 driver should always consult TCS before paying a ticket.

Lifting of G2 License Restrictions

The G2 License has numerous restrictions on it to help make Ontario’s roads safer and to let drivers learn with lesser risk scenarios (or so goes the theory). Upon getting your G you are no longer required to follow these. The restrictions are:

  • Absolutely no alcohol in system – regardless of age
  • If you are 19 years old or younger, you no longer have restricted passengers between midnight and 5 a.m.

All of these are reasons to get your G license as quickly as you can – and we encourage you to help yourself, GET YOUR G.

Bruce Parsons
Paralegal
TCS Legal Services