Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and self-isolation are not only buzzwords, they are our new reality. But as society struggles to adapt, many people have posed questions about what ‘social distancing’ really means. Do you have legal obligations to maintain a safe social distance? What happens if you fail to do so? Let’s explore some of these questions.
Can I actually get a ticket for not keeping my distance from another person?
You can receive a ticket for not maintaining at least six feet (or approximately two meters) of distance between yourself and another individual. The City of Vancouver recently passed a motion to allow fining individuals up to $1000 for not abiding by the Public Health Order. Businesses have an even greater liability and can receive fines up to $50,000.
Do I have to remain socially distant from my partner or children?
You do not have to remain socially distant from the people who reside in your household or your immediate family. The order for social distancing applies to those outside of your immediate family and/or household.
I read online that police and bylaw officers are not issuing tickets, so can I ignore the social distancing order and go on with my life?
The Vancouver Police Department has taken a lenient approach to social distancing orders so far. It has said that it is not a top priority for their officers to be searching parks and other public areas, looking for people violating the social distancing order. They have also been quick to quash the rumour about issuing tickets to people in vehicles who are not from the same household.
However, despite this being a low-grade priority for the VPD at this time, it does not mean that you can ignore the order.
Bylaw officers are out and about. They are the authority tasked with enforcing social distancing orders and issuing tickets. This means that you can and may receive a ticket for ignoring the order, and as discussed above, your ticket could carry a hefty fine of up to $1000.
I have been given a ticket for violating the social distancing order, what can I do?
Not unlike a Violation Ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act for something like speeding or the use of an electronic device while driving, you have the right to dispute your ticket.
In the event that you do receive a ticket for violating the social distancing order, you only have 14 days to dispute it. This is a significantly shorter period of time to dispute in comparison to the 30 days you have to dispute a Violation Ticket.
How do I dispute the ticket that I received for violating the social distancing order?
To dispute a ticket of this kind, you can send a Notice of Dispute letter in the mail. The letter is sent to the address that is written on the back of the ticket.
Once the Notice of Dispute letter is received and processed, you will eventually receive a letter in return which will include a court date. You must attend this court date in person, or retain a lawyer, to appear for you in court.
The court date is your opportunity to dispute the allegation of violating the social distancing order in front of a Judicial Justice of the Peace (JJP).
What happens if I miss my court date?
If you do not attend your court date, the ticket will be treated as not having been disputed, and you will be deemed to have pleaded guilty to the offence charged; the fine will be payable immediately.
If you have missed your court date, or are unable to attend the court date given to you, you should contact our office, the Sarah Leamon Law Group, at 604 900 9211, to see if we can help you schedule a new court date for the ticket.
Do I need a lawyer to dispute the ticket and represent me in court?
Similar to Violation Tickets, many individuals find that having a lawyer represent them in court is very beneficial to their case.
Going to court can be intimidating; some people often find speaking to the officer who issued you the ticket to be quite stressful. The courtroom can also be an emotional place for those who have been issued a ticket – emotions can run high. In these instances, it is often favourable to have a lawyer represent you, and present your case to the court calmly.
I have more questions about tickets, how can I contact you?
At Sarah Leamon Law Group we are available to speak with you 24/7 about any matters that you may be facing, such as Social Distancing Tickets, Violation Tickets, or if you are facing criminal charges. We can be reached by phone or email.
Authors: Laura Cheevers and Sarah Leamon