Armed with time-dated video stills obtained from a third party, I'm looking forward to pulling a serious Perry Mason in court on the female bike cop who recently ticketed me.
On my big day in court, however, she doesn't show. And despite the fact that the charges are immediately withdrawn, I'm disappointed.
Apparently, it's very common for officers to fail to show. A Crown attorney tells me on condition of anonymity that traffic offence charges are withdrawn for this reason in "maybe 35 per cent (of cases) on average."
In the five days I spend in Old City Hall traffic courtroom B, charges are withdrawn in three out of every five cases I sit in on because officers didn't show up.
Getting the police department to explain why so many cops don't make it to court proves difficult. The sergeant in charge of scheduling for the force is - you guessed it - away on vacation for the next couple of weeks.
Of the handful of other officers I talk to at headquarters, most say the absenteeism has to do with scheduling or with police deciding to attend to other more pressing matters - but no one is willing to be quoted on this.
Some in policing reform circles have noted that the department could save itself a lot of money - $20 million a year, by one estimate - by turning over traffic enforcement to civilian members of the force. This would undoubtedly free up regular officers for those oft-mentioned more pressing police duties.
Police Association president Rick McIntosh acknowledges that officer absenteeism is an ongoing problem. "We're trying to get away from scheduling court time while officers are on duty. We need a certain number of officers on the streets. It's nothing a couple hundred more officers on the force wouldn't help," he says.
But he's not in favour of turning over traffic duties to his civilian brothers and sisters on the force.
"They don't have the training. You never know - you make a traffic stop on a drug dealer, and suddenly you've got people getting hurt."
Perhaps, but the Crown attorney I talk to offers another explanation.
"For some officers," he says, "testifying in court on a day off is their bread and butter." In fact, they're paid overtime to do so.
Other officers, however, "may not be too keen to drive in from Barrie on a day off to testify about a speeding ticket."
Crown prosecutors, meanwhile, seem eager to keep the wheels of justice turning in the absence of police. Those who preside in the dozens of cases I observe want to play "let's make a deal." A discretionary halving or considerable reduction of the fine is routinely applied.
Where multiple charges have been laid for traffic violations, prosecutors routinely drop some in exchange for one uncontested guilty plea. Speeds on speeding tickets are often reduced after a quick conversation with the prosecutor.
Joe Tierney, an ex-cop who now makes his living fighting traffic tickets as a paralegal, suggests that many of the defendants accepting deals from prosecutors are definitely "way further ahead by coming into court to fight, (but) still get burned" compared to what is possible when you know the ropes.
Agents of "beat your traffic ticket or it's free"-type companies know the terrain and how far a prosecutor can be pushed. Being a regular imparts a sense of the "market value" of negotiable items when bargaining down infractions. Knowing what charge can be substituted for a more serious one helps when dealing with a prosecutor.
According to a city prosecutor, "a 'fail to stop' can be negotiated to a 'fail to obey sign,'" which has no demerit points attached. Better deals are more readily available if you know what to ask for.
Prosecutors do not live and die by their conviction rates in what is arguably Canada's busiest court of law. Most prosecutors, claims Tierney, simply want to clear their case load and are happy to make deals.
George Bartlett, director of prosecutions for Old City Hall, concurs, adding that making deals for a guilty plea is "a well-accepted principle in prosecution and is definitely taken into consideration when looking at multiple charges. It saves court time."
If you don't feel like dishing out to hire a lawyer, agent or paralegal, there are Web sites and books that tell you exactly what to say and do to beat your ticket.
Bartlett says it doesn't bother him if more people fight their tickets. "I fully support the public's right to be informed and to defend themselves."
Besides, there's a very real chance that the testifying officer won't show.