YARMOUTH, N.S. – Yarmouth lawyer Phil Star couldn’t stand idly by and let a 75-year-old Lunenburg County man forfeit $237 for driving two kilometres over the speed limit.
So Star decided back in February to fight Milton Rhodenizer’s speeding conviction free of charge. Rhodenizer, a Midville Branch retiree surviving on a fixed income, found out on Tuesday, June 12, that the fine had been quashed thanks to his lawyer’s successful appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
“That’s a relief,” said Rhodenizer. “That’s money that I don’t have to spend. I’m retired and on a fixed income. You don’t have that kind of money just laying around to give them fellas.”
The pair, who had yet to meet, crossed paths shortly after Star learned of Rhodenizer’s February conviction in Bridgewater provincial court. Star’s main concern didn’t centre on whether Rhodenizer had been unfairly targeted by a Lunenburg RCMP officer while driving along Highway 103 last September. It was that Rhodenizer was never charged with speeding in the first place.
The RCMP officer who pulled Rhodenizer over charged him with violating the Move Over law, requiring drivers to slow down to 60 km/h when passing emergency vehicles with their emergency lights on.
Rhodenizer represented himself and beat the charge, arguing successfully he had no idea that he’d passed an unmarked police car on that sunny, September day. But instead of an outright acquittal, Judge Tim Landry handed Rhodenizer a speeding conviction because he’d been clocked going two kilometres over the posted 100 km/h speed limit.
“The problem was, that’s not the charge he went to court to defend,” said Star. “If they had charged him with speeding and proved that he was doing 102 km/h, despite the fact it’s only two kilometres per hour beyond the speed limit, and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge would have had to find him guilty.
“But we argued successfully that it was not open to the trial judge to find him guilty for another offence,” Star said. “Generally, you’re supposed to know the allegations you’re facing so you can prepare accordingly for court. But Milton wasn’t afforded that right.”
The Crown conceded to this and dropped the case soon after the Supreme Court approved Star’s appeal.
“Judge Landry is a very wise judge, someone I have a great deal of respect for. I just didn’t agree with his decision, didn’t think the decision was legally correct,” said Star. “Milton didn’t have legal representation, so I contacted him and offered my services for no fee whatsoever. I felt for him and I figured I’d give him a hand.”
Rhodenizer is glad that Star put in the effort and paid the roughly $400 in legal expenses out of pocket.
“He called me up and asked if I wanted him to take on my case for nothing and I said, ‘Sure I would,’” he said.
“A lot of people have been complaining about my case, but he was the only person that was willing to do something about it.”
Rhodenizer still remains perplexed about why he was in a courtroom in the first place.
“The whole thing was kind of ridiculous, but I’m glad it’s over.”
(Saltwire Network/Chronicle Herald)