Many traffic infringements are summary offences, which are less serious than a crime and are dealt with by a Magistrates Court. If you’re caught breaching one of these laws, you will likely be issued with a fine and may be allocated a number of demerit points.
Any offences you have committed relating to speeding fines, road rules, drink driving under the influence (DUI), dangerous driving or vehicle registration are recorded in your traffic history.
Once you’ve accumulated a certain number of demerit points, your drivers licence will be suspended for a specified period of time depending on what type of drivers licence you hold, as follows:
Learner Drivers Licence
If 4 or more points recorded within 1 year period: 3 month drivers licence suspension.
Provisional Drivers Licence
If 4 or more points recorded within 1 year period: Choice of 3 month drivers licence suspension or 1 year good behaviour bond*
Open Drivers Licence
If 12 or more points recorded within 3 year period: Choice of drivers licence suspension or 1 year good behaviour bond*
*During a good behaviour bond, you cannot accumulate more than 1 demerit point. Two or more demerit points during this period will result in double the suspension time that would have otherwise applied if you had taken the initial suspension.
Certain offences attract an instant drivers licence suspension, such as driving 40km/h over the speed limit.
Can I dispute a traffic infringement notice?
If you receive a fine for an offence that you did not commit, you can either:
- transfer the infringement to another drivers licence holder, or
- dispute the fine in court.
The reverse side of the infringement notice provides a Statutory Declaration for you to complete if you wish to transfer the infringement notice and fine to another driver. This must be signed by a lawyer, Justice of Peace, Notary Public or Commissioner for Declarations.
Alternatively, you may dispute an infringement notice and elect to have the matter heard in court by filling out the Election for Court section on the reverse of the notice. You will receive a complaint and summons once your court date has been scheduled. At the court hearing, the prosecution will be required to present to the court evidence they are relying on to charge you. You are assumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If you can successfully cast doubt over the credibility or accuracy of that evidence, you may be successful in convincing the court to revoke the charges and acquit you.
If you wish to challenge an infringement, do not pay the fine as you will be deemed to have admitted committing the offence.
Should I dispute a traffic infringement notice?
There is generally no point objecting to a traffic infringement notice unless:
- you are sure you did not commit the offence;
- the police failed to follow proper procedural requirements;
- there is a major defect in the infringement notice; or
- your lawyer is confident they can get you off on a technicality.
Most people only dispute a traffic infringement notice in court if the stakes are high and they are at risk of losing their drivers licence or having to pay a hefty fine.
Often, it will only be possible for a lawyer to assess the prospects of your case once they have seen the complaint and summons documents, which are only issued once you have objected to the notice. Therefore, a lawyer may be limited as to how they can assist you until you decide whether or not you want to dispute the notice.
The cost of fighting a fine must always be weighed up against the cost of simply paying the fine.
If you do decide to dispute a fine, it is advisable to see a lawyer who specialises in traffic offences.
Can I apply to continue driving if my drivers licence is suspended?
If being unable to drive would result in extreme economic hardship for you and your family or some other form of severe hardship, you may have grounds to apply for a Special Hardship Order.
A Special Hardship Order allows you to continue driving during a suspension period under certain conditions. An application must be made within 21 days of the start of the suspension period and you will need to provide evidence to prove the grounds on which you are claiming hardship and pay an application fee.
Serious Traffic Offences
Some serious traffic offences are dealt with under criminal law, including:
- dangerous driving
- some drink driving offences
- driving causing serious injury or death
- driving while disqualified.
These matters will require you to appear before a Magistrate or Judge and may attract harsh penalties including a prison sentence and will appear on your criminal record.
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