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A driving offence occurs when someone driving a vehicle, or someone in a vehicle, breaks a law. These days, there are numerous charges and offences that can lead to a loss of a licence. The Court is of the view that possessing a licence is a privilege and not a right.
If you have been charged with a Traffic Law matter, you may be in danger of losing your licence. Traffic law covers all driving offences including driving while your licence is cancelled, driving while your licence is suspended or driving while unlicensed. It also covers RMS Licence Appeals.
Many driving offences are known as ‘strict liability’ offences. This means the prosecutor must prove that you committed the offence, but does not need to prove that you meant to break the law.
Traffic Law covers a wide range of matters involving:
- Speeding Offences
- Negligent & Dangerous Driving
- Drive While Suspended
- Drive While Disqualified
- Drive While Unlicensed
- Drive Unregistered Vehicle
- Street Racing & Burnouts
- RMS Licence Appeals for p-Platers
- Police Pursuits
- Demerit Points
- Licence & Speeding Appeals
- Habitual Offender Declarations
- Drink Driving
- Drug Driving / DUI
- Refusing to undergo a breath test
Do You Have A Defence?
A defence is an explanation or reason that suggests you should not be found guilty of a charge. It may be a denial that you did what the prosecutor says you did or you had an excuse. For example:
- That the driving offence was the result of an accident and you didn’t mean to do it.
- You took all reasonable action that you could to avoid committing the offence.
- Honest and reasonable mistake of fact – that you mistakenly believed that you were not committing an offence.
- Necessity or Duress – you had to drive because it was an emergency situation, or someone was forcing you.
For certain speeding offences, you will receive an immediate suspension. If you have been charged with exceeding the speed limit by 30 km/h you will be suspended for 3 months and if you exceed the speed limit by 45 km/h you will receive a 6 months suspension. The Court has the power to reduce these periods in certain circumstances on appeal.
Traffic Offender Programs (TOP)
The Traffic Offender Programs (TOP) is a course that can help you avoid a licence suspension or disqualification. Its purpose is to re-educate drivers on the dangers of speeding and erratic driving. There are a numerous TOPs in operation and people are generally referred to the programs before being sentenced. A successful completion of TOP can help you achieve a much better result when your matter is finalised in court.
Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 allows a court that finds you guilty of a traffic offence to discharge you without recording a conviction. If you are granted a Section 10, you will not receive any demerit points and should be able to avoid a suspension or disqualification.
LODGING AN APPEAL
You can appeal to the local court against a licence suspension if you are suspended:
- For speeding more than 30 kmh over the speed limit
- For speeding more than 45 kmh over the speed limit
- On the spot by a police officer
- For loss of P-Plate or L-Plate licence for demerit points
On your appeal, the Court will consider whether:
- You are of good character
- You need your licence for work or family reasons
- There is some other good reason that the court should overturn the suspension.
If you need your licence for work or for family reasons, the following is helpful:
- A letter from your employer explaining what work you do and why you need your licence
- A medical certificate or doctor’s letter if you need your licence because you are someone’s carer
- Evidence of lack of access to public transport, distance between your home and your children’s school or child care
LICENCE APPEALS FOR P-PLATERS
1. If you admit the offence and pay the fine, you will receive a letter from the RMS advising you of your suspension date and period. The letter also explains your appeal rights.
2. Take the letter with you to your nearest Local Court Registry and tell the counter staff you want to lodge an appeal.
3. You will be given a court date, usually a few weeks after you lodge the appeal.
4. At the first court date, inform the Court you want an adjournment so you can complete a Traffic Offenders Intervention Program (TOP) course –
5. Your matter will be adjourned for about 9 weeks.
6. During the adjournment, obtain 2/3 character references attesting to your good character and need for a licence. They should be addressed to “The Presiding Magistrate” and must state the writer is aware of your offence.
7. When your matter goes back to court, after you have completed TOIP, give your references to the Magistrate. He/She will ask you what you learnt at TOIP and why you need your licence.
8. The Court can then either:
a) Allow your appeal (you keep your licence)
b) Disallow your appeal (you will be suspended for the time set by the RMS)
c) Reduce the suspension period in any way it sees fit.
Traffic Law is a complicated and ever changing area of law that requires proper representation from a lawyer that can explain your rights in detail.
For more information contact Newcastle Courts Lawyers to arrange a free first consultation.
TRAFFIC LAW LINKS
Traffic Offenders Program (TOP)
GENERAL DRIVING OFFENCES
DEMERIT POINTS (RMS)
HABITUAL TRAFFIC OFFENDER DECLARATION