How To Dispute A Traffic Fine
If you have been a licenced driver in New South Wales for any length of time, chances are that you have had to deal with a traffic fine at some stage. Unfortunately, traffic fines are a part of life for motorists as governments use them to change driver behaviour and address “black spots” on our roads.
However, the first thought of every driver upon receiving one of these fines is to consider whether the fine can be challenged in order to avoid having to pay. In New South Wales, there are a complex set of rules and options that we can help you pursue if you decide to contest a traffic fine. Here is a brief overview.
What is a Traffic Fine?
Generally, contestable fines are those that arise from speeding offences and traffic violations. These include speeding and red light offences detected by a camera or police officer, mobile phone use while driving, as well as seat belt, L and P-plate, and bus lane offences.
Driving an unregistered vehicle, not being able to produce a licence, and toll road offences are also covered by “traffic fines”.
Can I Challenge Any Fine?
The short answer is no. The legislation that is enforced by the NSW State Debt Recovery Office does allow for leniency and special circumstances to be taken into account in some very limited instances. But for some offences, we have what is called a mandatory sentencing regime, which means there is no “wiggle room” at all.
For example, if a driver is caught over 30 km/h over the speed limit, their licence is automatically suspended. Similarly, any P1 or L-plate drivers caught over the speed limit by any margin will have their licence suspended for a minimum of three months.
What Options Do I Have?
If you do not fall into the above categories, then you can pursue two options: a review or a court hearing.
Review – you can request a review if you believe there is a genuine error made about your offence or if there are special circumstances that you believe should mean you are treated leniently.
Decided in Court – alternatively, you can seek to have the matter decided in court in front of a magistrate, but if you do this you cannot also request a review. Keep in mind the time, cost and complexity of the court process when considering this option.
There are three results that can arise from a review or court date. The penalty may stand, meaning it is proven and must be paid. The penalty may be downgraded to a caution without a fine and/or demerit points based on your special circumstances and evidence provided. Finally, the penalty may be cancelled entirely, although this is very rare.
It is important to remember that “special circumstances” and “genuine error” are legal definitions with particular meanings given to them by the courts, so it is a good idea to seek legal advice before going down this road.
With our experience and knowledge in the area of traffic fines, we can advise you on the best course of action specific to your circumstances and help you through this process.
1. Speeding, Traffic and Other Offences. State Debt Recovery Office. Available at http://www.sdro.nsw.gov.au/lib/docs/misc/br_001.pdf
2. Request a Review. Available at http://www.sdro.nsw.gov.au/fines/pn/review.php
3. Go to Court. Available at http://www.sdro.nsw.gov.au/fines/pn/court.php
4. Request a Review. Available at http://www.sdro.nsw.gov.au/fines/pn/review.php