There are hundreds of traffic offences that apply to NSW road users, and most drivers in NSW will have at least one on their record at some point in time. This section will provide details of how the process surrounding minor traffic offences and what consequences can flow from these offences.
What constitutes a Minor Traffic Offences?
Minor traffic offences are generally offences where the penalty is a fine and the imposition of demerit points. They are generally dealt with by way of a penalty notice or infringement notice issued by the Police or the RMS. If you wish to have your matter dealt with by the Local Court, you have to make an election once you receive the penalty notice. Otherwise, you can pay the fine and the RMS will record the demerit points, if any, that the offence carries. Most minor traffic offences can be found in the Road Rules 2014 (NSW).
The consequences of minor traffic offences
The main issue with minor traffic offences is the accumulation of them over a period of time. If you are a fully licenced driver and you accumulate 13 or more demerit points within a three year period, the RMS will suspend your licence for at least 3 months unless you elect to take a good behaviour licence for a period of one year. If you incur 2 or more demerit points while on the good behaviour licence, your licence will be suspended for double the time of what the initial suspension would have been. You must keep in mind that if you pay the fine on a penalty notice, then the RMS will record the demerit points. The only way to ensure that you do not lose any demerit points is to elect to have the offence dealt with in the Local Court and either be found not guilty of the offence or plead guilty and receive a non-conviction order such as a dismissal or a Conditional Release Order.
Possible defences for a Minor Traffic Offence
Depending on the circumstances of your offending, you may be able to argue that you did not commit the offence you are charged with at all, i.e. that you weren’t speeding, that you did not drive through a red light. There are also some defences that apply generally to most minor traffic offences.
Honest and Reasonable Mistake of Fact
If this issue is raised, it will be for the police to prove that the offence was not committed while operating under an honest and reasonable mistake of fact. For example if you have been charged with a speeding offence, and you raise the issue that you believed you were travelling under the speed limit, it will be for the police to prove that you did not honestly and reasonably believe you were travelling under the speed limit. This issue may arise if your speedometer was defective in some way. However, you cannot argue that you believed the speed limit was higher than it actually was on the road you were apprehended on. This is considered to be a mistake of law, and a mistake as to the law is no excuse.
Accident or Unavoidable Result
It is also a defence to an offence arising under the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) if you can establish that the offence was committed as a result of an accident, or could not have been avoided by any reasonable efforts on the your part.
Penalties for Minor Traffic Offences in NSW
The penalties for minor traffic offences are extremely varied. The fine you will receive with a penalty or infringement notice is set by the legislation. If you elect to take your matter to court, this fine can be varied, and you will expose yourself to the maximum fine applicable to the offence. If you elect to take you matter to court and receive a non-conviction conditional release order or dismissal, no fine will be imposed upon you and will not receive any demerit points.
If you are approaching the demerit point limit for your licence and have committed a driving offence, or you have committed a driving offence while on a good behaviour licence, the only way you can avoid a suspension is to elect to take the offence to court. However, just because you elect to take your matter to court does not mean you will be successful in receiving a non-conviction. The court will consider your prior driving record, the circumstances of your offending, your need for a licence, your character and any other matters it considers relevant. It is highly recommended you engage a criminal defence lawyer to advise you on your prospects if you decide to take your matter to court.
Book a Free Consultation for a Minor Traffic Offence charge
First Offence Legal employs numerous solicitors with extensive experience and expertise in defending minor traffic matters, from clients who wish to plead not guilty to those hoping to keep their licence as their demerit points limit will be exceeded. Successfully being able to keep your licence is far from guaranteed, but First Offence Legal can put you in the best position to get the result you need, from providing advice to representing you at the final court hearing.
If you or anyone you know has received a penalty notice for a traffic offence and you wish to know what to do next, do not hesitate to contact us at First Offence Legal.
Remember, you should always make First Offence Legal your first defence.