Traffic offences are a complex and often complicated area of law in Victoria, as the offences can be very serious and have significant penalties. Slades & Parsons can answer your questions on these offences and help you navigate the process.
Traffic laws are in place to ensure the safety of road users and pedestrians. If you contravene a traffic law this is a traffic offence.
Traffic offences are a complex and often complicated area of law in Victoria, as the offences can be very serious and have significant penalties. Many offences are enforced through a driver having the onus to disprove allegations (for example an owner of a vehicle may have an obligation to nominate a driver).
Traffic offences can include traffic collisions, speeding, driving in a manner that has caused serious injury or death to another person, or infringement enforcement orders that may have accumulated significant penalties.
Traffic offences span from road safety offences and minor traffic offences to offences that contravene the Crimes Act and include reckless conduct endangering serious injury, reckless conduct endangering life, dangerous driving causing serious injury or death and culpable driving.
Some minor traffic offences may include speeding slightly over the limit or using a mobile phone whilst driving. These offences are ordinarily not heard in Court but people can elect to do so if they are challenging the penalty.
Offences that automatically go to court and are considered as serious include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving disqualified
- Driving without a licence
- Speeding in a level that is significantly over the limit
- Failure to stop
Traffic offences heard in the higher courts include driving in a manner that has resulted in the serious injury or death of another person.
All traffic matters can be heard in a court if a person elects to do so.
Ordinarily not all traffic offences go to court, however, there are many offences under the Road Safety Act that attract terms of imprisonment or mandatory loss of licence. These matters are heard in court before a Magistrate.
Victoria Legal Aid does not fund legal representation for any offences under the Road Safety Act. However, many Road Safety Act offences can attract terms of imprisonment or mandatory licence loss. The Court considers those to have a poor driving history as serious matters and can impose substantial fines, Community Correction Orders or imprisonment.
All offences under the Crimes Act (for example, dangerous driving causing serious injury) will be disclosed on your criminal record. Further, there are many offences that can be disclosed on your Criminal History that are lower level offences including driving disqualified or driving carelessly.
Further, if your matter is heard in Court then it will be disclosed on your Criminal Record. This is important because if an offence that is not ordinarily heard in court has been elected to be heard in court by the person, any finding of guilt or resolution will then appear on their criminal history.
Further, there is a driving record that is a separate criminal history. The offences that are recorded on your prior traffic history include:
- Offences that attract demerit point loss
- Driving offences where you were found guilty by a court
- Offences that have resulted in a loss of licence that may not have been heard before a court (for example driving with alcohol in system or speeding)
- Traffic camera offences
- Failure to stop (at the scene of a collision or on direction from a police officer)
Criminal and traffic priors can be disclosed in criminal record checks by employers to potential employees.
Many offences attract mandatory license loss and judicial officers have the discretion to disqualify or cancel licenses.
VicRoads ordinarily manages the relicensing requirements and therefore any person who has undergone a license suspension, disqualification or cancellation must attend VicRoads to be advised of their requirements to be re-licensed.
For those who have had their license suspended due to alcohol or drug use there are obligations to complete courses and then make an application to the court, before a Magistrate, to obtain a licence. This may also include a period of an alcohol interlock.
Further, some people may complete the suspension period of a court-imposed disqualification but then have demerit point loss of licence come into force. Therefore, it is essential that enquiries are made with VicRoads prior to driving.
The penalties vary depending on the reading on your prior driving history and when the offending occurred. If you have relevant prior offences, the mandatory loss periods increase.
Currently, the mandatory minimum license disqualification is 6 months for any reading above 0.05% or 0.0% for drivers that are not fully licensed. Any subsequent offending within a ten-year period will have that figure at least doubled.
Higher readings also result in further mandatory license disqualification limits.
Further, if the reading is BAC 0.10 or more your car can be impounded.
The Magistrate can extend the disqualification period if the driving behaviour was also dangerous.
Once the period of disqualification has elapsed, VicRoads will advise drivers of any further steps or courses they must complete. This includes attending Court and making an application for an alcohol interlock.
Minor traffic offences are dealt with by way of immediate fine and are served on people either directly by a police officer or in the mail. Minor traffic offences may include:
- Traffic camera offences
- Driving whilst using a hand-held telephone
- Driving without a seat belt
- Using a push bike without a helmet
If a matter is being heard in Court, it is not considered to be a minor offence. This is especially in circumstances of driving in breach of court orders.
It is important to consider that whilst some traffic offences may appear minor (for example CityLink fines), if not paid in a timely manner they can accumulate and receive further penalties. People may have accumulated fines to the value of thousands of dollars and have their matters listed before the Infringement Court.
To find out whether fines have lapsed and are in the Infringement Court, contact should be made to Fines Victoria. If a person’s fines have reached a high value, it is important to contact a legal representative to consider options, as some infringement matters can result in terms of imprisonment for otherwise minor offences.