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Traffic Offences Explained

Traffic offences explained

If you are faced with a traffic offence, there’s an enormous amount of information to get your head around, and losing your licence could impact your life greatly.

Here we cover a range of offences and information on penalties.

Demerit points

Your drivers licence has a certain number of points attached to it. If you accumulate that number of demerit points within a three year period your licence is suspended.

  • Learners have 4 points.
  • Provisional P1 drivers have 4 points.
  • Provisional P2 drivers have 7 points.
  • Unrestricted drivers have 13 points.
  • Professional drivers (bus, taxi, hire car or truck driver) have 14 points.

Serious speeding offences

A person may be disqualified from driving or have their licence suspended for:

  • driving more than 45 kilometres per hour above the speed limit (a six month suspension)
  • driving more than 30 kilometres per hour but less than 45 kilometres per hour above the speed limit (a three month suspension).

Speeding offences also carry demerit points, which are added to a person’s record. If these demerits reach or exceed a licence holder’s threshold, an additional suspension or refusal period may apply.

Vehicles can be detected speeding in New South Wales by fixed speed cameras, mobile speed cameras and police officers.

Suspension

Once your licence points are exhausted, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) sends a Notice of Suspension.

Unrestricted licence holders are suspended depending on the number of demerits:

  • 13-15 points lost will mean a three month suspension.
  • 16-19 points lost will mean a four month suspension.
  • 20+ points lost will mean a five month suspension.

Immediate suspension

Police can immediately suspend and confiscate your licence for these offences:

  • a serious driving offence causing death or grievous bodily harm
  • speeding in excess of 45 kilometres per hour over the speed limit
  • middle or high-range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) or other serious alcohol-related offences
  • speeding in excess of 30 kilometres per hour over the speed limit on a learner or provisional licence
  • driving unaccompanied by a supervising driver while on a learner licence
  • street racing
  • an aggravated burnout (note: this offence can apply to someone who isn’t the driver but willingly participates in hoon activity or who photographs, films, organises or promotes it).

Police can suspend and confiscate a licence on the spot or within 48 hours of a person being charged or issued a penalty notice. Often this means the driver must arrange for their vehicle to be collected by someone else.

If a person is charged by police with one of these offences the suspension will remain in place until the offence is heard by a court. If a driver is convicted and disqualified by the court, the court may take into account the period already served under suspension.

Camera-detected excessive speed offences are not included in the immediate licence suspension scheme. However the RMS may apply a suspension following payment of the penalty notice.

Refusal of a licence

A person who exceeds their threshold of demerit points or commits a serious speeding offence may be formally refused a licence. This will happen when that person attends a registry or service centre and applies for a licence or to have their licence renewed.

Learners and P1 licences

Any speeding offence will result in a learner driver losing their licence for three months and being fined. This is because the minimum number of demerit points for a speeding offence committed by a learner is four, which is the total number of points on learner and P1 licences.

For learners and P1 drivers higher levels of speeding incurs instant suspension. An additional three month suspension applies for exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 kilometres per hour and an additional six-month suspension for more than 45 kilometres per hour.

Police can also suspend and confiscate a licence at the roadside if a learner is driving without a supervisor.

A learner driver has the right to appeal in the Local Court if their licence is suspended or refused.

Drive while disqualified

Heavy penalties including a prison sentence and disqualification from driving may be imposed by a court if a person is convicted of driving without a licence due to suspension or refusal. If you are unsure whether you’re allowed to drive you should check with your lawyer or the RMS.

Good behaviour period

Unrestricted licence holders who receive a Notice of Suspension due to the accumulation of demerit points can apply for a 12 month good behaviour period instead of serving the suspension. This option is not available to provisional or learner licence holders or anyone already serving a good behaviour period.

If you elect a good behaviour period you must do this before the suspension begins otherwise it will be enforced. The relevant legislation does not give the RMS the discretion to reissue the suspension notice with a new date or to change a suspension to good behaviour once the suspension period starts.

If you accumulate two or more demerit points while serving a good behaviour period, your licence will be suspended for double the original suspension.

Appeals

You can appeal to the Local Court against a licence suspension:

  • for speeding more than 30 kilometres per hour over the speed limit
  • for speeding more than 45 kilometres per hour over the speed limit
  • if a police officer issued the penalty on the spot
  • if you are a provisional or learner licence holder and accumulated too many demerits.

However you can only appeal if you receive a letter from the RMS that states you have the right to appeal.

How to appeal

There are two ways you can appeal:

  1. Pay the penalty notice, wait for a letter from the RMS warning of the impending suspension, then lodge an appeal within 28 days. You can lodge online via this link or in person at a NSW local court. You must pay a fee when lodging the appeal. If the appeal is done this way, the court has the power to reduce the suspension from three or six months to one day.
  2. Fill out the back of the ticket and elect to have the matter heard by a court. We advise caution appealing this way because it gives the court only two options:

Conviction results in a mandatory three month disqualification for exceeding the speed limit by 30 kilometres per hour, or six months for more than 45 kilometres per hour. The court does not have the power to reduce these periods of disqualification.

Dismissal under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act. The licence will not be disqualified, however the RMS has the discretion to continue the suspension regardless of a successful section 10.

Penalties if convicted by a court

Exceed speed limit byLight vehicles – court maximum fineHeavy vehicles – court maximum fineLicence disqualification
Not more than 10 km/h$2,200$2,200
More than 10 km/h but not more than 20 km/h$2,200$2,200
More than 20 km/h but not more than 30 km/h$2,200$2,200
More than 30 km/h but not more than 45 km/h$2,200$2,2003 months (minimum)
More than 45 km/h$2,530$3,7406 months (minimum)

 

Increased traffic offender penalties

Some licence holders must re-sit and pass the Driver Knowledge Test before they are allowed to continue driving:

  • unrestricted licence holders who exceed their demerit points twice within five years, who must also complete a driver education course such as the Traffic Offender Intervention Program at their own cost
  • provisional licence holders who twice exceed their demerit point limit
  • drivers convicted of two drink driving offences in a five year period.

Habitual offenders (people who repeatedly commit serious offences)

A driver who is found guilty of three serious offences within five years is declared a habitual offender and will be disqualified from driving for five years, unless a court rules otherwise (there is a minimum of two years). This period is in addition to any disqualification resulting from the third serious offence.

Important details about habitual offending:

  • The court may order a longer period of disqualification, including disqualification for life.
  • There is no right of appeal against an additional disqualification period imposed for being declared a habitual traffic offender.
  • At or after the time of conviction the court may quash the declaration if it determines the disqualification is disproportionate and unjust in light of the person’s total driving record, or other special circumstances.

Examples of serious offences under the Road Transport Act 2013:

  • where a vehicle is involved in the crime of murder or manslaughter or another offence under the Crimes Act 1900
  • driving at a dangerous speed or in a dangerous manner
  • driving recklessly, at speed or in a dangerous manner while engaged in a police pursuit
  • furious driving, reckless driving or menacing driving
  • negligent driving where death or grievous bodily harm is occasioned
  • drink and drug driving offences
  • failing to stop and give assistance in an accident involving death or injury
  • driving whilst disqualified, cancelled, suspended or refused
  • exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres per hour
  • a conviction for unlicensed driving.

Call our Criminal and Traffic Law team today on 02 4929-3995 or email info@catherinehenrylawyers.com.au for a consultation to get your traffic law defence underway.

*The material provided in our information sheets is for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for independent legal advice. For further information about the issues affecting you, please contact one of our experienced and professional lawyers for expert advice.

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