Beating a Traffic Ticket Without a Lawyer


Whether it’s for driving a few kilometres over the speed limit, checking a mobile phone message, or because you didn’t realise your mate in the back seat wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, getting a fine for a traffic offence is always a hassle.

We get calls every day from people who’ve been issued with traffic fines, many of whom are not aware that they may be able to request a review without having to pay a lawyer.

And during the holiday period, the number of tickets skyrockets. Over the ten days leading up to Boxing Day this year, 11,000 speeding tickets were issued, which is 2,000 more than the same time last year.  And double demerits make the impact of penalties for speeding, mobile phone use, not wearing a seatbelt, and not wearing an approved helmet for riders, that much worse.

It can be even more frustrating if you weren’t the person driving when your vehicle was detected.

However, section 24 of the Fines Act 1996 allows drivers and riders to request a review of a traffic offence penalty notice, and it’s quite easy to do.

How to Request a review

You can request a review by the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) online, in writing, or over the phone if you believe an error was made or you wish to seek leniency due to special circumstances.

The SDRO receives a large number of review requests, and it can take them up to a month to look over yours and reply. It’s a good idea to supply all the relevant documents with your initial review request, so as not to further slow down the process.

A review must be requested before the penalty reminder notice due date, or it can be made up to 60 days after you’ve actually paid the fine.

If a request is made on behalf of someone else, an Authority to Act form must be completed. And if you weren’t the person responsible for a demerit point offence, you must supply the name of the person who was.

What’s considered?

The SDRO will take into account the nature of the offence, your driving record (especially if you’ve had a clean record for 10 years), the special circumstances you outline and any supporting material you provide, along with any relevant notes and/or photographic evidence provided by the issuing officer.

Possible outcomes

There are three possible outcomes:

Penalty to stand – this means the offence was proven and the SDRO has not found sufficient cause to issue a caution. You have 28 days to pay the fine or you can contest it in court.

Caution – the penalty notice was issued correctly, but a caution will be recorded on your traffic history instead. In this case, you don’t have to pay the fine and demerit points don’t apply.

Cancellation – This is where the penalty notice has been issued in error, so you don’t have to pay the fine and demerit points are cancelled. The incident will not be appear on your traffic record.

SDRO guidelines

The SDRO follows a set of guidelines when undertaking a review. It’s best to be aware of them before submitting your application, so you understand what to focus on.

A clean driving record of at least 10 years is one of the major factors taken into account during a review. Interstate licences can be considered, but international ones can’t.

Falsely identified

There are a number of situation where you might have been falsely identified as the driver or rider of a vehicle at the time the offence occurred. If someone else was driving or riding, you must nominate who was.

Where a penalty notice has been issued to the wrong vehicle registration number, any supporting documentation must be supplied. If you’ve already sold the subject vehicle, the new owner needs to update the change of ownership at the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).

If your stolen vehicle or number plates have been implicated, you need to supply a NSW police event number, or a report from interstate police confirming the date and time of the theft.

If another person has provided your identification, you need to provide evidence that you weren’t in the location at the time of the event, or an event number from the police report about your stolen identification, or a proof of absence from the Department of Immigration if you were overseas.

If you believe you’ve been falsely nominated, then you need to provide documentation as to your whereabouts at the time of the offence.

And if the person driving at the time of the offence is now deceased, you must provide a proof of death certificate from either the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages or a medical practitioner, or supporting documentation from a lawyer, police or a coroner.

Unlicensed or unregistered

For drivers who’ve been wrongly fined for driving without a licence, you either have to provide documentation from Roads and Maritime, or from an interstate transport authority.

If you’ve been penalised for driving an unregistered vehicle that was actually registered, you need to provide supporting material.

And if you’ve been driving someone else’s unregistered vehicle, driving a vehicle that you didn’t realise had a cancelled registration or a vehicle that was registered interstate and was within the renewal grace period, you must provide any supporting documentation, along with the details of your claim.

L and P platers

If your L or P plate has fallen off the car, you need to provide the details of the circumstances in which this occurred, which will be checked against information provided by the reporting officer.

Not all offences can be reviewed

A number of traffic offences are considered major safety risks and cannot be reviewed. School zone offences, speeding by more than 30km/h over the limit and P1 drivers who are caught speeding fall within this category.

Going to court?

If you have received a court attendance notice for a driving offence, you can call our office anytime on 9261 8881 to arrange a conference with an experienced traffic lawyer.


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