Red light cameras are in use across NSW roads.
If you have recently received an infringement notice in the mail for not stopping at a red traffic light, you are entitled to challenge it if you wish.
You can dispute the allegation that the offence occurred at all, or submit that there were extenuating circumstances that explain your manner of driving.
This article will broadly discuss how to get out of a red light camera fine in NSW, and how to appeal against the penalty.
How do red light cameras work?
Red light cameras are connected to traffic lights.
The cameras may be combined with speed cameras at intersections.
If your vehicle crosses the white stop line (the first set of lines in the direction you are travelling), after the light turns red, the camera is activated.
The camera is not triggered if your vehicle crosses the white stop line on the amber or the green.
Once activated, the camera takes two photographs of the rear of your vehicle, identifying your number plate.
If you are detected speeding or running a red, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will send you an infringement notice.
The fine is then handled by the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO).
Has this happened to you?
If you suspect being photographed by a red light camera, you should ensure that the RMS has your current address. You can do this on the RMS website, and can change your address by calling 13 22 13 or attending any Registry or Service Centre.
You will not be able to get around a fine just because the RMS sent it to a previous address.
In fact, you can be penalised for not advising the RMS of your changed address.
Rules regarding red light cameras
The rules regarding red traffic lights are found under the Road Rules 2014 (NSW).
Regulation 56 of the Road Rules states that a driver approaching or at traffic lights showing a red light must stop:
- If there is a stop line at or near the traffic lights–as near as practicable to, but before reaching, the stop line, or
- If there is a “stop here on red signal” sign at or near the traffic lights, but no stop line–as near as practicable to, but before reaching, the sign, or
- If there is no stop line or stop sign –as near as practicable to, but before reaching, the nearest or only traffic lights,
The maximum penalty for violating regulation 56 in NSW is a fine of $464 and 3 demerit points.
A seperate rule, regulation 59, deals with situations where a driver enters an intersection with a red traffic light. Violating this rule also carries a fine of $488 and 3 demerit points.
If you have received an infringement notice for the offence of not stopping at a red light, the automatic penalty is a fine of $464 and three demerit points.
Disputing the allegation
If you believe that you have been fined in error, or that there were special circumstances which led to the offence that mean you have been fined unfairly then you can request a review as outlined in Division 2A of the Fines Act 1996.
You can do this over the phone, or with a traditional posted letter, but the easiest way is online. You need:
- proof of your identity such as your address, date of birth or driver licence number
- your penalty notice number
- the date of the offence
- any supporting evidence (examples and more information is available in the Review Guidelines).
There are three potential outcomes of such a review: the penalty remains, you are let off with a caution, or the penalty is cancelled.
It’s also open for you to take the matter to court before a Magistrate, which can often result in more beneficial outcomes.
Is stopping just in time a good excuse?
Unfortunately, as regulation 56 deals with crossing a certain stop line, sign line or when reaching the traffic lights it does not matter whether you actually entered the intersection.
You may still have a defence however if:
- The red light camera was triggered in error;
- You stopped before the stop line, sign line or before reaching the traffic lights (depending on the circumstances); or
- You were not driving the vehicle at the time.
Disputing the penalty
If you were the driver and you accept the allegation, you can dispute the penalty. Perhaps you have no more demerit points to lose, and a red light penalty would result in your licence being automatically suspended.
A licence suspension can significantly impact upon your life, especially if you rely on your car to get to work and meet your family commitments.
Experienced traffic lawyers have the technical know-how and case law knowledge to appeal a penalty that would result in a Demerit Point Suspension to the SDRO or the local court, or even further to the district court.
If the matter is appealed in court, there are legal rules to follow. If you have specialist legal representation, you will be showing the authorities that you wish for your matter to be taken seriously, and you will be giving yourself the best chance for a good outcome in your case.
Expert lawyers in this area of traffic law can try to argue that the penalty is disproportionate to the offence due to the impact of it on you professionally and personally.
A lawyer can set out your character to the court so that they are aware there is more to you than just a traffic offence.
Ultimately, decisions in these cases can’t be predicted with any great certainty. It largely depends on how the case is presented and, if appealed to the court, which judge or magistrate is presiding.
What if someone else was driving?
Someone else may have been driving your vehicle at the time the red light camera was activated.
If this is the case, you should not be fined nor have demerit points on your licence. You will see a section on the back of the infringement notice that sets out what to do if you were not the driver.
Basically, you complete the statutory declaration provided, which asks for the name and details of the driver. As it is a statutory declaration, you can face penalties for providing false information. Return the notice to the SDRO for consideration.
It’s also important to note that if you have been issued with an infringement notice for running a red light, you only have a certain amount of time to pay the fine, dispute it, or state that someone else was driving your vehicle.
If you do want to dispute the infringement, contact an experienced traffic lawyer as soon as possible.
Going to court for a traffic offence?
If you are going to court for a traffic offence, call or email Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime to arrange a free first consultation with an experienced, specialist traffic lawyer who will accurately advise you of your options, the best way forward, and fight for the optimal outcome in your specific situation.