Being convicted of a traffic offence can lead to a number of penalties, including disqualification from driving and heavy fines.
If you are guilty of of three or more major traffic offences within a five-year period, you will be declared a habitual traffic offender.
What does it mean to be declared a habitual traffic offender?
If you are declared a NSW habitual traffic offender, you will automatically get an additional 5 year period of disqualification on top of the period imposed by the court.
So, for example, if you pleaded guilty to ‘driving whilst disqualified’ and the court imposed a 2 year disqualification period, that period would increase to 7 years if it is your third or more major traffic offence within 5 years.
Being a habitual offender may also cause the magistrate to treat you more harshly, and you may face larger fines and longer periods of disqualification, and an increased chance of being sent to prison.
The length of disqualification can lead to significant difficulties, particularly if you need to drive to work or to take children to school.
Fortunately, a good traffic lawyer can help you if you have been declared a habitual traffic offender, and you may be able to avoid the additional period of disqualification and get back behind the wheel sooner rather than later.
How will I know if I’ve been declared a habitual traffic offender?
If you have had three convictions for ‘major traffic offences’ within a five-year period, you will automatically be declared a habitual traffic offender by the RMS.
Not all driving offences fall under this category. Rather, major traffic offences include:
- All drink driving offences.
- Drive recklessly or furiously.
- Negligent driving occasioning death or grievous bodily harm.
- Speeding offences where the speed limit was exceeded by more than 30 kph (where it is determined by a court).
- Driving while disqualified.
- Driving while suspended.
- Failing to stop and give assistance in an accident where someone was killed or injured.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you are likely to be declared a habitual traffic offender, it is a good idea to speak to a traffic lawyer as soon as possible.
Can I do anything about a habitual traffic offender declaration?
It is possible to get a habitual traffic offender declaration quashed, or set aside, which means that you won’t face additional penalties or any extra disqualification time if you are convicted of another offence in the future.
A good traffic lawyer should be able to advise you whether you will be able to have your habitual traffic offender declaration set aside, and help you gather the right documentation and take the necessary steps to be successful.
How can I get a habitual traffic offender declaration quashed?
If you have been declared a habitual traffic offender, you can apply to the court to have your declaration quashed at any time.
This can occur on the day of your sentencing or anytime thereafter.
Habitual offender declarations can be quashed if there is a belief that the additional disqualification time imposed is too harsh, and in cases where there are special circumstances.
Your driving history will be taken into consideration, along with any other factors that might be considered relevant.
There are a few things you can do to strengthen your case and help increase your chances of having a habitual traffic offence set aside.
Your lawyer can advise you on the specifics depending on your circumstances, but some things that may assist include obtaining character references, and references from work colleagues or other people in the community, to reinforce the impact that being disqualified from driving will have on your employment or ability to meet family commitments.
If you are struggling with lengthy disqualification and believe that being declared a habitual traffic offender is too harsh, speak to an experienced traffic lawyer as soon as possible.
Your lawyer can help you appeal against a habitual traffic offender declaration, and will present your case in court on your behalf.