If you have been issued with a penalty notice for a traffic offence, you can choose to pay the penalty notice and have the matter finalised immediately, or take the matter to court.
Going to court can have a number of advantages, particularly if you don’t believe that the penalty is fair or reasonable under the circumstances, but there will be court fees that you will need to cover.
How do I apply to have a penalty notice dealt with in court?
You can have a penalty notice dealt with in court under certain circumstances.
- You were unable to take action when you received the first penalty notice.
- You are not guilty of the offence the penalty notice deals with.
- You have another justifiable reason why you want to have the notice dealt with in court, rather than paying the fine.
Application to have a penalty notice dealt with in court is done through the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO), and there is a fee of $50 per application.
Once the application has been received by the SDRO, you will receive a notice telling you when you need to appear in court.
Failing to turn up to court can incur further penalties and fines, so it is important that once you do receive your court attendance notice, you go to court on the required day.
How much are court fees for a penalty notice or traffic fine-related matter?
The court fee for a traffic fine matter will vary depending on the nature of the case, the length of the proceedings, and how much documentation is involved.
In addition to court fees, you may need to pay legal fees for representation, and if you are found guilty, court-imposed fines.
How to defend a traffic fine in court
It is important to be aware that the onus rests on the prosecution to prove any traffic violation beyond a reasonable doubt.
That being so, those who believe that were on the right side of the law can apply for a review or, if this is refused, elect (choose) to take the matter to court and put the prosecution to proof; in other words, make them prove the allegations.
Arguments put forth in court when defending such allegations include:
- The offence did not occur as alleged, or at all,
- Someone else was driving the car when the violation occurred (misidentification),
- The penalty notice is invalid, due to an error in or insufficiency of material particulars, and/or
- An emergency justified the violation or the conduct occurred as a result of being threatened with imminent serious harm.
It is important to carefully consider whether to elect to take a penalty notice to court, as it can result in a harsher penalty than that which comes with the penalty notice.
That said, a court also has discretion to deal with the matter by way of a non-conviction order such as a section 10 dismissal in the event you wish to plead guilty or are found guilty and seek leniency.
Getting a non-conviction order means there is no fine or demerit points.
Is it worth going to court for a traffic fine?
Although there are additional fees and costs associated with going to court, it can be extremely worthwhile, particularly in cases where you are at risk of being disqualified from driving, or if you are facing more serious charges such as negligent driving, which you want to challenge.
Another situation where it can be highly beneficial to go to court is if you are at risk of being declared a habitual traffic offender.
Being disqualified from driving can cost you more than a few legal expenses.
If you rely on driving for work you could find yourself unable to find employment, and this can seriously impact you and your family’s financial situation.
In many cases, going to court with the right legal representation can help you to avoid being disqualified from driving, and help you keep your job and meet your family obligations.
A habitual traffic offender is someone who has been convicted of three or more serious traffic offences in a five-year period.
If you have been declared a habitual traffic offender, you will face additional disqualification periods and more severe fines.
Some offences that are considered serious include drink driving, negligent driving where injury or death occurs, and speeding.
It is possible to appeal a habitual traffic offender declaration and have it quashed in court, which could mean a shorter period of disqualification if you are found guilty of a traffic offence.
If you have received a penalty notice and you believe it is unfair or unjustified, it is a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced, specialist traffic lawyer as soon as possible.
Although there is a court fee for a traffic fine, and other costs associated with going to court, these can often be lower than the long-term cost of being disqualified from driving or being declared a habitual traffic offender.