Many of us have copped a fine before for travelling a little too fast or being overly optimistic about an orange light. In such cases, we might put it down to a life lesson, pay the fine, accept the demerit points and get on with it. However, if you commit a serious traffic offence, you may lose your licence and face other life-changing consequences.
Being charged with a serious traffic offence that could result in a criminal record and severe penalties can be overwhelming and a conviction can have a significant impact on your life. If this is your story, we can help. We will advise you of your rights and options, explain the Court process, and represent you in the best light possible.
The Demerit System in Queensland
In Queensland, your traffic history is reflected in the demerit point system. Driving is considered a privilege for those who abide by traffic rules and laws, and the demerit system allows the state to determine when it should revoke that privilege. Accordingly, if you commit some less serious offences, you may retain your licence provided you do not exceed the maximum number of demerits allowed for your licence category.
Even if you do exceed the maximum, the Department of Transport and Main Roads may give you the choice of a suspension for a few months or a good behaviour licence for a year. In that case, you need to avoid accumulating any more demerits or your licence will be suspended. Should your licence be suspended, you may be able to apply for a special hardship order. For instance, if you need to drive for your job, the court may allow you to retain your licence for limited purposes. You should seek legal advice to see if this is an option for you.
Serious Traffic Offences
For severe breaches of traffic law, you may lose your right to drive immediately. For example, if you are caught going 40 km or more over the speed limit, your licence will be suspended immediately for six months.
Some traffic offences are criminal offences, and the penalties can be more serious than a fine or even the loss of a licence. This is particularly the case with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, dangerous driving offences, and especially if someone was hurt. You should seek urgent legal advice in this case, and you should not make a statement to the police without understanding your rights.
Going to Court for your Traffic Offence
The outcome of a traffic matter can be greatly improved by being properly informed and equipped to answer the charges. Obtaining dependable legal advice can make a big difference.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty of an offence, you will be sentenced by the Court.
Usually, a person found guilty will have some evidence to give to a judge or magistrate that may be considered in sentencing. What sort of evidence is appropriate depends on the charges and the outcome that is sought.
Many traffic offences have automatic disqualification periods and penalties may be reduced if there is appropriate reason to do so. In deciding what is an appropriate sentence, a Court will consider ‘aggravating’ and ‘mitigating’ factors. These factors help a judge or magistrate to make a finding about how serious your offence was compared to other offences of the same type.
This requires supporting evidence and a well-prepared case. The Court may generally consider the person’s:
- character, work history, prior criminal history and family circumstances
- involvement in the community
- underlying medical (or other) issues relevant to the offence
- reliance on a driver’s licence for work or other reasons such as the need to travel for ongoing medical treatment and the consequential impact the loss of a licence has or will have.