Were you recently issued a ticket for speeding? Does the charge of careless driving risk a lengthy licence suspension due to previous traffic offences on your record? Have you been cited for dangerous driving, and the resulting demerits put you over the allowable limit? Traffic violations such as these occur every day. If you're guilty of them, then you may have to accept the resulting sentence.
But if there are mitigating circumstances — or you believe you were wrongfully charged — you have the option to contest the charges in court. However, if you're new to Australia, or this happens to be the first time you've disputed a traffic offence, you may wonder whether you need legal representation.
The short answer is no, you do not. However, retaining a lawyer may be worthwhile because legal advice can help your case in a number of ways, from reducing the sentence to mounting a defence to speaking to the judge on your behalf. Here, we'll focus on what you can expect from traffic court by going it alone, how you plea — guilty or not guilty — affects the court proceedings and why retaining a lawyer makes sense.
When you attend magistrates court — which hears 95% of cases in Queensland, including traffic offences — what happens largely hinges on whether or not you have legal representation. Assuming you were to go without a lawyer and wait for your name to be called, the magistrate will ask you — as opposed to counsel — how you would like to plead. You have three options from which to choose:
- Request an adjournment
- Not guilty
The adjudication process is straightforward by pleading guilty. The court magistrate will call on the prosecutor to elaborate on the relevant traffic offence(s) so that they're on the record. You'll also be shown your traffic history record for you to corroborate.
From there, the court magistrate will ask if you have anything you'd like to say regarding the relevant traffic offences and why you did what you did. Your response could affect the sentencing.
Requesting an adjournment is the option you may not be familiar with. Asking for one basically means you want your case to be delayed. The magistrate will likely ask for what purpose, and if it's granted, the case will be adjourned until the next available court date.
By pleading not guilty and representing yourself, you're essentially on your own. A trial will commence at a later date, and it will be up to you to explain why the charges are false and why a traffic ticket was erroneously cited. While the ultimate burden of proof is on the prosecution, you will nonetheless have to refute why a traffic citation was meritless.
This is easier said than done and why it's highly recommended to seek legal advice before entering a plea.
Why you should retain a traffic lawyer
Many people think enlisting the services of a lawyer only makes sense if they're not guilty. That's not necessarily true. Retaining legal counsel can help you develop a sound legal strategy, which can be used during your initial court appearance and to prepare a statement that may influence the sentencing. For example, if the loss of your licence for a speeding ticket would lead to a social or economic hardship (e.g. job loss, isolation, etc.), the magistrate may take those consequences into consideration.
But there are a number of other worthwhile reasons for hiring a traffic lawyer:
Intimate knowledge of traffic law
There are a litany of traffic laws in Queensland, never mind Australia as a whole. They're often highly nuanced and change over time. A traffic lawyer likely has more familiarity with these laws than you or the arresting officer. That can work to your advantage in court.
Step by step understanding of what to expect
The court process is a bit more involved than what we've outlined here, and you may be caught by surprise by representing yourself. With a traffic lawyer as your guide, you're never in the dark.
Retaining counsel goes beyond sagacious legal advice; it also provides the opportunity to have a sentence reduced, something you may not be able to do successfully by representing yourself.
As leading traffic lawyers in Brisbane for over a decade and with thousands of satisfied clients, Russo Lawyers has the qualifications and capabilities to represent you in traffic court. If you've been charged with drink driving, careless driving, speeding or some other traffic ticket, contact us. Our seasoned team of associates and solicitors provide the comprehensive legal advice you can trust and depend on in your time of need.