Imagine the following scenario: You're driving on one of Australia's main roads, when suddenly, in your rearview mirror, you see a police cruiser's flashing blue lights. When you look at your speedometer, you see that you were driving faster than the posted speed limit but not significantly so, only by a few kilometres more.
Given you weren't driving recklessly, you suspect you'll just be given a warning and be on your way. However, when the officer approaches to tell you how fast you were going, the estimate is far above what your speedometer said. Because of this, the officer hands you a ticket.
In this hypothetical situation, you have a decision to make: Do you pay the fine and be done with it, or do you dispute the ticket in traffic court so the offence — and resulting demerits — don't affect your driving record? This is a situation that lots of people have faced before, especially given the fact that traffic-related offences aren't just common in Australia, they're collectively the most common offence of them all, accounting for an average of more than one-third of charges per year nationwide and approximately 28% in Queensland, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Even when motorists know with certainty they weren't travelling at the rate of speed they've been accused of, some opt to accept the fine regardless because going to court can be a major inconvenience.
To them, fighting the ticket in court just wasn't worth it. But taking the offence to court may be worthwhile to you. Here are a few things to be mindful of that can help you determine what's best.
1. How many demerit points you have
Demerit point accumulation is an Australia-wide system the government uses to keep the roads as safe as possible. Every traffic violation has a demerit attached to it. How many demerits you're allowed before your licence is suspended depends on the kind of licence you have, the grievousness of the offence and over what period the traffic violation(s) occurred. For example, if a police officer cites you for driving 13 km/h over the posted speed limit, the penalty is one demerit point and a fine of $183. But if you're clocked speeding between 13 km/h and 20 km/h, it's three demerits and a fine of $275. The maximum penalty is eight demerit points and a fine of $1,286.
Again, the number of demerit points you're able to accumulate as a driver without it affecting driving privileges is influenced by the type of licence you have — learner, provisional or open — and when the traffic offence(s) took place. For an open licence, anything over 12 demerits in a three-year period results in a driver licence sanction. If you have a provisional licence, suspension comes after four or more demerits within a year's time.
Whether disputing the speeding ticket in court is worthwhile may hinge on how many demerit points you've accumulated prior to this traffic offence and what the impact would be for you if you were unable to drive for a particular period.
2. The evidence supporting your case
When you're given a speeding ticket and feel like it's unjustified, it isn't just your word versus the police officer's. More often than not, police officers use radar technology, which allows them to see your rate of speed in real-time.
But these speed detectors aren't always foolproof. They can be improperly calibrated, thus showing a speed that is inaccurate. Even if they're maintained properly, they need to be calibrated every so often, typically after every 30 to 60 days.
A passenger who was with you when you received the speeding ticket — and can recall how fast you were driving — can support your case. Eyewitness testimony may be especially crucial if there was an issue with the radar gun.
3. The charges on the speeding ticket
Another issue to be mindful of is the actual speeding ticket. If the officer cited a law erroneously or stated that the speed limit was 65 km/h when it was actually 55 km/h, that may be grounds for the violation to be dismissed. Accuracy matters in these situations.
If you can't decide whether going to court or paying a speeding fine is the smarter route, turn to Russo Lawyers. No matter the traffic offence, our tenured team of expert traffic lawyers can provide you with the guidance to make the best choice possible for your time and money. Contact us today to learn more.