Criminal & Disciplinary

Traffic Offences: Defending a Speeding Fine

TGB Criminal Lawyer Lucy Wood outlines the options available to you should you receive a speeding fine and are unsure if you are able to challenge it.

TGB Criminal Lawyer Lucy Wood outlines the options available to you should you receive a speeding fine and are unsure if you are able to challenge it.

Speeding fines are the most common offence incurred by road users in South Australia and here in SA we have some of the highest fines and longest periods of disqualification in the nation.

Serious speeding penalties can have detrimental effects upon your employment, result in financial hardship and have repercussions on your livelihood and family. As a result, receiving a speeding fine in the post is often the cause of significant stress and concern for drivers as they feel powerless. It is important to understand that you have options.

Penalties for speeding depend on the extent that you have allegedly exceeded the speed limit.

Expiation Notices –

Allegations of speeding up to 45km/h above the speed limit are usually dealt with by way of an expiation notice. The maximum expiation fee for a speeding offence is $975.00 and the imposition of 9 demerit points against your licence. If you receive an expiation notice, your choices are to pay the fine, dispute that you were the driver, or dispute that you were speeding. The last of these options involves electing to be prosecuted in court as a defendant to a criminal offence, it is integral to seek legal advice before opting to be prosecuted.

Driving/ Criminal Offences –

Where you are alleged to have exceeded the speed limit by 45 kilometers an hour or more you can be charged with the more serious offence of driving at an excessive speed. This offence carries a minimum penalty of $1,100.00 and licence disqualification for a minimum of 6 months for a first offence.

If you have been previously convicted or expiated for an offence of excessive speed or reckless and dangerous driving within the last 5 years, the offending will be considered a second or subsequent offence and attract higher penalties.

How the prosecution works –

In a criminal prosecution for a speeding offence, police must be able to establish beyond reasonable doubt that you were driving a motor vehicle at a speed above the designated speed limit on that road.

Defences to speeding –

– You were not the driver:

Where you wish to dispute the allegation against you, there are a number of defences that you should consider. If you were not the driver of the vehicle, it is imperative that you inform police.

– You were speeding as a result of a legal justification:

It may be the case that you do not deny the speeding but defend your actions where the driving occurred under duress, was a necessity or occurred in a life threatening emergency. The defence of necessity is strictly controlled and requires you to give evidence that the act of speeding was necessary and proportionate to avoid potential harm to yourself or others.

– The evidence was incorrect / inaccurate:

The evidence produced from police use of radars, laser devices and speed cameras assist police prosecution in proving the offence. When a speed detection device has been used it is common practice to ensure that the device has been used appropriately. Police have strict guidelines which must be followed when operating a speed detection device.

If it can be demonstrated that the device had been ineffectively calibrated, tested or was used incorrectly, such as being used without a clear line of sight, the prosecution are unlikely to be able to prove the alleged speed beyond reasonable doubt. Where the accuracy of the reading is called into question evidence from experts is required to support such a defence. Such evidence is expensive to obtain but if it supports your case it may result in the charge against you being withdrawn in its entirety or negotiated to a lesser charge.

Alternative options –

Where these defences are not available to the circumstances of your alleged offending, an alternative option is an application for a reduction of demerit points where it is reasonable to establish that your offending was “trifling”. An application for a reduction of demerit points can be made where the circumstances of your offending can be considered as unusual or exceptional. Whilst courts consider this to be a high threshold to overcome, in weighing up the detriments of losing your licence, it should be something you seek legal advice on.

Summary –

There are a number of circumstances which may give rise to a defence against speeding. It is important to be aware of your options and discuss the situation with a lawyer as early as possible to ensure all of these options remain available to you.

If you believe you have been wrongfully issued with a traffic infringement, or for further information or assistance, contact your nearest TGB location and talk to an experienced criminal lawyer today.