Road Traffic Offences

Traffic Offences: Am I Entitled to a Reduction in Demerit Points?

In addition to heavy fines, most traffic offences in South Australia incur demerit points against the offending driver.

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In addition to heavy fines, most traffic offences in South Australia incur demerit points against the offending driver.

Schedule 4 of The Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 provides a comprehensive list of offences that incur demerit points. Recent amendments to the law have seen demerit points for certain offences increase by double and even triple in some cases. All drivers incur demerit points following conviction or expiation of certain offences.

This means that motorists and road users need to be extra cautious when driving. For some of us, a traffic offence is not only expensive, but the loss of demerit points also makes us liable to disqualification of our driver’s licences. This can have dire consequences on our ability to live and earn. Sadly, the hardship that is caused by a licence disqualification is not a factor that influences whether or not a disqualification will take effect.

Demerit points are the domain of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles from the Department for Transport, Planning and Infrastructure (DTPI).

Unrestricted licence holders expose themselves to disqualification once they incur 12 or more demerit points within a three year period. Permit holders, Provisional and Probationary licences have less – these vary according to the class of licence that they hold and the conditions imposed upon them.

The Motor Vehicles Act 1959 allows a licence holder to elect, in lieu of disqualification, to accept a condition that they are of good behavior for a period of 12 months. During the 12 month period, if two or more demerit points are incurred, the licence holder will be disqualified for double the time of the original disqualification period. This is commonly referred to as “getting two points back” on your licence. If you are able to complete the 12 month period without incurring two or more demerit points, you obtain all of your points back and start afresh. This can be easier said than done.

A full year of good behavior might prove difficult for some drivers, particularly those who by virtue of their employment spend a considerable period of their working days on the road.

So what can be done if you find yourself in breach of the good behavior option?

The answer is simple. Speak to a traffic law specialist before expiating (paying) the fine.

In certain circumstances, the Court has the power to order that a reduced number of demerits apply or order that no demerits apply to a traffic offence. For the offence to find its way to Court, you must elect to be prosecuted. A criminal lawyer can give you advice as to whether you have grounds to make the application and then assist you in making the application to the Court.

A demerits reduction application must be based on the conduct that constitutes the offence and not the hardship that will be caused by the disqualification taking effect. Examples of instances where a Court has reduced demerit points include :

– A speeding offence where the speed detected was momentary and not overly dangerous having regard to the road conditions, traffic conditions and the time of day

– A driver who proceeds through an intersection against a red traffic signal after making an educated decision that attempting to stop would be too dangerous in the circumstances

– A mobile phone offence where the phone was answered due to a failure of the hands free system in the vehicle

– A speeding offence where road works signage caused confusion about the correct speed limit

It is important to bear in mind that the application for a reduction in demerit points must be accompanied by evidence given on oath (sworn evidence) in Court. This evidence can be tested by a prosecutor if they wish to cross examine your sworn evidence. Usually your lawyer will make further comments about your application before the Magistrate decides whether to order a reduction in demerit points.

It is also important to remember that the Court is not there to decide or make any ruling as to whether or not the actual offence has been committed. A demerits reduction application is made only after you have acknowledged your guilt. You will still receive a fine and expose yourself to Court costs and relevant levies.

As with all things that involve lawyers and the Courts, there are additional expenses involved. This cost needs to be considered against the cost to you of losing your licence.

For advice about road traffic offences or any other criminal law matter, contact your nearest TGB office