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It may surprise many, but traffic offences are considered criminal acts in Australia and most parts of the world. Traffic law breaches can put other individuals at risk of injury or death. Traffic violations may also cause property damage.

Transgressions to road use and traffic laws are classified as minor and severe offences. As such, traffic law violations carry different penalties. In most states, even minor breaches go through court proceedings. So, it’s best to seek help from a traffic offence lawyer to ask how to move forward.

Read on to know whether you need to keep your wallets ready or hire legal counsel to help you stay out of correctional centres.

What happens after a traffic offence

An infringement notice will be issued when a person is charged with a minor traffic offence. Receiving one means the offender has to pay fines. Failure to pay the costs would mean more penalties and possible impounding of your vehicle. Drivers may also dispute the fines for which a process will have to be undergone.  (1) (4)

Challenging the infringement means having to appear in court and be represented by legal counsel. Those facing severe offences or violations punishable by imprisonment must attend court hearings. To ensure you go through the process correctly, it’s best to contact a traffic offence lawyer in your state. (1) (4)

cropped image of man in suit behind bars in jail for traffic offences

Penalties for traffic convictions

Depending on the nature of the traffic offence and the Magistrate Courts’ assessment of the case, an offender may be asked to pay punitive fees, earn demerit points, and experience licence and vehicle sanctions. Some severe violations may lead to imprisonment.

Australian currency placed on a police infringement notice
  • Fines and demerit points

A convicted traffic offender may be asked to pay fines, the cost of which depends on the crime committed. The driver will also get demerit or penalty points for every traffic offence. A driver who has accumulated several demerit points may face license suspension, depending on the licence type. For instance, a professional licence holder has a 14-demerit point limit.  (2)

Note that demerit points last for three years and apply anywhere in Australia. You can accumulate demerit points for traffic offences regardless of the state you live in. Apart from knowing how to check traffic offences, you must also know your demerit point status.  

  • Licence suspension

Apart from going over the limit for demerit points, serious traffic offences may result in licence suspension. The police has authority to revoke your driver’s licence if you caused death or severe physical harm, were caught speeding, were driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, were engaging in street racing or any reckless and dangerous driving or operating a motor vehicle as a student-driver without supervision.  (3)

  • Licence disqualification and cancellation

In some severe traffic offences causing death and serious physical injuries, the Magistrate may decide to cancel your licence and disqualify you from operating a vehicle on the road. The disqualification may be fixed until the court lifts the order. (1)

If you’re disqualified from driving, wait until the ban expires. Otherwise, you may appeal your disqualification due to traffic offences if you haven’t committed any crime in two to four years. Continuing to drive while disqualified could lead to imprisonment. Once served, the driver may renew the licence. Meanwhile, drivers with cancelled licences have to apply for a new one. (1) (3)

  • Vehicle sanctions

The police may also impose vehicle sanctions in significant breaches of traffic rules. Street racing, police pursuit, speeding, driving under the influence or while disqualified may warrant vehicle impounding and licence plate confiscation. (3)

Repeat serious traffic offenders in NSW may lose ownership of their vehicles in favour of the government. The police or court will take the car into custody, where it may be sold to recover storage costs.

  • Imprisonment

The court may impose incarceration in severe traffic offences resulting in fatalities or serious bodily injuries and permanent disfigurement. The same holds for repeat serious traffic offenders.

In NSW, negligent driving resulting in death is punishable by fines of AUD$3,3000, 18-month maximum imprisonment, and a 3-year license disqualification period unless otherwise stated by the court. (5)

Some Magistrates may be lenient. Instead of sending you to prison, the court may decide on a two-year maximum community corrections order. An offender will perform heavy community work, and movement restrictions will be imposed, with corrections staff supervision. Other courts may require offenders to participate in diversion programs, including community service, counselling or therapy sessions, and donation drives. (6)

In conclusion

Depending on the circumstances and nature of traffic offences, a driver may be subjected to diverse penalties, as discussed in the article. Besides these punitive sanctions, your traffic offence may appear in your criminal conviction report. It’s best to see a lawyer for your peace of mind to help you avoid maximum penalties.

  1. Possible Outcomes of Traffic Offences
  2. How demerit points work
  3. License suspension and disqualification
  4. Driving and traffic offences
  5. Serious driving offences
  6. Possible outcomes for traffic offences


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