Most of us will never have to deal with the criminal justice system in our lives – and that’s a good thing.
And if you do, odds are it’s going to be for a traffic or driving offence.
As the most common type of criminal offence, it’s only natural for us to spend some time talking about the different types of driving offences, and in particular, the types of driving offence penalties you can expect to face in Victoria.
So that’s what our traffic offence lawyers in Melbourne are going to talk about today!
Our driving offence lawyers explain the most common charges
The list of driving offences laid out by Victorian legislation is long, and would take pages and pages of text to describe. So instead, we’ll share a brief overview.
Essentially, any instance where an individual breaks the law while driving a vehicle is an example of a driving offence:
- Drink driving
- Reckless and dangerous driving
- Hit-and-run offences
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Driving an unregistered vehicle
- Driving without a license
And these are just some of them – as you can see, the list of driving offences is long, and we’d be here for a little while longer if we were to go through all of them.
Many of these offences are what are known as infringements: minor offences that don’t even require a court appearance at all.
And even many of the more serious driving offences are still summary offences, meaning that they:
- Incur a jail term of less than 2 years
- Are presented to a magistrate alone
- Do not exceed a fine worth 240 penalty units
Driving offence penalties: what can you expect for your driving offence?
Without a doubt the most common type of penalty for driving offences, a fine is the most likely outcome for the vast majority of driving offences in Victoria.
Fines in Australia are issued based on penalty units, with $165.22 set as the current value of penalty units in Victoria. Each crime (including driving offences) being worth up to a specific number of penalty units.
For example, the fine for offence code 8336 (failure to stop at a children’s crossing) is set at 2.5 penalty units, or $413 in Victoria.
This system allows the value of fines to scale automatically with inflation, without the state government needing to completely rewrite road safety laws every year.
Fail to pay a fine on time, and you might end up being hit with follow-up fines and even a court summons..
People will often believe that each license comes with demerit points – 12 of them, to be exact.
That’s wrong – instead, each license starts with zero demerit points, and can accumulate 12 of them in a 3 year period before being suspended.
It’s a minor difference, but as with all things law-related, details matter.
In addition to other penalties, the vast majority of driving offences will also result in demerit points being issued, with the exact number of demerits depending on the offence:
- Using your phone while driving – 4 demerits
- Improper or unsafe overtaking – 2 demerits
- Running a red light – 3 demerits
- Speeding by more than 10km/h, but less than 25km/h – 3 demerits
And that’s on top of other driving offence penalties like fines!
Demerits are eventually removed from your license if you’re able to continue driving safely – accumulate too many demerit points too quickly however, and you might find your driver’s licence suspended (but more on that later).
Luckily, our driving offence lawyers can help you determine your options, including applying for an extended demerit period if you exceed the maximum number of demerits.
Think of this as a 12-month period where instead of having your license suspended, you get to prove that you can drive safely. You’ll need to drive for a full year without incurring any further demerits – if you don’t, your license goes right back to being suspended (only now for twice as long!)
Penalties for serious driving offences
While fines and demerit points are the most common types of penalties for driving offences, they aren’t often used for more serious driving offences.
Instead, those types of crimes use a mix of other more serious penalties, often in conjunction with one another, including…
Certain driving offences are so serious that instead of issuing demerits, your license will be immediately suspended, preventing you from driving.
In cases where your license is immediately suspended, this penalty is reserved for the most severe traffic and driving offences, and is used to protect the community in cases that are pending court appearances.
(In cases where driving is essential, our driving offence lawyers can appeal to the court for permission to keep you driving until the case is determined under the Road Safety Act.)
Police can immediately suspend your license on-the-spot for a number of drug and drink driving offences:
- Your BAC reading was 0.10% or more
- Refusal to submit to a breath, urine or blood test
- A second drug or driving offence in 10 years
In other circumstances, a magistrate or judge may order that your license be suspended as a consequence, and you may be disqualified from obtaining one in the future.
In cases where license disqualification or suspension is on the table, it’s best to engage a drink driving lawyer in Dandenong who understands the law and can best argue your case.
And sometimes, it could simply be that repeated driving offences have built up demerit points until your license crosses the 12-point maximum and is automatically suspended.
Either way, the end result is the same: your license is suspended, preventing you from legally driving.
License suspension isn’t the only way that the criminal justice system can stop you from driving – another way is to have your vehicle:
While typically reserved for the most serious driving offences such as charges of culpable or dangerous driving resulting in death or serious injury, this penalty is also often applied for many summary offences depending on aggravating circumstances:
- Drink driving
- Driving on a suspended sentence
- Excessive speeding
It isn’t usually issued on its own, either – in many cases, it’s often paired up with license suspensions and jail time.
While it might not sound like it, there’s an important distinction between “dangerous” and “culpable” driving – this is another reason why you need a dangerous driving lawyer to represent you in these types of cases.
Our driving offence lawyers can advise you about what circumstances your car may be impounded, as well as what to do about it.
Reserved for the most serious types of driving offences or repeated violations, jail time is the highest possible penalty for driving offences.
This particular penalty is usually reserved for driving offences involving dangerous or culpable driving, as well as cases where injury or death has occurred as a consequence. It isn’t always used on its own either, and is often employed alongside other penalties.
Even “lower-level” driving offences may escalate to a jail term if certain aggravating circumstances are are present, such as:
- Drugs or alcohol
- Repeated offences or previous convictions
- Illegal racing
- Excessive speeding
If you’re facing charges that may result in jail time, it’s important that you engage and retain qualified legal advice.
These cases are much more complex than your typical speeding infraction, and thus require professional assistance in presenting your case.
Which penalties could I face for my driving offence?
Our criminal defence lawyers in Dandenong can help you
Which penalties you’ll face for your driving offence will depend on a range of different factors.
Since most driving offences are infringements, their penalties are “locked in” so to speak.
For cases that go to court however (whether they’re summary or indictable offences) the penalty you’ll be hit with can vary.
While each driving offence has a prescribed penalty, whether or not you get the full penalty comes down to what the magistrate or judge deems suitable.
In doing so, they’ll look at a range of factors, including:
- Aggravating circumstances
- Previous driving record and history
- Severity of the offence
- Whether or not anyone came to harm
Of course, it isn’t just the magistrate or judge’s discretion that determines which driving offence penalty you’ll face – it also depends on the quality of your legal representation.
Our criminal lawyers in Dandenong can represent you for a wide range of different charges, including all types of driving offences.
We’re passionate about seeing justice done, and ensuring that your case is carried out in accordance with due process.