For many people the first contact they have with the criminal justice system will be a driving offence. Although people often think that driving offences are not serious enough to worry about, many people are often sentenced to terms of imprisonment for driving offences. For this reason, it is important that you recognise the seriousness of any driving offence and obtain legal advice before your court date.
There are many offences you can be charged with under the Road Safety Act. Many of these offences carry mandatory penalties. This means if you plead guilty to certain offences, the Magistrate must make particular orders. Usually, this is a minimum period of suspension or disqualification of your licence.
Depending on the offence, you may also incur a certain number of demerit points, or have an interlock condition placed on your licence for a certain period of time when you get your licence back. Because these are mandatory penalties, the Magistrate has no choice in the decision; not to take your licence off you, give you demerit points, or impose an interlock condition. This is another reason why it is so important to get legal advice early. If you have a charge to defend, you may be able to contest your matter (this means pleading not guilty) and avoid any mandatory penalty.
The most common driving offences are:
- Drink driving (called ‘exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol’)
- Driving while suspended or disqualified
- Breaching an Interlock device
- Refusing a breath test
The likely penalty for these offences depend on: the seriousness of the circumstances of your case (for example, your alcohol reading); your personal circumstances; and your driving history. You should contact a lawyer to further discuss the circumstances of your case as soon as possible.
Recently, the law has changed to allow for police to make an application to impound (temporarily confiscate) or forfeit (confiscate for good) somebody’s car. This is usually when somebody has been charged with ‘hoon’ type driving, or if they have a long history of breaching court orders saying they must not drive. The police can automatically impound a car upon charging someone with ‘hoon’ type driving. When the person later comes to court and pleads guilty to their charges, the police can make an application for further impoundment or forfeiture. If your car has been impounded, you will be liable for the fees to release it. These applications can be opposed in court, although the test for opposing them is quite high. You should contact a lawyer urgently if the police have made an application to impound or forfeit your car to discuss your options.
At Leanne Warren & Associates, we can help you with:
- Charges laid under the Road Safety Act
- Driving related charges laid under the Crimes Act
- Applications for licence restoration
- Advice regarding infringement notices (and representation at a subsequent contested hearing)
- Applications made by the police for impoundment or forfeiture orders
- Telephone advice before a police interview for a driving matter
Please note that at present, Victoria Legal Aid, will not ordinarily fund any charges under the Road Safety Act. At your first appointment – which is free of charge for the first half – we can discuss fees for your representation.
If you have been charged with a driving-related offence please contact one of our specialists at Leanne Warren & Associates on 03 9670 6066.