IS IT POSSIBLE TO REDUCE DEMERIT POINTS FOR A TRAFFIC OFFENCE?
- By Naomi Hill –
It’s a common issue for many of us who drive – a momentary lapse in concentration leading to an on-the-spot fine for a traffic offence. Often, demerit points accompany the fines. While the fines can hurt financially, it’s the demerit points that can really deliver a crushing blow, especially if the extra points put you at risk of losing your licence. A man recently found himself in this situation and successfully applied for a reduction in demerit points.
Demerit points – how they work
For some traffic offences, you will incur demerit points against your driver’s licence. They remain on your licence for three years from the date that the offence was committed.
Different offences incur different amounts of points. For example, exceeding the speed limit by 30 kilometres per hour or more attracts seven points, while driving in an emergency stopping lane incurs three points.
If a full licence holder incurs 12 or more points, they are disqualified from driving. The length of disqualification depends upon how may points have been accumulated over and above 12 points.
It’s also important to understand that once you pay a fine for a driving offence, you can’t challenge the demerit points. Payment of the fine is taken as an admission that you committed the offence and there is nothing that can be done to challenge the points. That’s why, if you wish to apply to have the points reduced, you should seek urgent legal advice before you pay the fine.
Background – reduction in demerit points
In this case, the man drove past a “no entry” sign on a residential street and police issued him with an on-the-spot fine. The offence also attracted a three-demerit point penalty.
Rather than pay the fine, the man elected to be prosecuted and to apply to the Magistrates Court to reduce the demerit points from three to one.
The law allowed the Court to reduce the demerit points if the offence was trifling, or if there was a “proper cause” for the reduction.
The man said that there was proper cause to reduce the points but the Court disagreed and imposed the three-demerit point penalty. The man appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Decision – Supreme Court Appeal
The Supreme Court said that in order to work out whether there was “proper cause,” it had to consider all of the circumstances of the offence, the seriousness of those circumstances and whether the circumstances were special enough to find proper cause. It also said that hardship and possible disqualification of licence were not enough to establish proper cause. On the other hand, if the offending was less serious than typical offences of the same type, that may be taken into consideration.
The Court found that proper cause existed because:
- The offending occurred on a Wednesday morning rather than during a peak traffic period.
- At the time, the traffic was light and driving conditions were good.
- The offending didn’t present a danger to others.
- The “no entry” signs were being used to address traffic flow rather than for reasons of public safety.
- The man’s offending wasn’t deliberate; it was inadvertent because:
- The man had mistakenly assumed that the intersection would be the same as a nearby similar intersection that he used regularly.
- The signs weren’t obviously visible immediately before he entered the intersection.
The Court also found that even though the man admitted that he had been slightly distracted because he was using Bluetooth to have a telephone conversation, he hadn’t actually committed an offence by doing this.
The combination of all of these things demonstrated to the Court that the man didn’t deliberately commit the offence. It found that there was proper cause to reduce the demerit points to one point.
What does it mean?
This case shows that it is possible to have demerit points reduced for proper cause. Although each circumstance was unremarkable on its own, all of the circumstances combined gave a unique situation in which the man was able to demonstrate that the points should be reduced in the interests of fairness.
Interestingly, the Court also looked at other situations in which proper cause might be applied. In the case of a speeding offence, it said that the following factors might be relevant:
- That the person was travelling only slightly above the speed limit.
- Light traffic conditions.
- The offence was “fleeting”. That is, the person was speeding for only a few seconds before reducing speed.
- There was no risk to the safety of others.
- Whether the driver had a good explanation for the offence, for example an emergency.
Courts traditionally are very reluctant to reduce demerit points and so legal submissions must be carefully considered and structured to convince a Court that it’s the right thing to do.
If you are concerned about the demerit points that you will incur for a traffic offence, especially if you are at risk of losing your licence, you should seek the urgent legal advice of an experienced traffic lawyer. For the reasons discussed above, it is essential that you do this before paying any fine.
FREE FIRST INTERVIEW
NO WIN NO FEE
LOCAL LAWYERS FOR LOCAL NEEDS
GET THE RIGHT LAWYER FIRST
Having such a short time frame I was very impressed with the outcome made by [my solicitor]. Excellent and timely manner
Very professional mannerism and overall great outcome was delivered by Websters Lawyers.
West Ryde NSW
Helpful, explained fully, patient, excellent service.
Patient and helpful in explaining the process.
Call Websters Lawyers for a most professional and friendly service. All understanding with [my solicitors] and the reception staff. Thank you so much.
Making my will was effortless on my part, with everything explained clearly. Well done to all.
Great service, professional, explains things clearly, definitely recommend Websters Lawyers.
Patient, professional, good communication about procedures and probable outcomes.
Thank you for all your work over the course of the case. You [both] were always very approachable and I appreciated your understanding and professionalism in all areas.
All in all my experience was great. Thank you for your time and expertise.
My matter was dealt with efficiently and was explained in an understandable language. A pleasant experience.
Practical and very helpful. Reasons and explanations given where needed
I stumbled across Websters in the Yellow Pages and I rang, explained my situation and immediately they took my case on. Greatly appreciate their services.
The service from Websters Lawyers was outstanding. [My solicitor] was caring, had patience and was very professional. Wonderful personality.
[My solicitor] made everything so simple to understand. [The receptionist] was wicked too, would recommend them anytime. Level of entire service was outstanding.
I had dealings with Websters over 20 years ago. They were my first choice when I recently needed legal advice. Both legal and office staff were professional, courteous and accessible at all times. Everything was explained up front in a clear and concise manner. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.
It has truly been a pleasure communicating with you throughout the process. I really appreciate your patient and speedy replies to my questions and requests. You were always able to provide an easily understood response and this helped me deal with the process. Your friendly and positive manner encouraged me to seek your advice.
Battery Hill QLD
[My lawyer's] service was prompt and efficient with all questions explained clearly with all our requests carried out within the laws. Overall service was very satisfactory.
[My lawyer] was excellent.
Excellent service. Professional. Clear advice and instructions. Prompt actions. Overall 10/10!
Overall, I was happy with my outcome and my lawyer, would definitely recommend [my lawyer].
[My solicitor] was excellent at helping us through preparing our wills which were particularly challenging as they involved assets in multiple countries. She was professional and knowledgeable and spent time tailoring the wills to our needs.
[My solicitor] was very helpful, respectful and polite. She made sure I understood the process and documentation of our wills.
Professional. Smooth Transaction.
I found the whole experience from Receptionist to Solicitor excellent. They completely put us at our ease.
This was a new experience for us and didn’t have a clue what to do. [Our solicitor] on our first visit put us at ease, explained what will happen, pointed out there was a strong case. [Our solicitor] was genuine in her approach, kept us well informed, explained actions several times with patience and understanding. Overall very happy with the service we received.
[My lawyer] was very reassuring in her approach to my case. I felt that every possibility in terms of evidence to provide and possible outcomes were explained to me, The result of the case was the best possible outcome I could have expected.
With no previous dealing with the criminal justice system, [our solicitor] gave us excellent advice and guided us through a nightmare to achieve a just and correct outcome. [Our lawyer] was both forthright and compassionate in her handling of our case.
[My lawyer] explained all the legal terms in language I could understand – she was very easy to talk to.
Cameron, Munno Para
I felt confident knowing my matter was in good hands. Very professional!
Shravan, Christie Downs
Initial phone call was fantastic and the role of an executor was fully explained.
Penny, Henley Beach
The service I received was efficient and promptly finalised. The solicitor clearly explained the details and I was happy with how easy it was.
Dale, Fairview Park
[My lawyer] was exactly the lawyer I needed in a serious matter. The outcome was as predicted which was a fantastic result. I received prompt professional and personal service at all times. Capable and supportive in a very stressful period.
Jason, Munno Para West
I had any of my concerns answered to my satisfaction and understanding.
Valda, Ingle Farm
[My lawyer] is an excellent professional lawyer who assisted in achieving a great positive outcome/result. I sincerely thank you and your great staff for your assistance and guidance throughout my claim. Would highly recommend [my lawyer], staff and Websters Lawyers. Kept fully informed and guided, professionally throughout the matter.
Our work was dealt with very efficiently and speedily. Our lawyer was very professional, at the same time as being approachable. Communication was great.
My experience with Websters Lawyers was far beyond what I expected. From the moment I spoke to [my lawyer] she made me feel very comfortable and eased my stress. In my case I had a court appearance the day before we were scheduled to fly to Spain, Considering my first appointment with her was only 2 weeks before the court hearing, she was able to obtain the police statement and thoroughly work on my case within that limited time frame. She was very knowledgeable, understanding and confident which greatly relieved so much pressure from me and my family. At court, she explained everything thoroughly and advised me of all the possible outcomes. Price, service and result, very highly recommended. Thank you Websters Lawyers.
Rafael, Davoren Park
I have high expectations and they were met. Websters service was swift, courteous, professional and met the agreed budget. I will recommend Websters to my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.
I would recommend Websters Lawyers, especially for [my lawyer's] dedication and exemplary attitude and advice. She is the epitome of a good lawyer. The service was impeccable.
Pamela, West Lakes
[My lawyer] was very professional and I was made comfortable to understand.
I was very pleased with the end result and how well [my lawyer] conducted herself.
Jesse, Morphett Vale
[My lawyer] has been very prompt , reliable and provided a high level of communication.
My experience at Websters was very positive. The stress was taken from me and I could not be happier with the outcome. [My lawyer] at Websters was professional, personable, available and caring. Thank you for making the experience stress free.
Magda, Holden Hill
Found my lawyer upfront and reliable – I would highly recommend Websters Lawyers.
Lee, Evanston Park
Top bunch of solicitors and admin staff. Very friendly and to the point service.
Bradley, Hallett Cove
Websters Lawyers were very professional in their service, I would be happy to recommend them.
Carole, Tea Tree Gully
We would not hesitate in recommending Websters for any legal matter. They are professional and courteous at all times and call back when they say they will.
David and Dianne, Lockleys