Need for Speed? Facing traffic offences with a lawyer
Updated: Apr 27
Most people choose to deal with traffic offences by copping the fine and the demerit points, even if they know it was unfair, there were extenuating circumstances or they are completely innocent.
In many cases that’s the easier, cheaper option than trying to fight it. However, some charges can lead to a driver’s license disqualification, which can destroy your ability to do your job.
For example, the following offences lead to license disqualification in WA, for various periods of time, if you are found, or plead, guilty tothe following charges:
Reckless Driving will always lead to a license disqualification , and
Dangerous Driving – If you already have dangerous driving offences on your record, you will always get a license disqualification .
Drink Driving offences, other than first offences under a certain percentage blood alcohol, also have mandatory disqualification periods.
This means that if you plead guilty, even if you have the best reason in the world, the Court must disqualify your license. The Judge or Magistrate doesn’t have a choice in the matter.
Sometimes the best choice is to put your hand up. Sometimes your best choice is to fight.
Unfortunately, justice often isn’t free – so it can come down to a financial decision. Even at this stage, a lawyer can help you decide whether it’s worth fighting.
Why plead not guilty?
Sometimes the best choice is to fight the charges. A lawyer can be of great assistance to you in these circumstances. For example:
When there isn’t enough evidence to show that it was you who committed the offence, or there isn’t enough evidence to show you were drunk at the time of the offence, a lawyer can help you negotiate with police to get the charges dropped, also known as “discontinued”.
A lawyer can help you negotiate with police to ‘downgrade’ the charges, so the penalties faced are less serious.
A lawyer can put forward another defence, such as an emergency defence, to show why your driving was in exceptional circumstances, which need to be taken into account.
One of the reasons lawyers can help with this that you may not know, is that when Police take someone to trial without a lawyer, and they lose, there are no consequences for the police.
However – when they take someone to trial who has a lawyer, that lawyer can ask for their legal costs to be paid by police, which the police then have to pay – and you get a whole or partial refund.
When the police know you’ve got a lawyer representing you, they know they’d better have a very convincing case to show the court, or they’ll be on the hook for your legal costs. This makes them more careful about whether they proceed to trial.
Your lawyer can get the charges dropped at this point if they can show the police the holes in their case. They can also ‘bargain’ with police, for example suggesting that they drop a more serious offence, you would be willing to plea to a lesser offence.
As a result, when you enter a plea of not guilty – the matter often still won’t need to go to trial. In fact – very few matters do go to trial. Of course, if you do go to trial, it goes without saying that your lawyer can be of assistance.
If you decide to plead guilty, you have the opportunity to say something in your defence. This is called a “Plea in Mitigation.” This explains the circumstances in your favour that the court should take into account – and why they ought to apply the minimum penalty, rather than a higher one.
A lawyer can help prepare, obtain documents which support your side, and present a plea in mitigation on your behalf, so you don’t have to speak. They can help put your best case forward, to obtain the best possible result by putting your actions in perspective.
Even if the Court imposes a driver’s license disqualification, you still have options. If you need a driver’s license for work or to care for your family, you can apply for an Extraordinary Driver’s License.
Are you eligible for an Extraordinary Driver’s License ?
If you get a driver’s license disqualification, you can apply to get an Extraordinary Driver’s License (EDL). The grounds for applying for an EDL are primarily based around the need for a driver’s license to earn an income and look after your family.
There is always a waiting period for at least a 21 day, often longer, before you can apply, and it will always take at least two weeks for an Application to be heard, so it will always take at least a month before you can get an EDL, after your license is disqualified. The waiting time before you can apply is longer especially for drink driving and drug driving offences, see s28 of the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act 2008 (WA);
Finally, when you apply, you’re not guaranteed to get an extraordinary driver’s license. A lawyer can assist you in preparing your application to give you the best chance in being awarded an EDL.
Please contact our Office today on (08) 9408 5212 to discuss your traffic offences.
Please note that the above is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific situation.