The most common traffic infringement received by drivers is by far for exceeding the speed limit. With the heavy penalties that NSW speeding fines carry, along with the accumulation of demerit points (especially during double demerit point periods) and immediate and "automatic" suspension periods for certain offences, what used to be viewed as a minor indiscretion, can now so easily result in loss of licence, loss of employment and financial hardship.
Some speeding offences, such as exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km per hour attract licence suspension (by the RMS or police) or disqualification (by a court). For drivers who hold a P1 licence, any speeding offence results in a licence suspension, as it means exceeding the allowable demerit point limit. (Read more on how to appeal a licence suspension.)
Many feel that once a speeding fine has been received, it is impossible to challenge, and simply pay the fine and accept the consequences, even if they feel that they were not speeding or not travelling at the speed alleged at the time. They accept what they feel to be an injustice yet believe that nothing can be done.
This is not always the case. In fact, where a person is adamant that they were not travelling at a speed alleged (usually by a police officer), it is often the case that they are right.
All speeding fines can be challenged in a Local Court. Sometimes, for some major speeding offences, an infringement notice is not issued and instead a Court Attendance Notice is issued. This means that the speeding offence is automatically to be dealt with by a court and you have to decide whether you will plead guilty or not guilty to the offence.
Just because you have received a speeding fine or have been charged with a major speeding offence it does not automatically mean that you are guilty of the offence. There are defences available and it is possible to successfully defend a speeding allegation. Of course, this can be an expensive exercise so it is important to obtain competent legal advice on prospects of success, before embarking on defending an allegation.
Two ways of defending a speeding ticket are as follows:
1. Honest and reasonable mistake
2. Challenging the speed alleged
Honest and reasonable mistake
It is a defence to speeding if you honestly and reasonably believed that you were not exceeding the legal speed limit. One thing needs to be made clear. It is not a defence to a speeding ticket if you thought that the speed limit on the stretch of road that you were driving on was higher than it actually was.
However, if you honestly and reasonably believed that you were travelling at a speed lower than what is alleged, then you may have available to you a defence. An example would be where the speed limit is 110km/h and as far as you believe, you are travelling at 110km/h (for instance, you have the speed locked in on cruise control), yet you receive a ticket for travelling at 120km/h. You then have your speedometer tested by a mechanic and find that it is not properly calibrated and does not show the right speed. This could be enough to raise the defence.
Once the defence is raised, it is for the prosecution to prove that the mistake was either not honest or not reasonable. Although in theory this can seem like a simple exercise, in practice, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, it can sometimes prove a little more difficult for a Court to accept that the mistake was reasonable.
It is, however, an available and legitimate defence and our experienced traffic lawyers can advise whether you have a case.
Challenging the speed alleged - police estimate
Although many speeding infringements are the result of police using speed measuring devices, often speeding tickets are issued based on a police officer's estimate of the speed you were travelling.
As it is for the police to prove that you were travelling at the speed alleged beyond reasonable doubt in court, it can often leave room for the estimated speed to be successfully challenged.
Challenging the speed alleged - radar/lidar detected
Speed radar/lidars do not always give an accurate reading. Like most scientific instruments, radars and lidars are not infallible. In other words, although they are generally reliable, they are not perfect and can give inaccurate measurements.
If a radar/lidar has for instance not been properly maintained or calibrated, it can give an inaccurate reading. Further, if the speed measuring device is not used correctly by the police officer or the conditions are not ideal for the use of the device at the time of the alleged offence, again, it can give an inaccurate reading.
To be able to properly challenge the reading on a radar/lidar device, it is almost always necessary to obtain a report from an expert in the field. This can be a costly exercise.
Successfully lowering the category of offence
Where it might be a little difficult for a Magistrate to accept that you were not travelling in excess of the speed limit, often, a Magistrate will be able to accept that although speeding, you were at least travelling at a speed lower than has been alleged.
This is important when challenging an offence of travelling in excess of 30km/h or 45km/h over the limit.
If a Magistrate is not satisfied on the evidence that you were travelling at the speed alleged but still finds that you were speeding, they can find you guilty of a lesser offence. For instance, they can find you not guilty of exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h but instead guilty of travelling in excess of 15km/h. This would mean that the mandatory 3 month disqualification period would be avoided.
If you have received a speeding fine or a court attendance notice for a speeding offence and require legal assistance, our experts at Prime Lawyers - Traffic Law Division can help. Contact us to make an appointment with one of our traffic offence lawyers at your nearest Prime Lawyers office.