How Offences Are Dealt With
Each of the penalties indicated in this chapter is the maximum prescribed by legislation for a first offence, should the matter proceed to court. Penalty units are usually increased at the start of each financial year. Each offence applicable to riders or skaters/pedestrians can also be dealt with by way of Traffic Infringement Notices (on-the-spot fines) (s43H, Traffic Act 1925 (Tas)).
Traffic Infringement Notices
Traffic infringement notices are also sometimes called ‘on-the spot’ fines. This is a notice informing the driver that they have committed one of the lesser motor vehicle offences. The notice will state that the driver may avoid a court action by paying the penalty set out in the notice. These on-the-spot tickets are used to reduce the number of cases which have to go to court. Examples of these offences are: failure to comply with speeding limits, failure to wear a seatbelt, or failure to obey road rules.
These notices are payable with 28 days of issue. There are several courses of action that can be taken by a person who has received a traffic infringement notice (ss 15 and 17, Monetary Penalties Enforcement Act2005 (Tas)).
- pay the infringement in full
- if the car is not yours, or another person was in charge of the car at the time the notice was issued, apply to the issuing authority for withdrawal of the infringement notice
- Apply to the issuing authority for withdrawal of the infringement notice if you believe it has been mistakenly issued or there are extenuating circumstances, such as where a driver exceeded the speed limit, but was taking a very sick child to the doctor.
- Apply to the Director of the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service for a variation of payment conditions
- lodge with the Director a notice of election to have the offence or offences set out in the infringement notice heard and determined by a court.
If a person pays a penalty in part or full, or applies for a variation of payment conditions or fails to take any action in relation to an infringement notice within 28 days, they are taken to be convicted of the offence or offences set out in the infringement notice (ss14(1)(c) and 20, Monetary Penalties Enforcement Act 2005). The person will be liable for enforcement procedures if they fail to pay the notice.
When a more serious driving offence is committed, the driver may be arrested and brought before a court. More commonly, there is no arrest but the police issue a summons to the driver to appear in court some time after the offence.
If the driver wishes to deny guilt, they should not pay the fine and instead lodge a notice of election with the Director of the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service to have the matter heard in court. They will then have the chance to argue their case in court. If they are unsuccessful in court, they will have to pay court costs including witness expenses.
When a driver is charged with manslaughter or causing death by dangerous driving, the case must go to a trial before a jury in the Supreme Court. If the driver defends the charge, the procedure is the same as for other indictable offence. Other motor vehicle offences are heard summarily before a magistrate in a Magistrate’s Court and the procedure is the same as for other summary offences. Proceedings in respect of offences under section 32(1) of the Traffic Act (reckless driving) must be determined by a magistrate (s32(3)).
Losing a Licence
When a driver pleads guilty to a driving charge, or is found guilty, they may be disqualified from holding a driving licence in addition to any other penalty which applies to the offence. The court has a general power to disqualify drivers from holding a driver’s licence for any period if they are convicted of any offence under the Traffic Act or the various Regulations except for parking offences.
These offences include dangerous driving, driving under the influence, any criminal offence such as manslaughter or death by dangerous driving where death or bodily injury to a person is associated with the use of a motor vehicle, and drink driving offences. A longer period of disqualification applies in the case of second or subsequent offences.
In deciding what period to order, the court will usually consider the driver’s need for the licence (particularly whether it is required for work purposes), the circumstances of the offence, the person’s driving record and evidence of the person’s character.
In addition, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles can suspend a licence if it receives evidence that a person is unfit to hold a licence. Note the difference in terminology: suspension is something done by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles; disqualification is ordered by a court.
In Tasmania, first year drivers who are guilty of drink-driving offences will be directed to undergo a lecture course run by the Road Safety officer (s18, Road Safety (Alcohol & Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas)). If the driver does not attend the course they will not be reissued with a licence at the end of their disqualification period until they do so.
The Demerit Points System
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles in Tasmania may suspend a person’s driving licence for any period they think fit, if the suspension is considered to be in the interests of public safety. In exercising this power, Registrar of Motor Vehicles considers the driver’s record and uses the points system as an administrative guide. An offender is given a set number of demerit points for each of the offences. The demerit points system has been standardised nationwide.
Under the new system an offender who accumulates 12 or more points within a three-year period becomes liable to either a licence disqualification for 90 days or may opt to retain their licence for a 12 month probationary period.
There are over 1000 offences in respect of which a Traffic Infringement Notice may be issued! They are set out in the Traffic (Compliance & Enforcement) Regulations 2017 (Tas).
If the option of a 12 month probationary period is taken, the driver need only attract one more demerit point during that 12 months to automatically be disqualified from driving for a period of six months.
When an ‘on-the-spot’ ticket for a traffic offence is paid, the number of points for that offence are automatically recorded. If this latest offence will bring a driver up to 9 points within three years, it may be worthwhile not paying the ‘on-the-spot’ fine and having the matter heard in court. It is within the discretion of the magistrate to impose fewer penalty points.
Page last updated 12/09/2019