The Road Transport Act 2013 is the main legislation that governs traffic offences in NSW. This Act is supported by various regulations which include Road Transport (General) Regulation 2013, Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008, Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007, and the Road Rules 2008.
Breaching these Acts and Regulations will result in you receiving either a traffic infringement or a Court Appearance Notice. Some traffic offences result in a fine and demerit point loss, while others can result in your licence being suspended or even a term of imprisonment.
NSW Traffic Offences and Penalties
The more serious traffic offences which will result in you having to appear in Court include:
- driving while suspended
- driving on an expired licence
- driving an unregistered vehicle
- reckless driving
- negligent driving
- drag racing, and
- excessive speeding.
If you are convicted of driving on a suspended licence which resulted from a Court order, you may receive a 2 year disqualification. Driving while suspended for unpaid fines, or loss of demerit points, will result in a further disqualification of 3 months to 2 years.
Traffic offences in NSW relating to negligent driving, reckless driving, or furious driving will result in a minimum disqualification of 12 months, a fine between $2,200 and $5,500, with a possibility of a 9 month to 2 year jail term. The penalties increase with the circumstances of the offence, and your prior traffic history.
There are also heavy penalties for hoon offences which include doing burnouts, street racing, excessive speeding of 45km over the limit, and being involved in a police pursuit. Doing a burnout can cost you $3,300 in fines, and loss of licence for 12 months. Being involved in a police pursuit will result in a 3 year disqualification, and a possible 3 years imprisonment. Police also have the powers to immediate suspend your licence, and to confiscate your vehicle for those that commits an aggravated burnout office, or street racing.
Habitual Offender Penalties in NSW
NSW is the only state in Australia in which the Court or the RTA can impose a habitual offender’s penalty. If you have been found guilty of 3 serious traffic offences in the last 5 years you will be declared an ‘habitual offender‘. This will result in an additional disqualification period of 5 years. The court can also order a life ban for repeat offenders.
Whether you are made a habitual offender by the Court or by the RTA, you can apply to the Courts to have it squashed. It is a good idea to make this request at your court appearance when being sentenced – then the RTA is unable to make the order at a later date.
The Court will base their decision to squash the habitual offender penalty on whether the further disqualification is unjust or disproportionate to the circumstances of the offence and the person’s overall driving record.
State Debt Recovery Office NSW
If you fail to pay a fine that resulted from an infringement notice or Court penalty, then the matter will be referred to the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO). If you are fined in Court you can ask the Magistrate to automatically send the debt to the SDRO so a payment plan can be organised.
If you do not make payment arrangements with the SDRO they have the ability to suspend your driver’s licence, authorise a sheriff to seize and sell your belongings, or to garnish your wages.
Another option is to ask the SDRO if you can participate in a Work and Development Order. This allows you to do community work to pay off your fines. There are strict criteria for eligibility, and your application must be supported by an ‘approved organisation’. The amount of work you need to undertake to pay your fines will depend on the activity. In some cases, unpaid work is equivalent to about $30 for every hour worked.
If you suffer from alcohol or drug addiction part of your fines may be covered by participating in courses or treatment. Medical or mental health treatment plans or drug and alcohol treatment may reduce your debt by up to $1,000 per month.