In the Northern Territory, the Transport Legislation (Hoon Behaviour) Amendment Bill 2009 increased the penalties for hooning drivers, and expanded on the police’s powers to seize and impound vehicles belonging to hooning drivers. The Bill amends, and is included in, Part VA of the Traffic Act the Traffic Regulations.
The hooning offences are: participating in unauthorised street races and speed trials, doing burnouts, and the offence of damaging the surface of a road or public place, which includes causing ruts in the surface. A speed trial is any testing of a vehicle’s speed, including attempts to make or break a speed record and any competitive testing of a driver or vehicle. Burnouts are caused when tyres or the road surface smoke as the wheels lose traction due to the way the vehicle is being driven. Hoon laws also cover the offence of causing excessive noise from a vehicle.
The police do not have to witness these offences while they happen in order for a vehicle to be impounded, and a person can be charged if there is a statement on oath from a member of the public.
How police respond to a complaint of hoon behaviour
When police receive a statement on oath from a complainant, they can demand the details of the driver and the owner. They can demand that the vehicle is delivered to a nominated place and if necessary can use reasonable force to enter, search for and seize the vehicle. The police can seize a vehicle for the purposes of a 48 hour impounding within 14 days from the date of the impounding determination.
Police can direct anyone responsible for excessive noise caused by the engine or the stereo of a vehicle to immediately stop the noise. If the matter is heard by a court then the maximum penalty is a fine of 20 penalty units or $2,980.00. It is a defence to the charge if the driver can prove that they have a reasonable excuse for not stopping that noise.
For a first offence, police can immobilise or immediately impound the vehicle for 48 hours. The driver will also be fined $2,980.00. The driver will also be billed for the cost of removing, transporting and storing the impounded vehicle, or the costs of immobilising it. The impound order will be reconsidered by a senior police officer within 24 hours who will check that there were reasonable grounds for impounding it. There is no appeal from that decision. The police can however reverse the decision if they are satisfied that the vehicle is a rental vehicle or that the driver did not have the owner’s authority to be driving it.
If a driver is caught hooning again within a two year period the court can make an order impounding the car for a period of between three to six months and receive a fine. The court will consider whether impounding the vehicle will cause severe physical or financial hardship before making any order. During the time the vehicle is impounded the registration for the vehicle cannot be cancelled or transferred, the vehicle can’t be sold and nothing can be removed from it (other than personal property). The driver is also responsible for all costs to do with moving the car to the storage and keeping it there.
For a third hoon law offence, the court can make an order that the car is forfeited and it may be then either sold or destroyed. There is also a fine of up to $2980.00 or can be sent to jail for up to 12 months and the driver/owner have to pay all of the costs of the removing, transporting and storage of their impounded or immobilised vehicle. However, if the court is satisfied that taking the vehicle would cause severe hardship to someone, it has the option of making an impounding order for a period between three months and six months so long as it is satisfied that impounding the vehicle will not also cause severe hardship.
In the Northern Territory it is a defence to an impoundment charges if the driver was not the owner of the vehicle, and the owner was unaware that the vehicle was being used for hooning. If it is a second offence and the court is satisfied that you were not aware your car was being used for hooning it can order your vehicle be returned to you and can impose a punishment on the driver.
The vehicle becomes the property of the Northern Territory once a forfeiture order is made. The vehicle may be destroyed or sold. If it is sold then monies are allocated first to cover the sale costs, then the costs associated with the seizure and storage of the vehicle, then to any amount owing under a registered security interest (such as a loan), and the balance goes to the Territory.
There are various offences connected with hooning offences that also lead to fines. Refusing to provide to police the names and addresses of owners and drivers of vehicles who are thought to be involved in a hooning offence carries a maximum penalty of $2980.00. Refusing to comply with a request to hand over a vehicle used to commit an alleged offence carries a maximum penalty of $14,900.00.
It is a defence to these charges if the person charged can prove that they had a reasonable excuse for not complying with the police request or direction. It is an offence for anyone to remove anything attached to a vehicle that is subject to an impounding or forfeiture order, or for someone to interfere with an impounded vehicle at its storage place. The maximum penalty for these offences is $14,900.00.
Offences relating to interfering with vehicles during impoundment
There are also offences that are considered more serious and carry possible jail sentences. It is an offence to deal with a vehicle or remove any part of it during the 28 day period, if the person doing it knows that a person has been charged with a hooning offence and waiting to have it dealt with by the court. The maximum penalty is a fine $29,800.00 and a maximum jail sentence of up to 12 months. It is an offence to enter into a transaction relating to a motor vehicle when the person knows that the driver of the vehicle has been charged or issued with a summons for a third (or subsequent) offence.
The maximum penalty is $59,600.00 or imprisonment for up to two years.