In South Australia, various traffic laws have been enacted that give police officers specific powers and responsibilities whilst they are patrolling public roads. These powers are provided to a police officer in an effort to decrease the instances of roadside fatalities. One such power is the ability to signal to a driver to stop their motor vehicle. Motorists are aware that they must comply with police directions to stop on the side of the road i.e. random breath test sites, accidents etc. If these directions are not complied with, an offence may be committed under the Road Traffic Act 1961.
It is an offence under the Act to refuse or disobey a direction given by a police officer in South Australia. Under section 40H of the Act, police officers are given the power to direct a driver to;
- Stop a motor vehicle upon request.
- Move the vehicle in question.
- Interfere with the vehicle or any equipment on the vehicle.
- Interfere with the contents of the vehicle.
In South Australia a direction to stop a motor vehicle under the Act must be completed without delay and in a safe manner. If for any reason a person refuses to stop their motor vehicle after being directly ordered to do so, they will have committed an offence under the Act and will be liable to be penalised accordingly.
Failure to follow a direction to stop your motor vehicle after being given a direction to stop will result in a maximum fine of $5,000 being imposed. It is important to note however that a refusal to comply with a direction will not be considered an infringement of the Act if it can be proven that the police officer gave the offender an inconsistent direction or has indicated to the alleged offender that they are no longer required to comply with the direction.
In South Australia not only are you required to stop when directed by a police officer, you are also required by section 43 of the Act to stop your motor vehicle when you have been involved in a car accident. As required under the Act, you must stop your motor vehicle immediately and give any assistance possible. If you do not comply with this obligation to stop your vehicle, you may penalised with a maximum term of imprisonment of 5 years. In addition to any prison term imposed, you will be disqualified from holding a drivers licence for a period of at least 1 year, as determined by the court.
If you have complied with a direction to stop your motor vehicle, an officer may also request that you provide some details. This includes you name, date of birth, address and driver’s licence information. These details may be requested from you in circumstances where a police officer believes you may be involved in a criminal offence, or in circumstances where a police officer believes you may be able to assist an investigation by providing information. However, it is important to note that if you choose not to provide these details after a request is made, you may be charged under the Act. An offence of this nature carries a maximum fine of $5,000 in South Australia.
In certain circumstances, a defence may apply to your case that may excuse you from liability under the South Australian legislation. If you are charged with failing to comply with a police direction, you may be able to argue a defence if the direction was inconsistent or in circumstances where stopping in a timely and/or safe manner was not possible. These defences are only available in limited circumstances and should never be pleaded without first obtaining legal advice.