Traffic And Driving Offence Lawyers
Melbourne Traffic Lawyers
If you’ve recently been charged for a traffic or driving offence it’s important to hire experienced and knowledgeable traffic lawyers in Melbourne to help with your case. They will assist you in understanding the best possible outcome you can achieve, having regard to the circumstances of your case and then help you achieve that result when your matter reaches Court.
At Stary Norton Halphen, we have built and continue to maintain a reputation as a Melbourne law firm well equipped to handle all types of driving matters, ranging from low-level offending, to more serious offences where collisions have occurred and people have been injured or property has been damaged.
- Reckless Conduct Endangering Life or Serious Injury
- Driving Dangerously
- Careless Driving
- Drink Driving
- Drug Driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
- Refusing a Breath Test / Refusing to Accompany a Police Officer for a Breath Test
- Driving While Suspended or Disqualified
- Many other breaches of the Road Safety Act and Victorian traffic laws
Drink, Drug Driving & DUI offences
In cases of drink driving and drug driving, there are essentially two types of offences with which you can be charged:
- Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
- Driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol or drugs present in your system.
Victoria’s drink driving and DUI penalties are the toughest in all of Australia and the legal implications of being caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.05 or whilst under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs are serious.
If you are charged with drink driving or a DUI it is important to obtain legal advice as soon as you are able. A good traffic offence lawyer will be able to determine whether you have a defence available to you, the strength of that defence, the potential costs of defending a charge, as well as any likely penalties you will receive if you plead or are found guilty, including any suspension or disqualification of your licence.
In most drink driving cases, you will receive a traffic infringement notice and an automatic loss of licence without being required to attend Court. Beyond any mandatory period of licence loss, a first time drink driving or drug driving offender faces a maximum penalty of a fine.
The period of your licence disqualification varies depending on the circumstances in which you committed the offence and whether it is accompanied by further offences (such as speeding, driving dangerously, etc.), how high your blood alcohol content was, whether drugs were found in your system, whether you have committed the same or a similar offence previously and what type of license you hold.
There are many drink and drug driving offences where you are required to attend Court. In such circumstances, that person will not only lose their licence, but could also be sentenced to a community corrections order or immediate imprisonment. This is especially likely if you have a particularly high reading or if you have committed a similar offence previously.
There can also be further ramifications from drink and drug driving offences, such as having your motor vehicle impounded, destruction of your motor vehicle, being required to participate in courses in order to get your licence back, and/or being required to attend Court to make an application to be relicenced.
If and when you are relicenced, you may have conditions attached to your licence for a certain period of time, such as an interlock condition, and if you have such a condition placed on your licence you will then be required to attend Court yet again to have the condition removed from your licence at the conclusion of that period.
As of 29 April 2018, all drivers in Victoria caught drink driving must complete a behaviour change program before they are able to apply for a new licence. Drivers will be issued with a letter from VicRoads advising them of the program they must complete, which will depend on their BAC reading at the time of the offence and their history of drink or drug driving.
There are a variety of reasons why people decide to fight speeding fines, including the belief that a Court has the discretion to overrule the imposition of demerit points or a mandatory suspension from driving. However, the Court does not have any power to prevent you from incurring demerit points or losing your licence.
The only way to prevent a loss of licence or the incurring of demerit points when you have received a speeding fine is to successfully defend the allegation of speeding. However, raising a successful defence in speeding cases is a rare and can be very costly exercise. Examples of arguable defences include demonstrating that the device used to record your speed was faulty or successfully arguing that you were not the driver of the speeding vehicle.
Unfortunately, in most instances where you are aggrieved over a speeding fine you have received, the only thing to do is accept the penalty and move on. Only seek professional legal help if you genuinely believe you have an arguable defence.
Careless Driving, Dangerous Driving and Reckless Conduct Endangering Life or Serious Injury
Careless driving is a low-level driving offence which is often laid when a person has had an accident, though an accident does not necessarily have to have occurred. A careless driving charge requires the police to establish that a person has failed to exercise the degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise given the circumstances. As the maximum penalty for careless driving is a fine, the biggest issue a person faces when they are charged with this offence is that it enlivens a discretion for the Court to take away their licence. It is also important to note, particularly for people who have incurred numerous demerit points that when one pleads or is found guilty of this offence, they will automatically incur three demerit points.
Dangerous driving is a more serious offence that has a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and a mandatory minimum period of disqualification of 6 months if the manner of your driving is dangerous, and 12 months if you exceed the speed limit by more than 45km per hour. However, excessive speed alone will not always make out the charge. The police must establish that, having regard to all the circumstances of your case, your driving subjected members of the public to a real or potential danger.
Reckless conduct charges are laid when people drive in a particularly dangerous manner placing others in danger of death or serious injury. The maximum penalty for placing a person’s life in danger is 10 years’ imprisonment, whereas the maximum penalty for placing a person in danger of serious injury is 5 years. Interestingly, there is no mandatory minimum period of disqualification from driving for these offences. However, it is our experience that those who are found guilty of either of these offences often lose their licence for very long periods, along with receiving a very stern penalty, such as jail or a significant amount of unpaid community work.
If you are charged with any of the offences set out above, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to assess your prospects of successfully defending the charge and avoiding punishment or make suggestions as to an alternative charge that may be appropriately laid, which is likely to result in a lesser penalty and the potential for either a shorter period of time off the road or in some instances, no loss of licence at all.
Driving While Unlicenced and Driving Whilst Suspended or Disqualified
Driving while unlicenced is an offence which often results in a financial penalty. However, as the maximum penalty is six months’ imprisonment, repeat offenders risk unpaid community work and in some instances, immediate imprisonment.
Those caught driving while unlicenced often end up losing their licence (or the ability to obtain one) as part of the punishment they receive from the Court. However, when being punished by a Court for driving while unlicenced, a loss of licence (or the ability to obtain one) is not a given. The Court has discretion and is not required to take away your licence but can do so if it determines it is appropriate in your case.
In our experience, people who are charged with this offence are often in a much better position if, when they face Court, they have obtained their licence so as to demonstrate that they have rectified the problem which led to them being charged in the first place. While it does not completely protect you from losing your licence, it does place you in a much better position than you would otherwise be in by facing the court without a licence.
Driving while suspended or disqualified is an offence which has a maximum penalty of imprisonment and can result in a further loss of licence. Those facing the Court for the first time usually receive a fine. Therefore, the main issue for most first-time offenders is the potential loss of licence. Repeat offenders face harsher penalties such as unpaid community work, immediate imprisonment and lengthy periods of suspension/disqualification.
An experienced traffic offence lawyer will first determine if you have a defence to this charge so as to avoid any penalty whatsoever, but if you do not have a defence, depending on whether you come before the Court as a first-time offender or with multiple prior convictions, they will help you mount a case to achieve the best possible result for your case.
Get the Best Result for Your Case
At Stary Norton Halphen, we have and continue to represent many people charged with driving offences, ranging from the very serious to low level driving offences. Whether you are facing imprisonment or you are facing a loss of licence, your case is important to us and we will fight hard for you. We are here to advise and inform you on the legal implications of the offence you have been charged with, to assist you in understanding whether you have a defence and, whether or not you do, the best result you can achieve having regard to offence with which you have been charged, the circumstances of the alleged offending and if you do decide to plead guilty your personal circumstances.
We treat every client we represent as an individual and are dedicated to taking the time and making the effort necessary to understand the specifics of each case with which we deal. For some of our clients, this means keeping them out of jail. For others, it means helping them keep their licence; and for others again, it means keeping their period of licence suspension or disqualification to a minimum. Whatever the issues of your case, we are committed to identifying what the best possible outcome is and fighting to achieve that result for you.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Before you engage a legal representative, it is important to understand the circumstances and implications that come with the type of traffic offence with which you have been charged.
As knowledgeable traffic offence lawyers, the first step we take is assessing whether you have a defence available to run, the strength of that defence and the potential costs you will incur in running that defence.
In the event you do not have a defence or where you have been advised that you have limited prospects of success and chose not to run a defence we will assist you in obtaining the lowest penalty possible in the circumstances of your case.
If you are facing charges for a driving offence and believe your case requires legal representation, get in touch with Stary Norton Halphen. Call us on (03) 8622 8200. For After Hours enquiries, call 0407 410 821.
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What is the process for representation on a Summary Charge?
Once you instruct us we will obtain your charge sheets and will obtain a copy of the prosecution brief from the police. Once received, the brief will be analysed and we will advise on the course of action that should be pursued.
Your first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court is called a mention date. The purpose of the mention date is to determine whether you will be pleading guilty or not guilty. The matter can only proceed that day if you plead guilty to the charges.
If charges need to be negotiated then the matter will need to be adjourned to a contest mention. This is a negotiation stage. Many cases resolve at this point however that is not possible in all cases and the matter may need to be further adjourned to a contested hearing. It is at this stage that witnesses are called and cross examined.
If you are not happy with the outcome in the Magistrates' Court an appeal can be lodged and the matter will then be heard in the County Court. You should note that in lodging an appeal there is always a risk that your penalty can be increased, although this does not happen often.
How are Indictable Offences managed?
Serious indictable offences commence in the Magistrates' Court. The first appearance is a filing hearing. At that point dates will be set for the service of the hand up brief and the next date you are to attend court. The hand up brief contains all witness statements, forensic evidence and a transcription of your record of interview. The next stage is the committal mention. At that point the court will be advised on whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty.
If you are pleading guilty, you will then be committed for trial to the County or Supreme Courts. If you are pleading not guilty, your matter will be adjourned to a contested committal. At a contested committal, witnesses are called and cross examined. If a Magistrate determines that there is enough evidence that a jury could convict then the matter will proceed to the County or Supreme Court (depending on what the charges are).
If there is not sufficient evidence you may be discharged at the conclusion of the committal.
What happens if I am committed for Trial?
If you are committed for trial the following appearance will be required:
A case conference is heard before a County Court judge to identify the issues involved in the case.
A directions hearing is held to sort out preliminary matters such as anticipated length of trial, what witnesses are required and to check that funding is in place for the trial. The prosecution will provide a copy of their trial opening and the defence will detail it's case.
Either a plea date will be set or a trial date will be set.
If you are pleading not guilty, a trial will be conducted before a jury of 12 people. Their role is to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty.
An appeal can be lodged at the conclusion of a plea or a trial. The appeal can be against conviction or sentence or both. The appeal will be heard in the Supreme Court, in the Court of Appeal.
What is an Accredited Specialist?
An Accredited Specialist is a solicitor who has successfully completed a rigorous assessment program set by the Law Institute of Victoria. This includes a written examination and other tests to demonstrate that the solicitor has a sound, practical approach to the area of speciality.
Stary Norton Halphen Lawyers has six Accredited Criminal Law Specialists.
What is the difference between a Solicitor and a Barrister?
Solicitors generally prepare a case and a barrister usually argues the case in court. However, there are solicitors who do both - such as our firm.
As an advocacy based practice, Stary Norton Halphen Lawyers is thus able to both prepare case and advocate. We in conjunction with our clients determine whether we argue the matter in court or appoint a Barrister to do so.
How do I know how much my case will cost?
We will tell you in writing after discussing your options with you in detail.
If I am arrested or if the Police want to interview me what do I do?
Contact a lawyer immediately. The police must advise you that you have the right to contact a lawyer. Do not answer any questions apart from your name and address until you have spoken to a lawyer.
Does making a "No Comment record of Interview" imply that you are guilty and have something to hide?
No. No adverse inference can be drawn from silence. You have a right not to answer questions. The police will tell you that you are not obliged to answer their questions.
The police want to come on to my property and search – should I let them?
Only if they have a warrant.
Is it up to the police whether I am released from custody?
Only in the short term. Any person arrested must be released or brought before a court to determine whether they should be released on bail. While the police can oppose bail, it is ultimately a decision for a court to make after hearing the whole application.
Is it true that you can only apply for bail once?
Usually yes you can only apply for bail once. If it is refused there are restrictions as regards when you can make a further bail application. You must show new facts and circumstances.
Will my case be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or County Court?
That depends on whether you are charged with a summary offence, an indictable offence or an indictable offence triable summarily. Summary offences can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court and can be heard in your absence. Indictable offences can only be heard in the County or Supreme Courts before a jury. Indictable offences triable summarily can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court but only if you consent to them being heard.
If I win my case can I claim my legal costs?
Yes you can in the Magistrates’ Court but this is at the discretion of the Magistrate.
Costs cannot be recovered in the County Court or the Supreme Court.
Advice from a competent and experienced criminal lawyer before you are interviewed can and often does have a meaningful impact on the outcome of your case and in some instances, is the difference between whether your matter proceeds to court or not.