No licenced driver would like to be caught committing a traffic offence. Nevertheless, most motorists have found themselves on the wrong side of the law at one time or another.
Whilst traffic laws and penalties may seem harsh, they are necessary measures by governments and road safety authorities to deter people from careless driving, prevent injuries and road fatalities.
If you have been driving in New South Wales for some time, you’ve probably been slapped with a red light camera fine at least once. For a red light camera fine, NSW motorists not only pay money, but also accrue demerit points which can easily result in the cancellation of their licence.
Therefore, the first instinct of most motorists is trying to find a way of disputing the fine by proving their innocence.
Challenging the fine is not an easy task simply because the red light camera tells the gospel truth.
However, an excellent lawyer can guide you through the complex rules involved in disputing a traffic offence and help you put up a strong defence against the fine and avoid the costly penalty.
One of the defence options is denying that the offence occurred at all.
The alternative option is admitting you committed the offence under special circumstances which had put your safety and the safety of the other occupants of the vehicle under compromise.
Remember, you can also plead guilty to the allegations but challenge the penalty imposed on you.
In that respect, do not just own up, but pay the fine and allow the authorities to add your demerit points. This may result in your licence being suspended.
It is always better to keep up a fight rather than letting everything get away from you.
The chances of winning the appeal, although not so obvious, are always there, especially if you have remarkable representation by a lawyer.
How Do Red Light Cameras Function?
Connected to the traffic lights, red light cameras are activated immediately after you drive over the stop line which is usually white. Sometimes traffic cameras are a combination of both red light and speed cameras especially at intersections.
If you drive over the stop line when the green or amber lights are on, the cameras will not be triggered.
If you drive over the stop line, or enter the intersection after the traffic light turns red, the traffic cameras will snap a couple of photos of the rear of your vehicle. These photographs will show the number plate of your vehicle and record various other particulars (such as date and time of the offence).
Once your vehicle is identified as driving over the stop line or entering the intersection through a red light or speeding, you will receive a Penalty Notice from the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO). Keep in mind that you can be fined for other traffic violations including use of mobile phone whilst driving, not wearing a seat belt, driving without a licence and driving an unregistered vehicle.
Besides the traffic cameras, a police officer may be present to detect a traffic violation and act as witness.
What To Do If You Receive A Red Light Camera Fine
If you are caught running a red light and you receive a Penalty Notice, you are automatically fined $405 and receive three demerits points.
Once the red light camera activates, there is nothing you can do to reverse it.
The best next step is to ensure that the RMS have your current address.
Remember, there is no way of avoiding a red light camera fine, even when your current address is unknown.
You may attract additional penalties for not disclosing your current address to the RMS.
If you change address, make sure you provide the RMS with the updated address using the RMS website or one of the many service or registry centres.
Request A Review
If you think you have a chance at proving the penalty was a mistake, or you were forced to cross the white line by unavoidable circumstances, you can always begin the disputing process.
The first step is requesting a review by delivering a submission to the SDRO for cancellation of the infringement.
The SDRO may consider your submission, however, they may choose to proceed with the infringement.
Seek The Courts Decision
If your request to the SDRO to cancel the infringement is refused, the other option is to seek the attention of the Court in the matter and have a Magistrate listen to your side of the story.
You should keep in mind that the court process can be complex as well as costly, particularly in terms of time and money you are likely to spend on the matter.
It is advisable to consider the complex court process as well as the time and money you are likely to spend in it.
Keep in mind that hard evidence to prove you are indeed innocent will be required during the court proceedings.
In addition, you have to involve legal submissions. Since red light cameras are supposed to be accurate and beyond doubt, it is suggested that you hire a skilled and experienced lawyer to prove that you indeed did not commit the offence or whether you were forced to do so by extreme circumstances.
Challenge The Penalty
If you think you have a poor case proving that you did not commit the red light offence and you are at the end of your demerits points, thus risking an automatic suspension or withdrawal of your licence, the next best option is disputing the penalty.
Many people can’t do without driving and the loss of their licence can have devastating effects on their careers and their lives in general. Thus, engaging a good lawyer to help convince the SDRO or the court to reduce the penalty is a necessary step.
Again, the importance of the lawyer’s skills and experience in handling traffic offence cases cannot be overlooked. A good lawyer will always have a good chance to convince the authorities to exercise Demerit Point Suspension in your case. However, you have to keep in mind the legal rules if your appeal is taken to court.
Having a professional legal representative take up your case could make a big difference. Apart from expert knowledge of the application of the law, the presence of a lawyer is proof enough to the court that you are serious about the case and the outcome has a considerable bearing in your life.
Additionally, your legal representative can inform the court of your subjective circumstances and identify the negative effects the licence suspension will have on your life.
If It’s Your Vehicle But You Were Not the Driver
The red light camera can only identify the owner of a vehicle by taking photographs of the registration numbers. However, it is likely that the person under whose name it was registered was not driving it or was not even in the vehicle at the time of the offence.
Since it is not the vehicle’s fault that the white lines were crossed, the law is very clear that such a person should not be fined any amount of money or given any demerits points.
At the back of the Penalty Notice, there are instructions on the steps to take if you were not driving the vehicle at the time the red light cameras were activated.
Nevertheless, you must provide the details of the person who was driving the vehicle at the time, including their name, by filling out a readily-provided Statutory Declaration.
Keep in mind that you have no choice but to give correct information. If you do otherwise, you could easily attract penalties.
Remember, once a Penalty Notice for a red light offence has been issued to you, there is a stipulated period for payment of the fine or nominating the person who was driving the vehicle.
Therefore, it pays to get in touch with a competent Traffic Lawyer soon after you have been issued with the Notice.
Get in touch with one of our competent Traffic Lawyers if you have been issued with a Notice.
What To Expect
If you find yourself on the defence against a red light camera fine, there are several outcomes.
You may be unable to convince the Court that you did not run the traffic lights, or that you had enough reason to do it, or even that you were not the driver of the vehicle.
In that case, the Penalty Notice is upheld and you have no choice but pay the fine and receive the demerit points. However, there is a good chance of having the penalty reduced without a fine or demerits points but with a warning.
You may even have the Penalty Notice dropped without any warning. However, since the evidence in any red light traffic offence relies heavily on traffic cameras, this result is extremely rare and you must have a really competent Traffic Lawyer.
Furthermore, legal terms such as ‘genuine error’ and ‘special circumstances’ are frequently applied in the court process, and you need someone who understands their exact meaning in accordance to their legal use.
Whilst it is not advisable to appeal your Penalty Notice without legal aid, it does you no good to accept it and pay the penalty. You may have your licence withdrawn while you still stand a great chance of having the penalty dropped or at least, reduced.