Police Pursuits

On New Year’s Eve 2009, two alleged robbers were involved in a high speed pursuit with the Police. At the same time, the Sassine family was heading home with their 19-month old daughter, Skye, safely buckled in her car seat. During the high speed chase, the alleged robbers crashed in the Sassine family’s vehicle, which resulted in the death of the 19 month old child.

The driver of the vehicle was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Skye Sassine, but there were not any charges against the driver for creating a high speed chase with the Police in the first place, which evidently puts the community at risk. This case created such an impact on the people of New South Wales, and as a result a new law was passed.

The Crimes Amendment 2010 (Police Pursuits), more commonly known as Skye’s law, makes Police pursuit, high speed or not, a separate criminal charge. In fact, this law is found under section 51B of the Act, which states that:

  1. The driver of a vehicle:
    1. Who knows, ought reasonably to know or has reasonable grounds to suspect that Police officers are in pursuit of the vehicle and that the driver is required to stop the vehicle, and
    2. Who does not stop the vehicle, and
    3. Who then drives the vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others, is guilty of an offence.

This law was finalised in March 2010 and the first criminal charges involving Skye’s law occurred within weeks of its inception. In the first two years that Skye’s law wen into effect, over 445 people were charged with the offence, with 180 of the cases resulting in full time imprisonment.

Clearly, Skye’s law is taken extremely serious in the NSW judicial system. If you or someone you know has been charged with the offence of Police pursuits or Skye’s law it is advised to seek legal representation immediately.

Contact our traffic infringement lawyers now for a FREE consultation.

PENALTIES

There are several punishments that are attached with being convicted of a Police pursuit (Skye’s law). As per Section 51B of the Crimes Amendment 2010, the offence of Police pursuits attracts a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment for a first time offender. If you have been convicted on another crime within the 5 years previous to being convicted of a Police pursuit, you will be liable to an increased maximum penalty of imprisonment for 5 years. This penalty also occurs if you have been convicted of the same crime on subsequent occasions.

The Court also has the ability to impose alternative punishments based on the circumstances surrounding the case and the defence that is presented during the hearing. The Court could impose home detention, Community Corrections Orders (CCOs), Intensive Corrections Orders (ICOS), Conditional Release Orders (CROS), good behaviour bonds, suspended sentences or deal with the matter by the means of section 10 dismissal.

Each of these penalties can also include a disqualification of driving privileges and may not include any penalties that are imposed for other charges.

It should also be noted that this is a separate charge and that the drivers involved in a Police pursuit can also be charged with reckless driving, speeding or other charges that the pursuit is related too.

GUILTY

To be found guilty of driving of Police pursuits per section 51B of the of the Crimes Amendment 2010, the Police must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • That you failed to stop for a Police in which you had a reasonable ground to suspect you were in pursuit with them; and
  • And you drove this vehicle in a reckless manner dangerous to the public

If you tend to agree with the charges made against you, you have the ability to plead guilty. In this circumstance, you will proceed to sentencing where you could be facing the aforementioned penalties.

However, pleading guilty may actually be more favourable in the Court as it typically showcases remorse for your actions. As a result, the Court may award individuals with a reduced sentence or a potentially less serious charge. With the help of an experience traffic lawyer, the matter may even be dealt with by the means of a section 10. If this occurs, the matter will not be recorded and therefore you will not receive a criminal conviction or incur any penalties. You may, however, be subject to conditions set by the Court which may require to you participate in behavioural programs, such as the Traffic Offenders Program. If you do not adhere to such conditions, you will find yourself reappearing before the Court, whereby the privilege could be revoked and you will be liable to punishment accordingly.

At Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we are some of the best traffic lawyers in Sydney who are proud to hold a 90% success rate on all traffic infringement cases that we have represented. If you or someone you know is facing charges of Police pursuits it is advised to seek legal representation immediately.

Call our traffic lawyers now to schedule a FREE first consultation where we can provide tailored advice in relation to your specific matter.

NOT GUILTY

One method of fighting the charge of police pursuits is to plead not guilty. In order for the Police to prosecute you of this offence, they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that t you did commit the crime as per section 51B Crimes Amendment 2010. If this cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not be convicted of the offence. In fact, if it is not possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did commit the offence, it is possible that the charges could be dropped without there even being any further proceedings.

However, if you have pleaded not guilty and the Police are able to prove these claims, our experienced traffic lawyers will scrutinise the evidence provided and raise an appropriate legal defence. If we are successful, you will be found not guilty, and no penalties will be incurred. It is important to remember, however, that in some instances our defence strategies only provide a partial defence. This means that you could be liable to punishment of some sort by an alternative verdict. If this occurs, the penalty is typically less significant in comparison to the original charge, and therefore is a successful outcome. It is also important to remember that this offence occurs separately to alternative crimes that occurred before the pursuit. Therefore, you may still be liable to punishment under the additional offence.

THE DEFENCE

It is very important to understand that being charged with a violation of Skye’s law is a very serious offence. A large majority of people who are charged and plead guilty to Police pursuits serve time in gaol. While circumstances do vary, the Courts have been very strict with this law and implementing punishments for convictions.

There are, however, legitimate defences for this charge, and working with our traffic offence lawyers could help secure the best possible result. In fact, our driving offence lawyers have a 100% success rate on keeping clients who have been charged with this crime out of gaol. The legal defences that we may use in order to negate the allegations include:

Self-Defence: Can be successfully argued if the person accused of the crime had a belief that if they stopped their vehicle for the Police, that they would be harmed in some way.

Duress: Involves the use of harmful threats to coerce an individual to participate in an activity that they would unlikely participate in, should they have not received the treats. Typically, these threats take form of death or grievous bodily harm in which it is firmly believed that by the accused that if they do not participate in the activity, the threat will take place.

Unexpected Pursuit: The person being charged with the crime of Police pursuit had no reason to believe that they were being pursued by the Police or that they should be required to pull over.

Other: Our criminal defence lawyers may be able to raise the defence of necessity if it can be proven that our client only acted unlawfully to protect themselves from external threats from either natural or human forces. It must be proved that the situation was some what of an emergency, and the accused would have to believe that if they didn’t act, that they would be facing danger. An example of this could be someone is urgently trying to reach the hospital due to a serious injury that is suffered by themselves or one of the passengers. Clearly in this instance, the accused is trying to protect themselves from danger occur with sustaining the injury that occurred from either a natural or human force.

WHICH COURT?

Police pursuits (Skye’s law) will be typically heard at a Local Court. Although we are a Parramatta and Sydney based criminal law firm, Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, have a wealth of experience in defending criminal cases all over NSW. Therefore, we are able to effectively represent our clients regardless of the location.

For a full list of Local Courts and to find the closest to you, click here.