Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn help a man who wants to get out of paying his speeding fine.
QUESTION: A while back I got a speeding fine but it had slipped my mind to update my address with Service NSW so I didn’t see the fine. Then, a few weeks ago I was driving down the road when the police stopped me and said I had an outstanding fine and I’ve now been summoned to court for the unpaid fine. I have to take a day off, which means I won’t get paid that day, and I can’t afford a lawyer to represent me in court so I’m going to have to represent myself. What should I say in court to get out of it? – Jared, NSW
ANSWER: This is a really unfortunate situation to be in, as the consequences of not paying a fine can escalate and become costly very quickly.
People who receive fines (or a penalty notice) are given ample time to pay. If the fine hasn’t been paid by the due date, a reminder notice is usually sent allowing a further 28 days to manage the fine.
If there has still been no payment (or objection to the fine), Revenue NSW will issue a further fee ($65) and have the right to take recovery action.
The recovery action taken can include summonsing you to court to examine your financial situation and ability to pay the fine, which can result in property seizure orders if you continue to refuse to pay the fine.
In these situations, the department is also able to suspend your licence or cancel your registration. Please ensure you know whether this has happened because driving while suspended or unregistered will result in further penalties.
To avoid going to court and incurring additional penalties, you should be able to pay everything outstanding, which will be the end of the matter.
If you are unable to pay the fines because of financial hardship, there are a variety of options available such as agreeing on a payment plan, paying the fine off by doing unpaid work or – as a last resort – applying for a reduction in the fine.
We do note however that you want to ‘get out of it’.
It is unclear from your question whether you wish to dispute the initial speeding fine or the additional penalties.
Forgetting to update your address details with Service NSW (the relevant department) is unlikely to be a sufficient excuse to have the additional fees waived, as the law considers it is our responsibility to do this promptly.
If, however, you have mitigating circumstances for why you were unable to update your address details promptly, you may be able to successfully argue that the extra fees should be waived. Examples could include illness or being out of the country for an extended period of time.
If this is the case, you’d need to provide the court with evidence about these mitigating circumstances, such as a letter from your doctor.
If you want to dispute the speeding fine itself, then to be successful you would need to show that there has been a mistake or there is an extenuating reason that explains why you were speeding (such as a medical emergency or a mental health disorder).
In terms of presenting your case in court, ensure you are well prepared and have a timeline of events written out.
You should explain your situation honestly and concisely, focus on the key points that support your case and provide the court with any written documentation you are relying on.
If you have an otherwise exceptional driving record, you should also ask the court for leniency based on this.
The court will hear both sides of the evidence and the fine will either remain or be dismissed.
If it is dismissed there will be no fine, loss of demerit points and no impact on your licence.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor. If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email email@example.com. Get more from Alison and Jillian on their Facebook page.