I have a traffic offence I’d like to dispute, what can I do?

There are many different offences related to driving a motor vehicle in South Australia, most of these offences are covered by the Road Traffic Act 1961. There are multiple ways with which a traffic offence is dealt with, the most common of these is an alleged offender being issued an expiation notice.

What is an expiation notice?

An expiation notice is a fine issued for minor traffic offences such as low-level speeding or other traffic offences which do not carry a penalty of imprisonment. Paying the expiation fee is akin to settling a civil matter out of court, as you are essentially paying a fee to have the charges taken no further. 

I have received an expiation notice, what are my options?

Someone issued with an expiation notice may simply pay the fine, request a review or dispute the expiation notice or elect to be prosecuted for the alleged offence. 

Paying the Fine

Expiation notices generally allow the alleged offender 28 days to pay the fine unless other arrangements such as payment plans are agreed upon with the issuing agency. It is extremely important to seek legal advice early so that your payment deadline does not expire. Upon payment of the expiation notice, the alleged offender is no longer liable for prosecution for the offence that the expiation notice was issued. Whilst someone who pays an expiation fee will incur demerit points, payment of the fee cannot be considered evidence or admission of guilt or civil liability. Payment of an expiation fee means that there will be no conviction recorded and you will not have to make an appearance in court.

Requesting a Review

A person may apply for a review of an expiation notice, there are two main grounds for review of an expiation notice.

The first is that you did not commit the offence. This is commonly used when the registered owner of the vehicle is issued an expiation notice but alleges that they were not the driver or the owner of the vehicle at the time of the offence. If the receiver of an expiation notice claims this, they then must complete a statutory declaration stating this and the issuer of the expiation notice may withdraw it and re-issue it to the driver or owner that is named in the declaration.

The second is that you have an excuse for committing the offense, this is commonly referred to as the offence being ‘trifling’. The criteria for an offence to be regarded as trifling are:

  •         there were humanitarian or safety reasons for the offence; or
  •         you could not reasonably have averted the offence; or
  •         the offence was merely a technical, trivial, or petty instance of the offence.

If you would like to apply for a review on the grounds of an offence being trifling then you must send a letter to the issuing authority before the due date of the payment, explaining why the offence should be considered trifling and providing information to back up your claim.

Electing to be prosecuted

A person may elect to be prosecuted rather than paying the fee for an expiation notice they receive. Electing to be prosecuted means that you are choosing to take the matter before the Court.

A person may elect to be prosecuted either as soon as they receive an expiation notice or after being unsuccessful in applying for a review of an expiation notice. However, a person may not elect to be prosecuted after they have paid or entered into a payment arrangement to pay off the expiation notice.

If you are found guilty and convicted, then this conviction will be visible on any police checks that are conducted on you in the future. A person may also not change their mind after electing to be prosecuted and request to pay the expiation notice.

Sometimes it is better to expiate the matter rather than electing to be prosecuted even when there is a potential for disqualification, as being prosecuted usually brings with it the possibility of more severe penalties and more expense involved due to legal fees. It is for these reasons that it is highly recommended that before electing to be prosecuted that you seek legal advice so an informed decision can be made.

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