Is it possible to have a traffic offence overturned?

Article Katrina Beltran 27 September 2022

You can be issued with a traffic offence by the authorities for various reasons. Speeding is the most common one in Australia, but infringements can range from the relatively minor (for example, incorrectly signalling or using the horn) right through to the dangerous and criminal (negligent or drink driving, and extreme speed).

In many cases, once served an infringement notice by police or the transport authority, people will pay the fine and accept the demerit points. However, if you are unsure about whether you really did commit an offence, it might be worth speaking to a traffic offence lawyer, because mistakes and misinterpretations are made and there are defences that can cause that penalty to be overturned.

Putting aside the ability to argue that the police made a mistake, some of the other legal defences to traffic offences include:

  • Necessity – if you are involved in an extreme circumstance where it becomes necessary to break the law to avoid death or serious injury to yourself or another person, you can argue that your actions were necessary. For this defence to be accepted, you need to be able to prove that you either were in imminent danger, or had reason to honestly believe you were, and that the actions you took were not disproportionate to the danger. It’s a difficult defence to rely on, but, if there was a natural or human threat to your life, then you may be able to argue that it was necessary to break some road rules.
  • Duress – if you are in a situation where there is a threat of harm to yourself, or a family member, and you believe it will be carried out unless you drive at that particular speed, then you may be able to argue that you were acting under duress. While rare, this may be the case in hostage situations or car-jacking incidents for example. Think of that 1994 movie “Speed”.
  • Honest mistake – If you honestly and reasonably believed that you were not involved in a traffic offence then you might argue this. One common example used in speeding offences is that the speedometer was actually inaccurate and was showing that they were driving at 110km/hour when the speed gun clocked them at 120km/hour. Note that this defence doesn’t apply to ignorance of the law. You can’t claim that you didn’t know that a stretch of road had a certain speed limit. It is your responsibility to drive informed. This defence is only successful when there is no reasonable way for you to know that you were breaking the law.

If unsure, it is best to speak with an experienced traffic offence lawyer to decide if there is a defence that applies to your case. The team at CDQ is here to help! To have peace of mind, and to know how to best manage a traffic offence, contact us today at 02 8556 0130.