You need to have a good driving record to pull this off
QUESTION: Hi John. My wife received a speed camera speeding fine about two months ago for going 70km/h in a 60km/h zone. She felt she was guilty and paid the fine without question. In 35 years of driving she has never received a speeding ticket nor claimed on insurance for an at-fault car accident. She has a clean record. After hearing your comments on 2UE today I thought I would ask you a question. My wife was happy to pay the fine but really has resented the fact that her clean record has been tarnished plus the loss of point(s). We did not even know you could apply for a leniency for a perfect driving record. Is it possible to write a letter retrospectively now and ask for leniency on that tarnished record? They can keep the money! If we can, who do we write to and what do we ask for? Thanks for your reply. Sincerely, John.
Basically, your 'keep the money, but we want the points back' objective is going to crash and burn. You can do one of two things if you want to proceed, but they both address the offence. If you get off, your wife gets the points and the money back, basically.
Paying the fine is not an admission of guilt. Subject to time limits (see below) you can still deal with the offence after paying the fine.
There are two basic ways to deal with this:
- Get the State Debt Recovery Office to let you off. This is called 'applying for a review'.
- Go to court and get a conviction without penalty under Section 10.
Both of these options rely on having a good driving record (for 10 years).
Applying for a Review
In NSW if you have a good record you can apply for a review to the NSW State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) even if you have paid the fine. You can do this up to 60 days after you received the penalty notice.
THE SDRO doesn't look favourably on safety-related offences (e.g. speeding in school zones, use mobile phone while driving, etc.) but one of the things they will consider is if: "you have a 10 year clear driving record (if your fine relates to a traffic matter or a parking offence that carries demerit points)"
There are three outcomes from reviews:
- The penalty stands - they say you're guilty and the circumstances don't warrant leniency.
- A caution: They say the offence is proved but the circumstances warrant leniency. You get a refund and the points don't apply.
- A cancellation: they say the circumstances show the fine was issued in error, and they make it go away.
Here, you're shooting for option two: the caution.
Going to Court
If you've blown the review timeframe limit (60 days) then you can still elect to go to court. You can do that within 90 days of the date of the penalty notice.
Electing to go to court in NSW is easy. You do it online here >>
It sounds to me like all you need to do in this case is plead guilty, go to court, offer character references and your driving record, then request a 'Section 10'. (However, I'm not a lawyer and you should spend 30 minutes with a solicitor discussing the matter. There are potential downsides to going to court, but in your case they sound pretty unlikely - however it is within the court's power to increase the fine. You should spend the 30 minutes with the solicitor.)
See what going to court is really like below (from the NSW Attorney General's department):
More on Section 10
Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 allows a court to find you guilty but not record a conviction after considering the full circumstances of the offence. In deciding to make orders under Section 10, Courts in NSW have to consider the following factors:
- The person’s age, previous criminal record, character, health and their mental condition.
- The trivial nature of the offence.
- The extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed, and
- Any other matters that the Court thinks proper to consider.
A Section 10 dismissal is an attractive alternative to individuals charged with driving offences. In January 2011, parliament passed a bill to amend the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act so that any matters dealt with under Section 10 do not attract demerit points. As there is no conviction recorded under a Section 10 dismissal, the Court is not bound by the driving legislation which requires Courts in NSW to impose mandatory disqualification periods. A good driving record and character references are critical assets here.
If you represent yourself at court (probably not that hard, depending on your confidence) the basic court costs are $85. The court may also apply a $74 road trauma compensation levy. So, that's hardly the national debt. But as mentioned earlier, orders under section 10 are not a foregone conclusion, and you should get legal advice from your solicitor before proceeding. Basically going to court is a roll of the dice, but not nearly so extreme as playing Russian roulette.
I hope this helps.