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Should I go to court, or just pay the fine?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The decision will depend on what you want to achieve. Are you innocent, or are you more worried about the amount of the fine? Maybe you are concerned about the demerit points, or you need a work licence?  Your answer will depend on the circumstances of your case. Before you make a decision you need to gather the right information and consider a few things.

Can the court make the order that you want?

The courts that deal with traffic matters are all State based and their powers differ from State to State, or Territory. The court can only make an order if it has the power to grant that particular order. This is called the court’s jurisdiction. If the court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to deliver the outcome that you want, it is futile to take your matter to that court. In some States the court for example does not have the power to waive demerit points; nothing you say or do in that court can change that. You might even run the risks of the court imposing a penalty that you didn’t consider. Get legal advice to find out what can or can’t be achieved in court.

Does your case have merit?

You might think you are not guilty of the offence, but traffic law is often very technical. You might be morally innocent, but technically guilty of the offence. Pleading not guilty in court without first seeking legal advice can be a mistake.

Many people only realize halfway through the proceeding that their “defence” has no legal basis. Unfortunately this could mean that you may face a worse outcome than if you just paid the fine in the first place.

Are there risks in going to court?

Yes, in most cases these risks are not likely outcomes, but they are nevertheless a possibility to consider before taking your case to court.

The Court can:

  • Increase your fine - sometimes by a significant amount.
  • Impose additional penalties, such as licence disqualifications.
  • Order that you pay the prosecution’s legal cost, if you are unsuccessful in your case. This might add up to a significant amount.

In some states, a fine “confirmed” in court can lead to a recorded conviction against you.

Do you have other options?

Yes, instead of going to court, in most States you can request that the fine be reviewed. These reviews have limited outcomes, but it will at least look for obvious or administrative mistakes. It is a cheap alternative to going to court.

If your main concern is having your licence suspended, there may be other ways to deal with your matter. In some States you can contest some suspensions after paying the fine.

Seek legal advice

The law differs from State to State and Territory. Discuss the applicable law and the merits of your case with a traffic lawyer before you make a decision to go to court or pay the fine. It is important that you understand your situation before making any decisions.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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