Charges: Driving Whilst Suspended s30(1) Road Safety Act 1986, second offence.
Facts: The client attended our Frankston Office and presented with charges in relation to driving whilst suspended. Following our request for the police brief the client returned for a second interview. The client had a prior matter (i.e. had been found guilty before) for driving whilst suspended. Upon taking further instructions from the client three critical things were revealed:
1. The client had had a court case 3 months earlier for the same offence but he did not attend Court when the matter was heard. The matter was concluded ex-parte (in the client’s absence);
2. The client had been suspended from driving for 3 months as a result of the first court case, which lead to the the second offence; and
3. The first offence was a licence suspension due to unpaid sheriff fines, not demerit points or a Court imposed suspension.
This information was important because the charge for driving whilst suspended or disqualified due to unpaid Sheriff fines (section 30AA of the Road Safety Act) carries a maximum penalty of a 10 penalty unit fine. However, driving whilst suspended or disqualified due to a Court or VicRoads disqualification or suspension (section 30(1) of the Road Safety Act) carries a maximum of 2 years gaol and 240 penalty units for a second offence. As you can see clearly the first one is a far less serious charge.
With this information, we contacted the Court to determine how this client’s charge had proceeded. And it soon became clear that the wrong charge had been laid. As the client had not attended Court it opened the door to a re-hearing, which would not have been available if the client had attended Court. The matter would have to have proceeded as an appeal out of time to the County Court.
Armed with the above knowledge, we approached the prosecutors and obtained their consent to have the first matter re-heard and the second matter withdrawn. By obtaining a re-hearing in relation to the first matter, the licence suspension imposed for that matter was retrospectively deemed to be invalid and so the client was not guilty of the second offence.
In relation to the rehearing of the first matter and in the interests of expediting an outcome we consented to an amendment of the charge from section 30(1) to section 30AA which was the appropriate charge, and entered a plea of guilty to that charge.
Upon hearing submissions, the Court struck out the second matter. In relation to the first matter that was subject to the rehearing they imposed a $500 fine with no loss of licence.
This case highlights how important it is to engage traffic lawyers who have specialist knowledge and care about outcomes for their clients. It also demonstrates how easy it is for a miscarriage of justice to occur, when an initially unrepresented client had was charged incorrectly.
If given the wrong advice, this client could have ended up with two prior matters on their record instead of one and may have suffered a significant further period off the road. This was a great result for the client and a very satisfying outcome for the firm.