Ask LH: Should I Appeal This Traffic Fine?

Ask LH: Should I Appeal This Traffic Fine?

Hey Lifehacker, I was recently busted for turning right at a “No Right Turn” sign which has time restrictions. I’ve regularly used that turn before, but the rules were changed and I hadn’t realised that I was doing so during a period when the no-turn rule applied. Do you think I could ask for leniency, since it’s my first infringement? Thanks, Mostly Careful Driver

Image: vagawi

Dear MCD,

Technically, any traffic fine can be contested in court so there’s nothing to stop you from giving it a shot. You can arrange your court appearance by paying a visit to your local court or filling out a court election form via the SDRO website. A $50 application fee applies.

If you go down this road, you’ll get to choose your court appointment from a range of available dates — I’d recommend keeping the whole day free, as it’s not uncommon to be stuck in court for hours while other cases are being heard. Make sure to bring any supporting evidence with you, such as a photo of the specific signage and proof that the rules used to be different.

Your chance of success will probably depend on how recently the time restrictions were changed. Most judges will also take your driving record into account — having no previous infringements will definitely work in your favour, especially if you’ve been driving for many years.

That said, this is a clear-cut case of a motorist doing the wrong thing (albeit unintentionally), so I wouldn’t hold out much hope. If the new rules were clearly signposted, that just means you weren’t paying enough attention. Being blinded by habit doesn’t exactly paint you as a responsible driver. If you’re lucky though, you might get an understanding judge who decides to take pity on you. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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See also: The Most Infuriating Traffic Fines In Existence | Top 10 Parking Crimes Against Humanity | This Is What Happens When You Try To Pay A Parking Fine In Loose Change [Video]


  • Exactly the same thing happened to me a couple of years ago. It was a new restriction, and they know people are going to fall for this and not notice the new restrictions, which is why they position a squad car there to catch people in the act.

    Worse, the location where this happened to me is at the end of a slip lane, with right turn arrows painted onto the road, and turning back into traffic there could be potentially very dangerous.

    I think the worst thing about this for me, though, was that it put two demerit points on my otherwise clean license. This is not only frustrating, but also impacts things like insurance premiums and lasts for three years. If I were MCD, I would probably offer to pay the fine and request the points be waived. Especially considering how absurd these time restrictions are.

    The worst offender I’ve seen has to be at the top of Kimberly Avenue in Lane Cove, NSW. It’s a T junction, with a no right turn sign AND a no left turn between 4pm and 7pm. What are you supposed to do, sit there for three hours?

  • …wait….what?! you have to pay to contest your infringement in court?!?

    OMG…. here in Vic, you send back the infringement notice without payment and tick the box to elect to go to court and if guilty you mgiht be charged a court fee to cover the cost of the prosecution/police lawyer/rep (around $70ish)

    • of course if you lose the Magistrate can also charge you a higher rate for the fine, so it can be the original fine minus any late fees etc. (say $80) or it can a couple hundred depending on the maximum penalty in the road rules/legislation…

    • PLUS – if you are contesting it, the Police/Council have 12 months to take you to court from the date you do the wrong thing otherwise the penalty lapses.

      • I Just had a horrifying thought. What if most cop’s job beside setting up speed cameras and drug/alco vans, was actually just stalking people contesting against them to find an excuse to go to court against them.

        • I find this sort of thing is generally ruled out by the “way too much hassle” rule.

          If doing something requires a significant investment of time/attention, and that thing is not actively required by the job, it will probably not be done.

          There are exceptions, as for everything, but it’s overwhelmingly likely that the police will not be actively trying to get you into court unless you act/look suspicious or are actually rude to them. (It follows that doing anything to deliberately tick off the cops is basically cutting your own throat.)

    • and other thing…….how about you appeal to the Police themselves?

      In Victoria, you can successfully appeal a low level speeding fine or similar (like a 1 demerit point offence or a no right turn fine) by writing in apologising, saying it wont happen again, meeting the criterion that it was your first time in 3 or 5 years etc. then they drop it

    • Yes that’s the same in South Australia too. Here, even if you are found not guilty, you still have to pay your own court costs and your own legal fees. The government here legislated against the police having to pay when they lose because too many people were suing the police (and winning).

  • For example in Victoria:

    Victoria Police has the discretion, upon review, to withdraw an infringement notice and issue an official warning in its place.

    Each application for an official warning is reviewed on a case-by-case basis with factors such as the circumstances, time of offence, weather conditions, traffic density and type of road/land abutting taken into account. For example, if you recently received a speeding fine but have had a good driving record in the past.

    For a speeding offence less than 10 kilometers per hour over the speed limit an official warning may be issued if you:

    – Hold a current driver’s licence, including probationary or current learner driver’s permit
    – Have not been issued with a speeding, other traffic Infringement or official warning within the previous two (2) years
    – Have an alleged speed less than 10 kilometres per hour over the speed limit, and
    – Do not deny that you committed the offence.

    • I’ve done this once or twice in the past. I can’t honestly remember what the situation was, I think it may have been 4kms over in the city where I was busy paying attention to all the shitty drivers cutting me off and changing 3 lanes at a time and didn’t notice that I had crept up above 60.

      either way, it’s basically an apology and if you have a good record you usually get the warning. It’s not something you can do often though.

  • im a country boy, and was in sydney. Drove in the bus lane for 30m to turn left, got a $300+ fine, lost a point. Appealed as i have never had an infringement before explained how i didnt understand. I’d say appeal – but they’ve got no sympathy.

    • If it was a normal bus lane, you’re allowed to do that. If it’s a “bus only” lane you’re not and have to turn left from the adacent lane. It’s very confusing at times (mind you I live in Melbourne and the hook-turn has got to be the hardest thing for noobs to our fair city to grok).

    • Of course they have no sympathy – it’s not about safety or anything, it’s about the money. That’s all it’s ever about.

  • In QLD at least, discretion can be shown, but ignorance of the law is not a reasonable excuse – As other another commenter has said, you may be better off writing a letter of appeal to the officer who issued the infringement before contesting the ticket, and appealing directly to them and explaining the situation. They should have the power to waive the ticket.

  • There is usually a period of grace for changed traffic conditions where the should give you a warning not a fine. ACT is/was 21 days when I lived there. The day they changed an 80 road to a 60 they put a speed camera van there. It was successfully appealed.

  • I love the $50 application fee to go to a publically funded court to fight for your own rights. For what is probably a $100 fine.

    Either way you’re screwed.

  • Hello,

    I have also faced same thing. I have relocated to Australia from oversees and staying with my friend from last 4 months.

    I was driving his car and I am issued a fine of driving a unregistered car. The rego expired a week before and I did not knew about this. Also my fried who own this car was not in the town so he missed to register the car.

    Know what should I do the fine is of $722 which is a huge amount for me as I am not working right now and have a family to take care.

    Please suggest.

      • Incorrect – it is the drivers responsibility to ensure the vehicle is appropriately registered and insured.

      • In what world? They have this covered. It is the drivers responsibility to ensure the car they are driving is registered and insured.

  • Due to my profession, I see these matters in court all the time. As already stated, ignorance of the law is no excuse. That is a statute recognised in WA and QLD and held at common law in other states. If you’re found guilty (which is highly likely) you’re subject to a higher penalty, cost of court and if you’re in Qld – subject to the $110 offender levy additional to penalty and court cost.

    Write to the station, cite your good traffic record, the circumstances of the incident (whether in your opinion it caused actual danger as opposed to potential danger). The worst that can happen is your submission is refused, however take the matter to court and you will be much lighter in the pocket.

  • A person who is innocent until proven guilty should not have to pay so that the prosecution can argue their guilt.

      • How is that even possible?

        I was under the impression that Strict Liability, can’t be applied unless actual harm has occurred.
        You’re liable for the harm your pet ‘gator did, even if the cage was up to standard.
        You’re liable for the tree that fell on your neighbour’s house, even if it was felled by an unprecedented storm.

        If no damage resulted, I don’t see how strict liability can apply?

    • to the registered owner of the car, who can then nominate the real driver if it was not them…

  • At the end of the day it is a huge waste of time and resources for both society and yourself to bother contesting your guilt not based on any plausible defence but rather relying upon a mitigating circumstance of your prior driving history.

    Firstly, in all likelihood you will have to spend the entire day at the courthouse.

    Secondly, the cost incurred by the government (taxpayers) for you to argue that you’re a good driver and should be given leniency is ridiculously high. When you take into account the time for police officers to compile a brief of evidence, the court’s time to hear the matter and other associated costs; based on my own experience it would cost at least $3000.00.

    Bottom line, you can elect to have your matter heard that the court room if you believe that you are not guilty, as you stated above you are aware of your guilt. So simply pay the fine.

    • paying the fine does not prove guilt of a crime…
      being found guilty in court proves your guilt base don evidence…

  • Hello,

    The ticket is on my name. The only thing is that I did not knew that the rego have expired and my friend did not knew that I am driving his car.

    Other point you have said to prove I am good drives is that I have been not issues any ticket before but its just 5 months I have been to Australia.

    Is there any way I can write a letter and send so that my time is not wasted and money is also not spend and after that what ever they reply I look into it.


  • I just received a $360 ticket for turning on a yellow arrow just as it went red. The citing officer advised a yellow light is the same as a red. I have only had a single parking ticket a year ago that was waived under the good driver history. Is there any way I could appeal this?

  • Did a uturn in the light intersection.. A cop car tried 2 pull me over. It was 16:00 hrs. So sun was reflecting in my rear view and side mirrors did not know wot 2do..with all the sirens blaring did not even see the cop in his car ..panicked n went towards the red 2 fines..did not listen to me about the 2nd offence was actually because of him… Do these cops just sit waiting for people to make mistakes..I totally have lost my trust in the police of Australia as a whole..just don’t trust them they r like thugs..intimidating n very condescending. We r tax payers n not criminals ..just listen to us. It’s not I get pulled over quite often..Sometimes I think it’s not worth a grain of salt to become n honest man..

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