Ask LH: Can I Reduce Speeding Fines With Community Service?

Ask LH: Can I Reduce Speeding Fines With Community Service?

Hi Lifehacker, I got busted recently for speeding and was fined and handed an instant suspension. Is there any way to reduce the fine or suspension with community service? Thanks, Regretful

Speeding picture from Shutterstock

Dear Regretful,

No, you can’t reduce a speeding fine or licence suspension with community service. As the adage goes, the punishment needs to fit the crime.

But don’t give up hope just yet. In certain circumstances, it is possible to have the suspension waived and continue to drive on a restricted licence. Depending on the state you live in, this could either involve applying for a work/professional licence or appealing the decision at your local court.

To pull this off, you will need to prove that your licence is essential for family or work reasons and that its loss would create extreme hardship. [Note: Having to take the train to work doesn’t count as an extreme hardship.]

Permissible examples include taxi/bus drivers, tradesmen who regularly transport heavy tools and being the only licence holder in a family that includes newborns or small children.

You will also need to demonstrate that you hold the safety of other road users in high regard. In other words, if you were caught travelling at high speeds in a residential area or under the influence of alcohol, you can basically forget it.

Naturally, having a good driving record and no criminal offences will work in your favour. It’s also a good idea to supply some written character references if you’re appealing the suspension in court.

If everything goes in your favour, you’ll be issued a so-called “good behaviour” licence. This typically lasts for 12 months and is heavily restricted — if you accumulate two or more demerit points during this time, your original suspension will usually be doubled.

You can find more information on appealing licence suspensions from the following state government websites:

If any readers have experience or advice in this area, let Regretful know in the comments section below.


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  • If you were handed an instant suspension, you must’ve been speeding WAY over the limit, or you’ve been caught speeding several times in the past couple years. Either way, you deserve to be taken off the roads.

  • Serve the community by getting off the road, which will help realise how important / useful having a license is, which in turn will help you stay within the speed, or teach you not to drink & drive.

  • If a judge grants an extraordinary licence there are normally conditions attached, eg you can only drive the vehicle for work purposes.

    If you are a taxi or bus driver, the conditions will often specify that you can only drive the taxi or bus. For bus drivers they will often need to use public transport or have someone drop them off at the depot because driving to work would not be covered.

    For trades people it can include restrictions on the time of day they can use the car and if pulled over you may need to prove that you are travelling to work site/client or to your home or office. If your vehicle isn’t kept at home you will most likely need to organise alternative transport to the work place.

  • I find it disturbing how so many of the “Ask Lifehacker” questions are from people who have been caught breaking the law (usually through a traffic infringement) and trying to find some way of getting out of paying the penalty for it.

    You broke the law. That’s nobody’s fault but your own. Take a teaspoon of concrete, harden up, and cop the punishment.

    • I mostly agree, but in this instance, the asker I can sympathize with. They’re not looking to get out of paying, they’re looking to find a way that isn’t going to potentially fuck them up worse than the penalty possibly should.

      Sometimes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, see. I know someone who rolled through a stop sign because there was no traffic visible anywhere… except for the cop who was parked, watching. He copped a $350 fine.

      $350 is a lot to some people. For anyone on centrelink, that’s your entire next allowance. Nothing to live off for the next two weeks. It’s difficult to see how that’s a proportionate response from the law. Offering community service instead seems pretty reasonable in those circumstances.

      Personally, I’m far more in favour of fines being a percentage of your income. If you make six figures, a $350 fine is an annoyance. If you’re living hand-to-mouth on minimum wage, $350 can be what tips you over the edge of not meeting a payment plan or losing your utilities. There’s no way those consequences are in any way similar.

      • Except instant suspension of license suggests a gross violation of the communities expectations when it comes to road safety. I think @whitepointer is correct in their assessment that the person should just accept the suspension as a lesson in life.

      • As @smithy_dll said above, this guy received an instant on the spot suspension. He was probably breaking the speed limit by an absurd amount, or he was a repeat offender. Either way, he just needs to accept the punishment.

  • It’s a bit dodgy that we let people drive a taxi on a suspended licence. Having your licence suspended is the best evidence that you shouldn’t be working as a full time driver!

    • The law recognizes mistakes happen. A taxi driver has more demerit points than you or I as they are on the road for ~7000 hours (rough math) over 3 years (The length of time a demerit point sticks) for this reason.

      For someone who is working, dealing with the stress of traffic, parking and passengers etc. It’s not unreasonable to expect they might roll through a stop sign, drift over the speed limit, park across a driveway, overtake on the left etc… I mean, it’s pretty easy to obey the law and not drive over the speed limit when you’re only driving in 60 minute blocks but an 8 hour shift is asking for failure.

      • A professional driver should be held more accountable than the general public. Would you extend your logic to say that maybe doctors who work long hours should be allowed the occasional stuff up?

        • The doctor extension is ludicrous. I’ll dismiss that comment. I’m not saying anyone should be allowed to break the law.

          The difference between a professional driver and myself is the professional driver is automatically more accountable. Committing enough minor offences may cause me to have to catch the bus to work where as the taxi driver committing the same offence may lose their income.

          My point is: I don’t think labeling someone as a threat to the public and stripping them of their livelihood is reasonable justice for a professional driver in every situation, which is exactly why the courts will hear a case and decide if the punishment fits the crime and if the driver is a risk to the public.

      • Doing any one of those things doesn’t get your license suspended. Doing them repeatedly or doing something more serious would. If people are repeatedly missing stop signs or speeding, intentionally or otherwise, it’s a problem.

        Having said that, I do recognise that having the license suspended would prompt them to change their ways by either paying closer attention or taking breaks to stop the issues you are describing, and that getting caught again would probably mean losing it for real.

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