Ask LH: Are Police Allowed To Harass Me On My Property?

Ask LH: Are Police Allowed To Harass Me On My Property?

Dear Lifehacker, Last night, I was driving home at 3am on a provisional licence. As I entered my driveway the police pulled up and started grilling me about why I was driving outside of the P plate curfew. I have an exemption for work which I immediately showed to them. They subsequently couldn’t fine me for driving after hours, but then they noticed my back P plate had fallen down (it fell down as I went over the bump in my driveway). So they fined me for that instead. Was just wondering if what they did was allowed, coming onto my property and all that? Thanks, F.T.P

Police car picture from Shutterstock

Dear F.T.P,

That sounds exceedingly rough, especially if the P plates were still visible on your vehicle. Police routinely let provisional drivers off with a warning when their P plates are poorly displayed — the decision to issue a fine is entirely at their discretion. In other words, it looks like the officer had cause to dislike you (or was just a vindictive asshole.)

With that said, your rights weren’t actually violated in any legal sense. When a motorist is suspected of breaking a road rule, the police are entitled to follow the alleged perpetrator onto his or her property. Otherwise, people would just make a dash for their driveway whenever they did anything wrong. But this doesn’t mean you were treated fairly.

If I were you, I’d definitely request an internal review of the fine from the issuing agency. You can find the relevant instructions on the back of your penalty notice.

With any luck, the police department will downgrade your penalty to a warning. If they decide to uphold the fine, you can elect to have the matter heard at court. This will involve appearing before your local court at a specified date and time to defend yourself at a formal hearing. The magistrate can then decide to quash the fine or dismiss your case (which mean the fine still stands).

Often the decision will come down to how benevolent the magistrate is feeling on a particular day, as well as any existing driving offenses you have accrued. An impeccable record will obviously work in your favour. The fact that the police clearly had no problem identifying you as a provisional driver should also help your chances. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Bloody ridiculous.

    The cops only pursued the driver because the p-plates were visible and they were out past curfew.

    Otherwise they wouldn’t have been stopped at the property to notice the plate missing.

    Basic logic.

        • Maybe. I think the story’s a little fishy. You can’t display P plates inside the window of your car any more, they have to be attached outside. Just seems odd that he’d know it dropped as he entered the driveway when it shouldn’t have been mounted somewhere he could see it in the first place. And if it was mounted in the rear window, then that’s why he got the fine.

          • Of course, if it was mounted outside and had fallen off, he’d either see it on the ground or (if it’s a long driveway out bush), only realized it would’ve fallen off after he’s puzzled because he knew he put them on, and gone looking.

            Me, I get a vibe that the cops had one very singular goal in mind – catch the curfew-dodger – and got disgruntled that they’d wasted their time for nothing (and he possibly gave them some static), so they went looking for things to find, because ‘fuck you, buddy, everyone’s guilty of something if we look hard enough’ is an all-too-common police attitude.

          • He didn’t say ‘fell off’ though, he said ‘fell down’. The wording there makes me think it was suction-capped to his rear window. As for police hunting for a reason to give him a fine, in my experience that usually only happens if you give them attitude.

            In any case I don’t think the story above is complete and I’d rather not rule out reasonable explanations that might have been omitted from his account.

          • I’ve found this too, treat them well, and they’ll treat you well in return.

            …or maybe i’ve just never met a ‘bad’ police officer 😛

          • It can also depend on your area, Townsville has enough attitude P platers that all P platers get treated the same. Was just over there for someone’s birthday (I’m fully licensed in the NT never had a problem with police here) and was ridding passenger with a postal plater. They got pulled over, first the cop tried to make it seem like we were speeding (we were stuck behind a truck doing 90 in a 110 zone) and when he realised that wasn’t going to stick he got the driver to get out the car because he supposedly could smell dope. They searched the car for 15 minutes before finally deciding to charge her with being in control of a motor vehicle without a seatbelt on. Because she didn’t turn the car off when she got our of the car so apparently that counts and driving without a seatbelt.

            I could believe what I was witnessing the entire time, I’d never seen targeting before and until I experienced it, I always just assumed it was just attitude people gave.

  • Agree with LH. Write a letter. Cut out the aggro accusations and just confirm that the back plate fell down when entering the driveway. Note that you are a good driver with no other incidents against your name and are seeking a warning rather than a fine.

    I have written these to get out of going over the speed limit by 4km. Inside I am seething with anger, wanting to crush the revenue raising establishment – but externally I am writing a very polite and direct letter admitting my mistake and seeking a warning.

    • As far as I can tell, only South Australia has general curfews for P platers. Other states only apply curfews if you’ve done something wrong in the past to trigger one.

  • I’ve been booked in my own driveway for speeding. 1st and last time mind you. But the patrol officer had tagged me speeding just before I pulled into my driveway. This was around the time residential roads had just become 50km zone in Victoria and I’d just come back from 6 months in WA (by rights I should have been towed). I accepted it for what it was and will never forget what the officer said “We’re in the business of saving lives”.

    If your P plates were showing prior to getting booked, then this should show in their dash camera and you could have requested a copy. Attitude does play a big part as well, you only have to watch some of our local police shows to see that a person acting like an ass is less likely to get off, or have a more lenient infringement than someone who’s fully compliant and cooperative for the same thing.

    • the old “We’re in the business of saving lives”, is code for – “We’re in the business of revenue raising”

  • P Plates were visible which is why they followed you. They fined you for them having fallen down?
    Logic fail there.

    Remember, when in court be clear and clinical and not emotional.

    On the evening of the 5th of Sept I was driving down Koala Ave at approximately 3am to my residence. Officer Brown and Officer Pink followed me into my driveway……and so on.
    Try not to resort to a he said she said.

  • Meanwhile, the accompanying image of a Federal Police vehicle in this instance is erroneous – Federal Police don’t issue traffic fines.

    • As we with the Bronniecopter the Federal Police actually don’t do much at all. Unless it benefits the Liberals.

  • Police officers get a 15% commission on every fine they give out, they will give out as much as possible to improve their $65,000 dollar salary

    • You got any factual proof to back that up? Or are you just another ignorant person who is butthurt about the police?

    • HAHA!

      You are kidding yourself. The public would go f*&&^ng ballistic if that was the case.

      You’re just a sad sad troll.

  • Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you’re suddenly safe if you commit a crime, its not Home Base in a game of tag…

    • Right, but at some point in their driveway, a p-plater can pull the sign down when they’re not driving. It’s not the CAR which is provisional, it’s the driver and their licence.

      • correct.
        the p plater in question was still driving the car, as they stated, the p plate fell off as they went over a bump (if we are to believe that)

        • Which wasn’t noticed until the car was stationary (and I assume engine off, per standard instructions when an officer wants to commence a discussion with a stopped driver), and the driver potentially even out of the vehicle. Meaning that at the time the missing plate was noticed, I’d say there’s a strong case that it mightn’t have been technically illegal for it to be down.

    • You may want to re-read the story.

      They pulled him over for being a P Plater out after curfew. But than he plays the Work Exemption special ability. So they than decided to charge him with a missing P Plate. Which means it had to have come off after they noticed he was a P Plater.

      • This “victims” story is fishy. Are we meant to believe that a vehicle slowly entering a driveway can hit a bump with enough force to dislodge a p-plate but be secure enough to not come off during normal driving such as corners, speed bumps, pot-holes, braking etc???

        My guess is he had the front one up which alerted the cops to his curfew breach and then as they got to his car they noticed he didn’t have his rear one up.

        And yes, it’s perhaps petty if this victims story is true, however, if it fell off even in his driveway while he’s driving then you can fine. I’m guessing the cops probably would have let him off for the p-plate but he failed the attitude test when he would have got all high and mighty about his exemption.

        • Too many unknowns, how did he attach the P Plate? That last bump could have been the one to knock it off. Especially if it was suction cupped to his Window.

          We have no idea what his attitude was, and from what was written the police had gotten out of the car to write a ticket and they where going to write a ticket.

    • Whilst there is definitely more to the story than provided, once he’s in the driveway and has switched off the engine, he can remove the P plates that very instant, and still be legal.

      Chances are, the police pulled up behind him right away, removing any chance of him using that as a defence, and to be honest, after a long day at work and getting home at 3am, I too might be a little testy when I have to deal with two policemen instead of being able to flop onto my bed, mere metres away.

      Anyway, it could have been a lot worse. Like this:

  • I would want to know how he reacted when the officers pulled him over in his driveway, my guess would be arrogantly if he is of the opinion that a driveway acts as a special police free zone

    • Exactly. P-plate was already down. Gave coppers attitude when producing his exemption and arguing the driveway point. Bang….fine issued.

  • Everyone assuming the p-plates were visible in the first place. Traffic police regularly check the state of a vehicle’s registration and it’s owners licence using the number plate before pulling anyone over. For all anyone knows, they didn’t see the plate at all and that was already half the reason they stopped him (the other half being the curfew).

    It is perfectly reasonable to assume an officer checked his plates, saw he was probationary and pulled him over assuming he’d removed his plates to cover the fact he was out past curfew (as I’m sure plenty of young drivers do).

  • Hm, what country (State) exactly do you live in, where plates have to be on the outside of a vehicle. That is dumb, first of al – secondly, incorrect, for WA at least…

    Also, some other guy in a different post, implied that WA is not 50km/h in residential zones…?

    All i can say is, you guys are obviously not aware road rules/laws differ State to State…lol :/

  • Which State did this happen in? Because in Victoria they can still have their “P” plate displayed on the inside.

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