Ask LH: Should I Contest This Police Fine?

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Dear Lifehacker, A few weeks ago I received a call from a police officer as another driver reported my car as having bumped their car (which I do not believe I did and there is no evidence of any collision.) I was told to visit my local police station and make a report - and obviously my report was very different from the other person's!

About a week later I got a $180 fine in the mail for "negligent driving" issued by the officer who had called me to ask me to go and make the report. I don't understand how I can be issued a fine by an officer I have never met based on the report of a person I have never met. I appealed the fine but was given the reply that the officer felt it was appropriate. My only other option is to go to court which I can't afford to. What should I do? Thanks, Lee

Dear Lee,

If there truly was no collision, you should absolutely contest this in court. The police cannot have evidence of an event that didn't take place - so it's basically your word against the other driver.

Lodging an appeal in court is not expensive if you forgo the services of a solicitor. (This is the norm when contesting things like traffic fines.) You're basically looking at an application fee of around $50.

With that said, it seems exceedingly odd that the police would issue a penalty if there wasn't a shred of proof. And why did the other motorist identify your licence plate in the first place? Are you sure there was no collision?

If the police have CRT or mobile phone footage of the incident, this will be presented in court. You may end up facing additional fines in addition to the negligent driving charge.

In short, if you're certain of your innocence, it's worth taking the matter to court: the fine will almost certainly be dismissed and the points restored to your licence. If you may have done the deed (or are sneakily trying to get out of it), contesting isn't worth the risk: just accept the punishment and move on.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    My name is Spiros Metaxas and I am a Barrister. I practice traffic law.

    From what you have written, I would recommend that you contest this in Court. If you do contest this matter, the Police will have to give you a Brief of Evidence that would include any witness reports, video footage details or any other evidence. If there is any video or recording then you will have the opportunity to view it. Then you can decide if the Prosecution has a strong or weak case against you or seek legal advice. You may qualify for Legal Aid that may assist you.

    Broadly speaking, if there is no video evidence, no recording, no physical evidence and no police or independant eyewitness evidence, then it is your word against the person making the complaint to the police and this would make it easier for you to introduce the element of "reasonable doubt". You do not need to prove your innocence - you only need to introduce and convince the court that there is "reasonable doubt". The onus is on the prosecution to prove their case against you which becomes harder if you run your case properly.

    You do not pay any fee to the Court to contest the matter. I hope this helps you.

    Good luck and fight the good fight.

      Further to my previous comments, you should always seek legal advice so if you cannot afford a lawyer, then contact Legal Aid or a community legal service in your area that provides a free service.

      There are many factors that you should consider which can be best answered by a lawyer. For example, you should consider your best possible result in Court together with your worst possible result in Court and from there make a decision to fight or not to fight based together with the strength of the Police case against you.

    Apart from the fact that the question asker has physically gone to the police station to make a report and the officer on duty has (presumably) known about the alleged incident, this smells like a scam. If nothing else, I would verify the name of the issuing officer and, most importantly, the payment details provided on the notice that they were issued in the mail.

    1. Wouldn't insurance usually deal with incidents like this - unless there was damage to property or injury?

    2. "Negligent Driving" sounds like a made up charge. Culpable driving I believe is usually the charge when your reckless behaviour has caused an incident. (I could be wrong about this - not a lawyer).

    Are you a member of a motoring association (NRMA, RACV etc)?
    They generally have a free legal service for members. Ask them to help.

    Last edited 25/07/17 12:30 pm

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