Pleading Not Guilty to a Traffic Offence
A person should plead not guilty to a traffic offence if they do not believe they are responsible for the offence or if they disagree with the facts that have been alleged. This article outlines the process for pleading not guilty to traffic offences.
Procedure for pleading not guilty
When a person indicates that they will be pleading not guilty to a traffic offence, the matter will generally be adjourned for about 4 to 6 weeks to allow the police time to prepare a brief of evidence.
Briefs of evidence
A brief of evidence contains all the evidence that the police intend to rely upon at the hearing. Generally, police are not able to call additional evidence that was not contained in the brief of evidence and served on you 28 days prior to the hearing.
Police do not always serve the brief of evidence upon you by the date allocated by the court registrar. This does not necessarily mean that they will not be able to serve the brief of evidence on you later. Normally, if the police provide a reasonable excuse for not serving the brief, the registrar will give them further time to serve it. It may be possible to have your legal costs paid by the police if they do not serve the brief upon you when they should have.
At your second court appearance, your lawyer will ask the registrar for a hearing date. You will be asked to complete a court listing advice that identifies the witnesses you want to cross examine and your estimate of how long the hearing will take. You may be asked what issues are in dispute.
It is possible to subpoena a person or organisation to produce documents that may help your case. If a subpoena is issued, your lawyer will obtain a further mention date prior to the hearing to allow plenty of time to inspect the documents prior to the hearing.
On the day of the contested hearing, the court will hear evidence from the prosecution. The defence may also call evidence. For the accused to be found guilty, the police must prove that the accused is guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If the magistrate has a reasonable doubt then they must dismiss the charge.
The prosecution case
The prosecution will call witnesses to try and prove that you committed the offence. The defence may object to questions asked by the prosecution in certain circumstances. After the prosecution has finished asking the witness questions, the defence may cross-examine the witness. After the defence has finished cross examining the witness the prosecution will be able to conduct re-examination to clarify any issues that have been in dispute. After all witnesses have given evidence, the prosecution will make submissions and then close its case.
Is there a prima facie case?
Before the defence is required to respond to the prosecution case, the magistrate has to decide whether the accused could be lawfully convicted of the offence. If it appears the prosecution does not have a case against the accused, the defence can make submissions as to why the accused could not be lawfully convicted. This is called a “no case submission”.
The defence case
If the magistrate is satisfied that there is prima facie case to answer, the defence may proceed to call evidence and make submissions. If the defendant is to give evidence, they must generally give evidence before other defence witnesses. The defence lawyer will ask the defence witnesses questions, after which the prosecutor may cross-examine them.
After all defence witnesses have given evidence, the defence lawyer will make submissions.
The magistrate will make their decision on the evidence given and will normally make a decision shortly after submissions are given by both parties. The magistrate will find the accused either guilty or not guilty. If the accused is found not guilty, they may be able to claim their legal costs in some circumstances. If they are found guilty then they will be sentenced.
The court may impose penalties for a traffic offence that include a fine, licence suspension and/or imprisonment.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.