Mandatory Sentencing For Driving Offences (Vic)
Driving offences are largely covered by the Road Safety Act 1986 in Victoria. They include offences such as drink driving, drug driving, careless or dangerous driving, driving in contravention of a driver’s licence condition, such as an alcohol interlock condition, or the requirement of having P-Plates affixed to the vehicle and driving whilst one’s driver’s licence is suspended, disqualified, or expired. Many driving offences in Victoria carry mandatory minimum licence suspension periods. This article deals with mandatory sentencing for driving offences in Victoria.
Mandatory licence suspension periods
In Victoria, courts have the power to cancel or suspend a person’s driver’s licence for a period in relation to traffic offences. The minimum and maximum periods for which a licence may be suspended for an offence are set out in the legislation. A number of driving offences also carry mandatory minimum licence suspension/cancellation periods as part of the legislatively prescribed penalties.
Penalties prescribed under legislation are generally maximum penalties and the court is given the discretion to impose a lesser penalty. However, with certain driving offences, the court has no discretion to impose a suspension period that is below a certain mandatory minimum period. When dealing with such offences, the only discretion the court has is to impose a longer period of disqualification.
Offences with mandatory minimum licence disqualification periods
Some examples of offences where a mandatory minimum disqualification period applies are:
- Drug driving offences – the court must cancel a driver’s licence for 6 months on a first offence and 12 months on any subsequent offence within 10 years;
- Drink driving offences – the court must cancel a driver’s licence for mandatory periods which vary depending on the BAC reading, as well as whether or not it is a first, second or subsequent offence within the last 10 years (between 6 and 48 month mandatory minimums apply);
- Speeding offences – the court must cancel a driver’s licence for at least 3 months if the speed limit is exceeded by over 25km/h, with the mandatory minimum increasing to 12 months if it is exceeded by 45km/h or more;
- Dangerous driving offending – the court must cancel a driver’s licence for at least 6 months, but for at least 12 months if the driving involved speeding of 45km/h or more over the speed limit.
The above is not an exclusive list of offences with mandatory minimum licence disqualification periods. However, the offences listed above are the most common ones where mandatory disqualification periods apply.
When dealing with traffic offences, courts are often inclined to impose a licence disqualification period, even when doing so is not mandatory. This is especially the case for offences such as driving whilst suspended or disqualified.
Fines and terms of imprisonment
As well as licence disqualification periods, each driving offence also has a maximum penalty that the court may impose. This may be a fine, a term of imprisonment, or both. These penalties are imposed alongside any licence disqualification period.
A person pleading guilty to traffic offences in Victoria may face a mandatory minimum driver’s licence loss alongside a fine or term of imprisonment. However, there are no mandatory minimum fines or terms of imprisonment for driving offences in Victoria.
Seek legal advice
Whilst the mandatory minimum periods that apply to driving offences may make it feel pointless to get a lawyer involved to assist, it is still important and valuable to be legally represented. A lawyer can ensure that you are charged correctly and explore whether there is an alternative charge that does not attract a mandatory licence loss (for example, the charges of dangerous driving and careless driving may both be applicable in the same case).
A lawyer can also assist with minimising the risk that the court imposes a disqualification period beyond the mandatory minimum and argue that, if there are multiple offences, the various periods should run at the same time (concurrently).
Lastly, alongside any licence disqualification period, the court will also impose a penalty. This may be an Undertaking, a fine, a Community Corrections Order or even a term of imprisonment. As such it is always beneficial to have a lawyer assist you to obtain the lowest possible sentence.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.