Serious Traffic Offences in Western Australia
Serious traffic offences in Western Australia can attract penalties including large fines and terms of imprisonment. Long periods of licence disqualification may also be imposed and the vehicle involved may be temporarily impounded or even permanently confiscated. This article summarises some of the procedures involved in the prosecution of serious traffic offences.
Police can issue offenders with a Disqualification Notice for serious traffic offences in Western Australia. This notice will be in force for two months. Once a Disqualification Notice has been served on a driver they are immediately disqualified from driving. A notice can be served on the driver at the time the offence is committed or any time for up to 10 days after the offence.
Offences that police can issue a Disqualification Notice for are:
- Driving with a BAC of more than 0.08% (Road Traffic Act, section 64);
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a drug to the point of being incapable of having proper control of the vehicle (section 63); or
- Failing to provide a sample of breath, blood or urine for analysis (section 67).
If an offender breaches a Disqualification Notice, they will be charged with unauthorised driving. The vehicle involved will be impounded for 28 days and the offender will bear all associated costs.
A person who has been served with a Disqualification Notice is not entitled to apply for an Extraordinary Driver’s Licence, regardless of their circumstances.
When a person is charged with serious traffic offences in Western Australia, they must attend court and if found guilty, they will receive a court-ordered penalty as well as a further period of disqualification. The court may take into account the disqualification period that has already been served under Disqualification Notice when determining whether a further disqualification period needs to be imposed. Any further disqualification period will be backdated to the date of the roadside disqualification.
Court-imposed periods of disqualification may be long and in cases of very serious traffic offences (such as three of more instances of driving with a BAC of 0.15 or more) the driver may be disqualified for life.
Impoundment and confiscation of vehicles
Western Australian courts have the power to impound or confiscate a vehicle that has been used to commit a serious traffic offence, or for repeated traffic offences.
Impoundment of vehicles
When a vehicle is impounded for serious traffic offences in Western Australia, it is seized and stored in a holding yard for the period of the order. Offences for which vehicles may be impounded include racing and driving without a licence. When a person is found guilty of an impounding offence, the vehicle may be impounded for a period starting on the date it was surrendered or stored.
The court may order the impoundment of a vehicle after a person has been found guilty of driving without authority. However, a court may not make such an order unless it is satisfied that within the past five years, the person was convicted of two other offences relating to driving without a license.
Confiscation of vehicles
An offender’s vehicle may be confiscated if in the five years prior to the offence, they have been found guilty of two previous offences, for which the vehicle could have been impounded (section 80).
Under section 80A(1) of the Act, when a vehicle is confiscated, it is seized and becomes the property of the state.
Early release of impounded vehicle
A driver may apply for the early release of an impounded vehicle based on evidence that the impoundment is causing exceptional hardship to them. This application can be made to the Vehicle Impound Unit of the West Australian Police. A vehicle may be released from impoundment early due to exceptional hardship if the offender needs the vehicle for transport because of a medical condition or if the vehicle has been modified for the purpose of the driver’s employment and another vehicle cannot be used instead.
Should you need advice about serious traffic offences in Western Australia or in any other legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal.