How you should respond to an accusation that you committed a traffic offence may depend on how you are charged. The government of Victoria deals with driving offences in several different ways.
How you should respond when the police accuse you of a traffic violation depends on how you are charged with the offence.
Most minor driving violations result in an infringement notice. Common traffic offences like failing to stop at a red light, speeding, and failing to give way usually result in a “ticket” issued by the police officer who observed the violation. The “ticket” is an infringement notice. If a traffic violation is recorded on a speed or red light camera, the infringement notice will be issued later.
If you receive an infringement notice in Victoria, you have 28 days in which to choose between two options:
A third option exists if your infringement notice was issued because your vehicle was recorded by a speed or red light camera. If you were not the driver of the vehicle, you can nominate another person as the driver. That person will then be issued an infringement notice.
If you lodge a notice of objection, you will be entitled to present a defence in court. You should obtain legal advice to help you decide whether you have a defence that the magistrate might accept.
A more serious driving offence might result in the issuance of a summons. A summons is an invitation to appear in court to address the charge. If you do not appear, you may be found guilty by default.
In some cases, a warrant may be issued for your arrest if you do not appear in response to a summons. That is more likely if the Magistrate believes that imprisonment might be an appropriate punishment for the offence. Magistrates cannot impose a custodial sentence until the accused appears in court. To avoid the risk of being arrested, it is always wise to appear in court with a lawyer if you receive a summons.
A notice to appear is similar to a summons. It is usually used when a simple traffic offence is charged. A notice to appear will instruct you to come to court at a designated time. Failing to do so may result in a conviction by default or in the issuance of an arrest warrant.
If you are accused of a serious traffic offence, you might be arrested on the spot. The police might also arrest you if the officer believes you are lying about your identity, are being uncooperative, or are too drunk to be released safely.
In most cases, the police will release an arrested person on bail. A Magistrate will consider bail if the police refuse bail. You should always talk to a lawyer at your earliest opportunity if you are arrested.