Fines Victoria took over from Civic Compliance on 1st January 2018. It was supposed to be a seamless transition. It hasn’t worked. Some of the early problems are starting to be fixed (lengthy delays in nominating fines), but some of the other problems show no signs of improving.

A private company manages the IT system for Fines Victoria. They don’t use the same IT provider that Civic Compliance used. Twenty months since the launch date, the new company still does not have an effective system. What does that mean? Well, if you went to court after 1st January 2018 and received a fine, that fine has not been generated yet. You can’t pay a fine that hasn’t been generated yet. On average numbers, it is approximately $100m of fines that need to be processed.

There have been other problems. The Sheriff has been unable to enforce any outstanding warrants because they cannot get a clear update from Fines Victoria about who owes what! We are hearing reports that this is starting to come back online with the Sheriff very recently commencing road blocks again.

If you believe you have an issue with outstanding fines, contact us on 1800 351 114 to discuss.

Police Technology Targets Number Plates

If you have been caught driving whilst suspended or disqualified, chances are you weren't committing any other road traffic offence at the time you were detected by police. Our experience tells us that suspended or unlicensed drivers will try to attract as little attention as possible while on the road. So why did the police select your vehicle if you weren't doing anything visibly wrong? The answer is all in the number plate.

Police are now using automatic number plate recognition technology to rapidly detect vehicles that are registered to suspended or unlicensed drivers. The new system is operated from within an unmarked van, linked to a roadside police camera. The technology uses infrared light to read number plates, which are then scanned into a computer to check registration details of the owner across the Victoria Police database. Police are also alerted to any other related offences or outstanding warrants of the registered owner.

Several hundred metres down the road from the van, a police car is positioned to pounce on any vehicle registered to a disqualified or suspended driver.

In one of the first tests of the new automatic number plate recognition technology in regional Victoria, police nabbed 34 illegal drivers in just one afternoon. The roadside cameras alerted police to 11 unregistered vehicles and seven disqualified and suspended drivers near Shepparton. Three people with outstanding warrants and 13 other various offences were also caught.

Police have now brought this technology to the city with an overwhelming police presence spied recently on Hoddle Street. And, it is not just roadside cameras catching people out in suburban areas. 
Police cars have a Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) fitted which allows the police officer to manually type in the registration details of any nearby vehicle and bring up the same registration information as the automatic number plate detection cameras.

The majority of the William Archer clients charged with a 'driving whilst suspended/disqualified' were caught out using one of these methods. 

Remember, if you lend your car to someone while you are disqualified or suspended, you may wish to warn them that they may be pulled over by police that were alerted to the vehicle using the new automatic number plate detection technology.

To Blow Or Not To Blow

The chance of being intercepted for a random breath or saliva test is now greater than ever. In Victoria alone, the State Government recently undertook the biggest road traffic operation in its history to ensure drug and alcohol affected drivers are taken off the road during the festive holiday period.

When you consider the intense media coverage that drink and drug driving is receiving at present, it is quite alarming to realise that a great deal of motorists do not know what their rights and obligations are when it comes to an encounter with a booze bus or a random police intercept.

We find that many convicted drink drivers find themselves in far worse situations than necessary because they are simply misinformed. It is a mistake to believe that if you refuse to comply with a police request for a breath test that the situation will actually turn out better for you.

We found that many of our clients thought that if they refuse to comply with a breath test, then the police will be unable to proceed with charges against them. In reality, the situation is often the complete opposite and a conviction for such a charge usually attracts a much higher penalty.

In Victoria, the penalty for a first offence of exceeding 0.05 is calculated according to Schedule 1 of the Road Safety Act 1986. If the driver complies with the breath test, and is subsequently convicted of a drink driving offence, their time off the road is calculated according to the level of their reading.

For example, a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 to 0.068 (inclusive attracts a 3 month cancellation. A reading of 0.07 (inclusive) to 0.099 (inclusive) attracts the minimum licence cancellation of 6 months. If the reading is 0.10 then the minimum cancellation is 10 months. Similarly, a 0.11 reading attracts an 11 month period and a 0.12 result warrants a 12 months licence cancellation. The period of cancellation operates on this sliding scale up to and including a blood alcohol reading of 0.24 (which attracts a minimum cancellation of 24 months). 2

On the other hand, the penalty for a first offence of refusing a breath test has a statutory minimum licence cancellation period of 24 months. This non-compliance penalty is to combat those who try and frustrate the process of administering breath tests.

The statistics show that the vast majority of drink drivers, particularly first time offenders, register blood alcohol readings well below that of 0.24.

For example, an individual who refuses to comply with a request because they think they may be over the limit will, upon conviction or finding of guilt, have their licence disqualified for a minimum period of 24 months. However, if they chose to comply with the breathalyser request and their reading was, say, 0.098 they would be off the road for a minimum period of only 6 months providing that it was their first offence within a 10 year period.

When faced with the choice of 'to blow or not to blow', it is always more advantageous to comply with the police breathalyser request and avoid the lengthy consequences. With this knowledge in mind, a little awareness can save valuable months off the road.

William Archer is a Melbourne-based traffic law firm that offers legal solutions for traffic, drink driving, driving whilst disqualified offences to clients throughout Victoria. 

Choosing The Right Traffic Lawyer

If you have been charged with a serious traffic offence, summoned to appear in court and are at potential risk of losing your licence, your job or your livelihood, we encourage you to consider the advantage of choosing an expert traffic lawyer to represent you in court. Using the services of a traffic law expert, compared to a general practice lawyer, can mean the difference between a reduced sentence and going to jail.

Hiring a lawyer could be one of the biggest investments you will make this year. But how do you choose the right traffic lawyer to support, encourage and defend you during this difficult time?

When you hire a lawyer, you are potentially entrusting your licence, your job and your livelihood to someone that you have never met or know very little about. Clever advertising or constant media exposure of a lawyer isn't always the best way to tell if they have the right skills, experience and ability to handle your case.

We have listed a number of suggestions to ultimately help you choose the right traffic lawyer for your case.

  1. We recommend you shop around. Speak to a few lawyers and ask them for advice about your case. If you feel uneasy, scared or uncertain afterwards, you should get a second opinion as soon as possible. A good traffic lawyer should outline all your options and help you feel more at ease with the upcoming legal process.

  2. There should not be a fee for the initial advice. A good traffic lawyer should be able to speak to you over the phone and give you an honest assessment of your case.

  3. Your lawyer should be a good listener. Was the lawyer interested in listening to all you had to say? A good lawyer will always listen to you very carefully to learn about your case. Only then can they give accurate legal advice. You would expect a doctor or a builder to listen to you first before giving health advice or starting works on your building project. A lawyer should be no different and must take time to listen.

  4. Is your lawyer taking detailed notes on what you have explained? It is unrealistic to think a lawyer can recall exactly what a client said weeks or months after their meeting. If they work on many similar cases, how do they know which facts belong to which case? Detailed note taking indicates your lawyer is serious about your case and is planning further preparation based on what they have written down. It could be costly if your lawyer makes mistakes about your case in court.

  5. What preparation will your lawyer do for your court case? Are they:

    • Arranging expert witnesses?
    • Asking you to obtain references?
    • Negotiating with the police to have charges dropped? 
    • Arranging counselling or driving related courses?

  6. If a lawyer says you will go to jail, get a second opinion immediately. For example, most of the clients at William Archer Defence Lawyers get fines. Unfortunately, some lawyers use scare tactics – be careful.

  7. If your lawyer tells you to drive on a suspended or disqualified licence, then this advice is unethical and irresponsible. Driving whilst disqualified has significant penalties and your lawyer is actually telling you to break the law, along with putting you at further risk of going to jail.

  8. A good lawyer can only advise you whether you should plead guilty or not guilty AFTER they have heard your story. Some lawyers will tell you to plead guilty and "make a fresh start" because it is easier for them. Do not plead guilty unless you have been fully listened to and your lawyer has read the brief of evidence from the police.

  9. If you have several charges pending against you, they are often alternatives. The police will often agree to withdraw the less serious charges if you are going to plead guilty to the serious one. Just because your lawyer gets some charges dropped does not necessarily mean they are doing a good job. Where possible, it is more preferable to get the serious charges dropped. A good traffic lawyer should negotiate with the police, the prosecutors and get an indication about your case from the Magistrate on the day of the hearing. This takes more time which is why some lawyers don't do it.

  10. If you do not understand something, always ask. A good lawyer will be happy to answer any of your questions. After all, you are paying them and you should be able to call them whenever you want to.

  11. You should trust your instincts. Keep your prospective lawyer on the phone to see if you feel comfortable working with them.

If you would like any further advice on choosing a lawyer or would like to speak with an expert traffic lawyer about your case, then please call the team at William Archer for free advice on 1800 351 114.