If you've elected to go to court
If you've chosen to go to court to contest a penalty notice, here's what you need to know before your court date.
Preparing for court
When you attend court, you will need to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
You can choose to confirm or change your original plea:
- If you don't believe you broke the law and you want to challenge the facts or evidence, you may choose to plead not guilty.
- If you did break the law but you think the penalty is too harsh, you may plead guilty and give an explanation to the court.
To help you prepare for court, you can request a copy of the prosecution file for your traffic matter.
You'll also receive a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) by post prior to you court date, which includes this information along with contact details to confirm or change your plea.
Pleading not guilty
If you've chosen to go to court to plead not guilty to a traffic offence, it's important to know the following information before your court date.
When pleading not guilty, you:
- are denying the facts as alleged by the prosecuting authority, or
- consider the evidence to be presented by the prosecuting authority is insufficient to prove the case against you.
Disputing the accuracy of a detection instrument (camera, Lidar, radar)
It is presumed at law that detection devices are accurate and properly functioning.
If you want to challenge the accuracy of a device, you will need an expert to give evidence that the device was inaccurate. It may be worthwhile seeking legal advice in the first instance.
Disputing that you were the driver of the vehicle
If you weren't responsible for the offence but you know who was driving at the time, you must transfer the fine to the person who was at fault. You only have 21 days after the service of the penalty notice or Court Attendance Notice to do this.
If you haven't done this, this information cannot be raised as a defence at court. Instead, you can make a plea of guilty with an explanation. This can be taken into account by the magistrate at the time of sentencing.
Pleading guilty with an explanation
If you've been fined for a traffic offence – such as running a red light, using a mobile phone or speeding – you may agree that you committed the offence but think the penalty is too harsh. In this case can choose to plead guilty, but give an explanation to the court to make a case for leniency.
If you do plead guilty, the court cannot change the demerit points you receive. It can only consider the penalty. In assessing the fine, the court is not limited to the amount on the penalty notice. It may decide to give you a higher fine.
How to plead guilty with an explanation
You must let the court know whether you want you come to court or not.
If you want to plead guilty with an explanation and you do want to come to court, send a letter or email to the court where your matter is listed. You must:
- advise the court that you wish to plead guilty but want to appear before the court for sentence
- send your response within 14 days of receiving your Court Attendance Notice in the post.
A further date before the court will be set. You will be advised of the court date. You will need to attend the court on that date so your matter can be finalised before a magistrate.
If you wish to plead not guilty and you do not want to come to court:
- Complete the online Notice of Pleading form, or
- Complete the Notice of Pleading form that comes with your Court Attendance Notice in the mail. Return it to the court where your matter is listed within 14 days from the date of the letter.
The court will take into account the information you give in your Notice of Pleading form to make its decision.
Demerit points and penalties
Every traffic offence has a specific number of demerit points attached to it. If you are found not guilty by the court, you will not receive any demerit points.
But the court is not able to change the demerit points you receive for an offence if you are found guilty. Transport for NSW is the authority for demerit points, not the court.
It is important to know that the court has discretion to impose a penalty that involves not recording a conviction, even if you plead not guilty.
The court may impose a more severe penalty
If you are found guilty, the court may give you a fine up to 10 times the original penalty notice fine you received. You may also have to pay other costs or be convicted of an offence, which may be recorded on your criminal record.
If you can't attend on your court date
If you cannot appear at court on the scheduled date, you must let them know in writing or by telephone before your court appearance date. You should include evidence of accident, illness or misadventure. For example, if you are unwell you should provide a doctor's certificate.
If you do not attend without letting the court know in advance, the court may finalise your matter in your absence if they are satisfied you are aware of your court date. This could result in a higher penalty than the original fine you received, additional costs or criminal charges.