Is a traffic offence a criminal conviction?
In Victoria, driving offences are considered criminal offences because they are punishable by the State. However, the way traffic offences are dealt with and recorded varies depending on how serious the offence is.
Below we discuss how different traffic offences are recorded in Victoria as criminal convictions. For full details about each type of criminal traffic offence and how they are dealt with in court, please visit Driving and Traffic Offences in Victoria.
If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence, it is vital that you obtain advice from an experienced traffic offence lawyer. Doing so will help you to achieve the best possible outcome in court. Please contact one of our criminal defence specialists today for a free consultation.
Please note that this article is not legal advice. It only presents general information.
- Minor driving offences are normally only recorded on your driving record (held by VicRoads) and not your police record. They might be recorded on your criminal record if:
- You challenge an infringement notice in Court and are found guilty.
- You fail to deal with an infringement notice and an infringement agency takes enforcement action where you are found guilty.
- An infringement notice for drink driving, drug driving or excessive speeding (25 km/h or more over the speed limit) will be recorded on your driving record, and might be recorded on your criminal (police) record, as an ‘infringement conviction’.
- If you are found guilty of a summary or indictable traffic offence in court, that will be recorded on both your driving record and your criminal record. Even if you are found not guilty, your court appearance and the outcome will still be recorded on your criminal record. The important thing to know is whether it is disclosable, and if so, when. It is often contained on records provided to the police for Court use, but should not be disclosed for a police record check for employment purposes.
The Two Types of Criminal Records in Victoria
In Victoria, the two most common criminal records are:
- A driving record kept and issued by VicRoads.
- A police record kept and issued by the police sometimes referred to as the LEAP (Law Enforcement Assistance Program) database.
Very occasionally, another regulatory agency or local government authority might keep a record of prosecutions and Court results.
Your driving record includes information about:
- Driving offences where you were found guilty by a court (including the Infringements Court).
- Fines for drink driving, drug driving and excessive speeding (also known as infringement convictions).
- Road safety camera offences.
- The number of demerit points on your licence.
Your criminal (police) record is slightly different. It records information about any criminal cases that you have had heard in the Magistrates’, Childrens’, County and Supreme Courts. Even if you are found not guilty in a case, your appearance in court and the outcome of that case will still be recorded on your criminal record, but may not be disclosed in all circumstances.
The courts have a record of all your court appearances and their outcomes, and the police have access to your police record. From time to time, people or organisations such as employers and embassies may want to access the record as well. However, generally the police cannot provide anyone access without your permission. Victoria Police’s current policy explains when it will or will not disclose a police record.
Minor Traffic Offences and Infringement Notices in Victoria
Minor traffic offences are very common. A few examples might include:
- Driving an unregistered vehicle
- Talking or texting on a mobile phone while driving
- Failing to stop at a red light
- Failing to wear a seatbelt while driving
- Failing to give way at a roundabout
- Failing to obey road signs
If you commit a minor traffic offence, you are likely to receive an infringement notice. It may be handed to you directly by a police officer or sent to you in the mail. The infringement notice will provide some basic details about the alleged offence, including:
- The law you have broken.
- How much money you have to pay (the fine) and/or the number of demerit points you will gain.
- The date by which you must pay the fine (usually within 28 days).
When you receive an infringement notice, you have five options to deal with it:
- Accept the penalty and pay the fine in full (payment plans may be available if you need more time to pay).
- Apply to have the fine reviewed by the agency that issued the infringement notice (i.e. Victoria Police, local council or VicRoads). You are only allowed one review per infringement notice.
- Apply for a work and development permit (only if eligible).
- If the infringement notice has been issued in your name but you were not the driver, you can have the fine transferred by nominating the person who was the driver.
- Challenge the fine in the Magistrates’ Court by completing part C on the back of the infringement notice.
When you pay an infringement notice fine, you are admitting guilt to the Infringement Court. Doing so means that the offence will likely only be recorded on your driving record (held by VicRoads). It will likely not be recorded on your criminal record unless the infringement notice was in regard to:
Infringement notices that deal with these three crimes are known as infringement convictions.
If you fail to pay the fine by the date listed on the infringement notice, two things may occur:
- Further penalties may apply as outlined in the document.
- The agency that issued the infringement notice or the Infringements Court itself will likely take your matter to the Magistrates’ Court.
You may also have to appear in the Magistrates’ Court if the police have charged you with a mix of both minor and serious driving offences.
Having your infringement notice dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court is a serious matter. If the Magistrate finds you guilty of a minor driving offence in court, the charge may be recorded as a finding of guilt or conviction on:
- Your driving record; and
- Your criminal (police) record.
You may also lose your licence and/or receive a larger fine. The Court takes this stringent approach to prevent people from challenging fines without proper reason.
If you wish to challenge your infringement notice in court or are required to attend the Magistrates’ Court in regard to a minor traffic offence, it is important that you get legal advice from an experienced driving offence lawyer. Our team of defence specialists at Sher Criminal Lawyers are experts in criminal traffic law and frequently advise and represent clients in such matters. Please contact one of our experienced traffic offence lawyers today to discuss your case.
Serious Traffic Offences and Criminal Charges
Summary traffic offences include but are not limited to:
- Careless Driving
- Dangerous Driving
- Driving Whilst Unlicensed, Suspended or Disqualified
- Improper Use of a Motor Vehicle and Loss of Traction
Indictable traffic offences include but are not limited to:
- Culpable Driving
- Dangerous Driving Causing Death or Serious Injury
- Dangerous or Negligent Driving While Pursued by Police
- Reckless Conduct Endangering Life or Serious Injury
If the police charge you with a summary or indictable driving offence, you will likely be issued a summons or a notice to appear in court. If the charge is serious, you may be arrested and either:
- Released on bail by the police; or
- Have to apply for bail in court.
When you attend court, you will be asked whether you plead guilty or not guilty to the driving charges.
If you are found guilty of a summary or indictable driving offence, it may be recorded as a finding of guilt or conviction on:
- Your driving record; and
- Your criminal (police) record.
Even if you are found not guilty, your appearance in court and the outcome will be recorded on your criminal police record.
You should not appear in court on criminal driving charges without advice and representation from an experienced traffic offence lawyer. Having a defence specialist present your case will help you to achieve the best possible outcome and move on with your life. Our team at Sher Criminal Lawyers are experts in criminal traffic law and frequently advise and represent clients in serious criminal driving matters. Please contact one of our experienced traffic offence lawyers today for a free consultation.