Driver’s beware. Losing your license is easier than you think!

Alice is on her way to school with the children. The road is surprisingly quiet this morning and she is not paying too much attention to her speedometer. Suddenly a traffic officer jumps out and waves her over. Glancing down she sees that she was driving just over 90km/h. Preparing herself for the speeding fine, Alice is shocked when the traffic officer issues her with a notice and informs her that because she exceeded the speed limit by more than 30 km/h she has to appear in court. How can this be? Surely she wasn’t driving that fast and now she has to go to court? What happened to the usual speeding fine?

Shock turns to anger and Alice prepares herself to go to court and complain about her treatment. Arriving at court unrepresented, Alice is again shocked to find that not only is she found guilty of speeding, but she now also receives a criminal record and has her driver’s license suspended for six months. Can this be right?

The simple answer is yes it is. Unknown to most people, the National Road Traffic Act (‘the Act’) was amended in 2008 (with the amendments recently coming into effect) to provide that where a person is convicted (found guilty) of exceeding the speed limit by 30 km per hour in an urban area or by 40 km per hour outside an urban area, that person’s license (or permit) can be suspended in the case of a first offence, for six months. Where a person is found guilty of a second offence, his/her license (or permit) can be suspended for five years and in the case of the third or subsequent offence, for ten years.

The implications of these provisions are dramatic for all road users. Not only are you required to appear in court, but you could also face the prospect of potentially having your license (or permit) suspended and receiving a criminal record. The Act requires a person to be convicted (found guilty) before these consequences are however brought to bear. As speeding is a criminal offence, the State will still have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a person was exceeding the speed limit by the prescribed speed.

But what happens if you have an emergency and are racing your sick child to the hospital? If caught speeding, are you still faced with the possibility of having your license revoked?

Here the answer is fortunately no. Even if you are found guilty of speeding, you can still provide evidence to prove that circumstances relating to the offence exist which do not justify the suspension of your license or permit (for example, a medical emergency such as a sick child). The court can then, based on the circumstances advanced, make a decision not to impose the suspension or to shorten the period of suspension.

The moral of the story – drivers beware. The days of only paying your fine and going on your merry way are over. Speeding can have dire consequences which can affect your future mobility, future employment opportunities and even your current employment. However, if you are caught speeding and required to appear in court you may wish to consider obtaining legal representation when appearing to ensure that you are fairly represented and mitigating circumstances are fairly presented to the presiding officer.

October 25, 2012
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