Can Traffic Offence Convictions Become Spent in Australia?
Many Australians face penalties for common traffic offences committed while driving. The consequences can range from mild to severe, depending on what the road violation is. Not all offences will lead to a conviction on your record, but those that do can cause problems later on.
Not all traffic violations end in conviction, and sometimes the offender will be offered more than one type of penalty. Many people choose an alternative punishment for their behaviour to avoid a criminal conviction. Fines, intervention programs and non-conviction bonds are offers which the court may put forward as an alternative to criminal sentencing.
Anybody who receives a conviction will find it remains in police history records for the foreseeable future. However, the Australian Spent Convictions Scheme does allow for a conviction to be removed from a national police check in limited circumstances.
What is a Traffic Offence?
When driving a motor vehicle, you are responsible for driving with care and due diligence to travel as safely as possible.
Anybody who drives on the roads in Australia must do so legally, following road laws no matter which state or territory. Certain behaviour and failure to comply with the rules will be met with a penalty.
A criminal penalty is imposed to suit the criminal offence. There are various ways in which the Australian police handle this situation. You might receive a ticket or points to your drivers licence. For more serious misdoings, a harsher penalty is imposed which may result in you having to attend court.
If you are found guilty in the court, you could end up with a criminal conviction, disclosable on your criminal background check for years to come.
This type of conviction is considered a traffic violation or traffic offence conviction.
Types of Traffic Penalties
Traffic offences are complex in that they receive a range of punishments depending on the nature of the crime. All traffic-related violations are criminal offences, but they do not all recieve a court conviction. Penalties can range from minor to extremely serious, and could result in any of the following;
- Fines (infringement notice)
- Points to drivers licence
- Suspended/loss of licence
- Suspended driver accreditation
- Driving bans
- Probation orders
Most driving offences will impose a driving restriction. The individual will receive a minimum driving ban of 6 months.
Examples of Traffic Offences
Traffic offences range from minor driving mistakes to major road violations. Some examples of traffic offences include;
- Unlicensed driving i.e. driving without a license or driving whilst disqualified
- Driving under the influence of drink and/or drugs
- Reckless driving
- Dangerous driving
- Ignoring traffic laws (for example, running a red light)
- Driving an unregistered or uninsured vehicle
- Failing to stop after an accident
What is a Spent Conviction?
This relates to any offence that falls under the Australian Spent Convictions Scheme. A spent conviction is approved if and when you meet the rules of the scheme.
In a nutshell, the legislation allows for a person to have certain prior convictions expunged from their criminal record. So, if you have a recorded conviction from a long time ago for a more minor offence, you could become eligible to have it removed from your history.
If a conviction meets the criteria, it will be removed automatically. You do not need to apply for the scheme, although in some situations this may be an option. In Western Australia, you do have to apply.
As an overview, the criteria stipulates;
- That a ‘waiting period’ or ‘crime free period’ is reached by the offender where they do not receive any more punishments by law. In most Australian states, the period is 10 years if convicted in an adult court, and 5 years if sentenced in a youth court
- If the offender breaks the good behaviour period by committing a further offence, the timeline starts over from scratch
- The conviction did not result in the offender being incarcerated for more than 30 months
- No exclusions apply to the particular conviction
The scheme is ultimately considered a period of rehabilitation, supporting those who have an older, minor offence in their police history.
Can Traffic Offence Convictions Become Spent?
It is possible for traffic offence convictions to become spent. If the conviction meets the requirements, policing systems will remove it automatically.
There is no unique protocol for traffic violations, and the offence will be handled under the scheme in the same way as any other offence.
Spent legislation is not guaranteed for every criminal history record. However if no other exclusions apply, the traffic offence will be removed under the conditions;
- The ‘waiting period’ has come to an end without further offences added to the individuals record
- Imprisonment was not inflicted for more than 30 months or;
- The individual is granted a pardon by the court
Is Every Traffic Offence Disclosed in a National Police Check?
If applying for a national criminal history check in Australia, you might be curious as to whether your traffic offences will be disclosed. Perhaps you have a minor violation in your traffic history. Will this show up?
Not all traffic offences will be disclosed in a criminal record check. Misbehaviours on a smaller scale resulting in tickets, fines and cautions which are settled out of court are not released for the check. Generally, if the penalty can be resolved immediately there is no need for further police action.
Your traffic history serves as a record for all road violations you have committed. From parking tickets to cautions, a record is kept detailing the events. This is stored in traffic records, rather than Police History Information, unless a conviction is recorded.
Later down the line, police may want to access traffic records with reference to other proceedings, but they will not be included in the police check.
Dropped and Dismissed Charges
With some traffic penalties, you may be able to challenge the outcome if you believe it is unsuitable or inaccurate. In the scenario that you win the appeal, the offence can be dropped or dismissed.
Dropped or dismissed charges do not show on a nationally coordinated criminal history check. Only convictions appear, and therefore dropped and dismissed matters are excluded.
To be clear, a dropped/dismissed charge is not a conviction. Details of the case will be stored, but no conviction recorded.
Is Every Traffic Offence Conviction Eligible Under Spent Legislation?
Just as every conviction is not eligible under spent legislation, not every traffic conviction is. The terms and conditions are only applicable to some offences as the seriousness of the crime is always reviewed.
Any taffic conviction that doesn’t meet the standards of the Spent Convictions Scheme can never qualify. If the individual repeatedly offends during the rehabilitation period, the timeframe of good behaviour will never come to an end. Also, if a serious traffic conviction resulted in a prison term of more than 30 months, the conviciton can never be spent.
Generally, the more serious driving crimes will result in harsher sentencing, immediately disqualifying them from the scheme’s benefits.
Examples of offences resulting in harsher penalties are;
- Excessive speeding
- Serious DUI or DWI convictions
- Manslaughter and murder convictions as a result of driving
- Evading the authorities
- Any other serious traffic infringement
Can I Apply to Have a Traffic Conviction Spent?
All Australian states and territories excluding Western Australia (WA) remove convictions from criminal history records when the conditions are satisfied. This is done through an automated system, and the convictions will disappear.
If you find yourself in a situation where you believe a past offence meets the criteria but it has not yet been removed from file, you can apply for the scheme. You can do this through the relevant authorities in your state or territory. There is no guarantee however, that your application will be successful.
In Western Australia, the spent legislation is slightly different. Eligible charges are not immediately removed, and instead you must apply to the WA authorities.
Who Uses the Spent Convictions Scheme?
Every police jurisdiction in the country uses the spent convictions scheme during applications for national police clearance.
Regardless of the NPC provider you go through for a police check, criminal records are reviewed in the same way. After giving your application, authorities handle the data to determine the results of your national police check.
Each state follows the rules of the scheme carefully before disclosing details of a police history. Ultimately, the police of the particular jurisdiction will use the legislation to assess your circumstances personally.
Can a Traffic Offence Conviction Be Overturned?
Depending on the nature of the offence, certain charges may be overturned should you win an appeal.
There is the opportunity to challenge a traffic penalty if you object to the decision. Proceedings involve attending the court and awaiting a decision. If you win the appeal, the charges will be dropped or dismissed, and will never appear in your police check.
Can a Traffic Conviction Affect Employment?
Having a criminal record can bring many challenges when it comes to employment, licencing and registration. It can minimise opportunities, prohibit you from certain roles and sometimes cast a shadow over future endeavourers. However, decision makers in society will take time and consideration to assess individuals who have a record.
Unlike many other convictions, traffic charges are less likely to affect employment opportunities, except in the case of driving-related occupations. A driving conviction could ban you from roles where driving a vehicle is an inherent requirement.
If you have traffic convictions, you can expect difficulties in finding work in the following fields;
- Public transport driving (taxi and bus drivers, driving commercial passenger vehicles)
- Lorry and truck driving
- Delivery driving
- Driving for ride-hail businesses
The majority of jobs listed above require driver accreditation to ensure safety to passengers. Most employers will take driving charges seriously if the role requires you to drive.
A conviction could mean the suspension of your driver accreditation, and in turn your job with driving services. A driving ban would also prevent you from continuing your employment.
How Do I Know if my Traffic Conviction is Spent?
Apply for a police check online to discover whether your traffic convictions are now spent. The national police check will disclose police information. If the traffic conviction is spent, it will not appear in the document.
For certain purposes, authorities may choose to miss out a traffic charge if it is not relevant to the police check. This does not necessarily mean the conviction is spent.
Alternatively, contact local authorities in the relevant jurisdiction to inquire about spent offences. They will be able to assist you in discussing state legislation, and whether your past conviction is still in their records.
How Do I Get a Police Check?
Get a national police check quickly and conveniently online with Crime Check Australia. Collect your ID documentation, personal details and complete the application form within 10 minutes. The national police check will then be delivered direct to your inbox.
All police checks are subject to a fee.
As with any criminal record, limited convicitons have the potential to become spent under the special legislation. While violations on the road may be considered ‘lesser’ charges, any action which breaks the law is a criminal offence.
Reckless behaviour and a lack of care while behind the wheel can lead to catastrophic events. As well as getting a criminal record, you could put yourself, other road users and community members in serious danger.
Road and traffic laws remain strict with a range of consequences to encourage the utmost safety when using Australian roads.