Former Eagles champion Ben Cousins has been in the spotlight again recently but unfortunately it’s been for all the wrong reasons. In late June he found himself in the Fremantle Magistrates Court to answer a number of traffic offences relating to an incident in Mosman Park in March this year. The charges included:
- Failing to stop for Police
- Reckless driving – he was involved in a low-speed chase
- Failing to give a sample of his breath for analysis
Mr Cousins’ defence team has, to a degree, had their first win as some of these charges were dropped and some were altered to remove “aggravating circumstances” from the charges, these were all serious traffic offences that have now been substantially downgraded. Mr Cousins will face court again on 29 July where he is expected to enter a plea.
For the average Western Australian, the most likely interaction with the Police will be in relation to a traffic matter; with the most common infringements being drink driving, speeding and seatbelts.
In most instances people will receive their Traffic Infringement Notice and just pay the fine and if you were not the driver then you can nominate who was. You should be aware that even in instances where you were the driver, you can still elect to have the matter heard by a court, especially if you believe there are circumstances that warrant you not paying the infringement immediately.
However, where traffic offences are more serious, like the ones faced by Mr Cousins, then you have the following options:
- Plead guilty to the offence: It is likely that the Court will deal with the matter on the day of you pleading guilty.
- Plead not guilty to the offence: The matter is then set down for a trial date and the Police then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have breached the relevant section of the Road Traffic Act (WA) 1974.
In instances where you have been issued with a court hearing notice, which is in breach of the Road Traffic Act (WA) 1974, you do not have to attend court and can plead guilty or not guilty in writing. Conversely, if you have received a summons in breach of the Road Traffic Act, then you do have to attend court.
If you are convicted of a traffic offence by either pleading guilty or being found guilty after the trial, the penalty that will usually apply is a fine and a period of disqualification. There are certain offences that result in a mandatory jail period such as failing to stop for police in circumstances of aggravation.
For the majority of traffic offences, the minimum penalty is fixed by law, so the court must impose at least the minimum fine and at least the minimum period of disqualification.
It is important to have legal representation whenever you appear in court. Whilst you can represent yourself in court on minor traffic matters, if you find yourself or someone you know facing serious traffic offences then trusted legal representation can make a significant difference in the sentence you receive. What your lawyer says to the court about your circumstances and character is considered by the court when determining your sentence. Also your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the police prosecutors to downgrade the charges against you or have some dropped as Mr Cousins’ lawyers have achieved for him. You may also be interested to read our article on ‘What is a plea in Mitigation’ in relation to pleading guilty or not guilty.
No matter what circumstances you may find yourself in, for dependable and trusted legal advice, call the team at Lynn & Brown Lawyers today on 9375 3411 or https://www.lynnandbrown.com.au/contact/. We look forward to being able to help.
About the authors:
This article has been co-authored by Steven Brown and Ryan Ashoorian from Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Steven is a Director and has over 18 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in commercial law, business law and estate planning. Ryan has been a lawyer with the firm for over 3 years and practises in the areas of criminal law, probate and estates.