Home | Browse Topics | Criminal & traffic law | Driving and traffic law | Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with

Criminal & traffic law

Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with

Overview of court processes for driving offences

Driving offences are classified in the same way as other offences under the criminal justice system. The least serious type are “infringement offences,” which don’t give you a criminal record. Then there are a number of different offence categories of greater seriousness, numbered Categories 1, 2 and 3, and these are dealt with by the standard criminal court processes.

Here’s a summary of the different categories:

  • Infringement offences – These include common traffic offences such as parking offences and most speeding offences. For these you’re usually given an “infringement notice” – for example, a speeding ticket, a parking ticket, or notice of a lower-level breach of the breath or blood-alcohol limits. You only have to go to court if you want to challenge the notice. Infringement offences don’t result in a criminal record.
  • Category 1 offences (Fines or community-based sentences only) – Unlike infringement offences, Category 1 offences give you a criminal record, but you can’t be imprisoned for them, only fined, or given a community-based sentence like community work. For these the court process differs from more serious offences (see below) in that you don’t have to go to court if you don’t want to. Instead you can enter your plea (guilty, not guilty, or a special plea) simply by sending a written notice to the courts.
  • Categories 2 and 3 (Jail term) – These are offences for which you could be sent to prison, and they’re all dealt with by the standard criminal court processes. An example is driving while disqualified, for which you can be imprisoned for up to three months. For Category 2 and 3 offences you’ll be given a summons requiring you to appear in the District Court, and you’ll then tell the court if you’re pleading guilty or not guilty (called “entering a plea”).

Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations 1999, Schedule 1 Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, clauses 2.6(1), 2.12(4)

Note: For a range of driving offences the police have the option of either issuing an infringement notice or prosecuting the offence through the courts as a Category 1 offence. What they do will depend on how serious the particular incident was. For example, unsafe passing can mean a $150 infringement fee if dealt with as an infringement offence, but you can be fined up to $1,000 (and you’ll get a criminal record) if the police prosecute it as a Category 1 criminal offence and you’re convicted in court.

For more information about the different categories of criminal offences and the processes that apply to them, see: “The criminal courts”.

Did this answer your question?

Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres/

For Community Law’s guide to applying for a limited licence and template application forms: communitylaw.org.nz/resources/legal-letters

Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi’s site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

Website: www.nzta.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 699 000
Email: info@nzta.govt.nz

Search your question on Waka Kotahi’s resources section: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources

New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police’s “frequently asked questions” section provides helpful information, particularly the “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/advice-and-services/faqs

New Zealand Government

The New Zealand government website sets out more information about driving fines and penalties, including how to pay for infringement notices.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/transport/driving-fines-and-penalties

Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics, including private parking tickets and the towing and clamping of cars.

Website: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/help-product-service/cars/parking-clamping-towing

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top