Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with
Infringement offences: Parking and speeding tickets, and other lower-level offences
Infringement offences include, for example, parking offences, toll offences, speeding and overloading offences, not having a current Warrant of Fitness or vehicle registration, and some lower-level drink-driving offences.
Note: Fines are collected and enforced by Collections Units, which are part of the Ministry of Justice. There are Collections Units in most District Courts (usually in the main cities and towns). The staff at the Collections Unit are called “Collections Officers,” or sometimes “bailiffs”. Where there is not a specific Collections Unit, fines are collected and enforced by the local District Court staff.
How will I know if I’ve committed an infringement offence?
A police officer can issue you with an infringement notice (an on-the-spot ticket) if they have reasonable cause to believe you’ve committed an infringement offence. The form and content of the notice has to comply with the requirements in the Land Transport Act and the relevant regulations.
The infringement notice can be served on you:
- by attaching it to your vehicle, or
- by delivering it to you by hand, or
- by posting it to your last-known address.
Note: The owner of the vehicle will generally be held responsible for paying the infringement fee unless they can show a relevant statutory defence – for example, that someone else was driving.
What are my options if I receive an infringement notice?
- Pay the infringement fee – If you accept that you committed the infringement offence and simply want to pay the infringement fee, you need to pay the fee in full (including any towing fee) within 28 days after the notice is given to you. If you do this, no further action will be taken against you.
- Write a letter to the police or council – You should write to the relevant enforcement authority (the police, the local council or some other official authority) if:
- you deny the offence and want a court hearing (a trial), or
- you have an explanation or information that you want the enforcement authority to consider, or
- you admit the offence, but you want to make written submissions to the judge (for example, about how the offence happened or about the penalty).
What happens if I do nothing after getting an infringement notice?
If you do nothing, then after 28 days you’ll be issued with a reminder notice explaining fully how to defend the charge and containing a statement of your rights.
What happens if I do nothing after getting a reminder notice?
If you do nothing after you receive a reminder notice for the infringement offence, the police, local council or other authority can lodge the infringement notice or reminder notice with the District Court, so that it can be enforced. A lodgement fee of $30.67 is automatically added to the amount of the unpaid fee and the whole amount will then be treated in the same way as if you’d been fined by a judge in court (see: “Category 1 driving offences: Fines or community-based sentences only”).
The District Court will give you another four weeks (28 days) to pay the infringement fee and court costs. If you do nothing, they’ll also add another enforcement fee of $102.22.
Note: As well as driving-related issues, infringement notices can also be given out by various government agencies or local councils for offences in other areas of life, like littering or breaching dog bylaws. If you don’t pay the infringement notice by its due date, it is lodged with the courts and dealt with in the same way as if it had been, for example, a parking ticket.
Challenging a fine after an unpaid infringement notice: Correcting procedural mistakes
You have some limited rights to challenge a fine that results from an infringement notice if there have been problems with the processes used to impose the fine on you.
You can apply to a judge to address a procedural problem if:
- you in fact paid the infringement fee within four weeks (28 days) after you were given the reminder notice, or
- you’re not the person named on the infringement notice, or
- you never received a reminder notice, or
- you asked for a court hearing to dispute the offence, but you never got a notice of the hearing, or the court never did anything about your request for a hearing, or
- you were told by the council, the police or whoever else issued you the infringement notice that no action would be taken, or that further time for a hearing would be allowed, or you wrote to the issuing authority but did not receive a response, or
- there was some other problem in the processes leading up to the fine being imposed.
To challenge the fine, you should write to the court or fill in the appropriate form (a 78B form, available from the courts or from the Ministry of Justice website, here). You will need to make a statutory declaration or provide other evidence to support your application.
Even if your challenge is successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have to pay the fine. For example, if you hadn’t received a reminder notice, the court may simply order the reminder notice to be reissued, so that you then have the chance to dispute the infringement notice with the issuing authority.