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 jailed 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 jailed 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 enter 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, depending 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 chapter “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 free initial legal advice and information.

Applying for a limited licence” (guide)

This Plain English guide, plus template application forms and affidavits, will help you apply for a limited licence. It’s available on the Community Law website – www.communitylaw.org.nz

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)


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

The NZTA site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

You can read and download fact sheets and other publications from their site, or you can order hard copies by contacting them, including their fact-sheet on Legal mobile phone use while driving.


NZ Police

Frequently Asked Questions


The “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section of this webpage have Frequently Asked Questions about traffic fines, speeding, demerit points and where you can pay your fines.

Consumer protection

“Parking, towing and clamping”


This Consumer Protection webpage has information about the law covering tow trucks and wheel-clamping on public and private property, and about unreasonable fees in private car parks.

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