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Criminal & traffic law

Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with

Category 1 driving offences: Fines or community-based sentences only

What are Category 1 driving offences?

Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 6

These are offences that are more serious than infringement offences, but for which you can’t be sent to prison. Instead, you can only be fined, or given a community-based sentence like community work.

Category 1 driving offences are usually dealt with by fines, but can also involve disqualification from driving. Examples of Category 1 offences are:

  • exceeding the speed limit by more than 50 km/h (a maximum fine of $1,000)
  • driving an unsafe vehicle (maximum fine of $2,000)
  • pouring oil, diesel or other substances on the road to cause wheel-spins (maximum fine of $3,000)
  • careless driving that doesn’t cause injury or death (maximum fine of $3,000, and you can also be disqualified for a period)
  • failing to remain stopped for the police when required (maximum fine of $10,000).

Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, clause 5.1; Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations 1999, Schedule 1; Land Transport Act 1998, ss 34, 36A(5), 37, 52(2)

How are Category 1 driving offences dealt with?

Criminal Procedure Act 2011, ss 14, 37, 38; Sentencing Act 2002, s 106

The process begins with the District Court sending you a notice called a “charging document”.

You then have the chance to deny and defend the charge if you want to. You’ll need to enter a plea with the court – either guilty, not guilty or a special plea. However, unlike Category 2 and 3 offences (see below), you don’t have to go to court to enter your plea if you don’t want to – instead you can simply send a notice to the courts.

If you plead guilty, you can say in your notice of plea whether you want to appear in court for sentencing. You can also include any submissions you want the court to take into account when it sentences you.

Your submissions to the judge on sentencing could include arguments for discharging you without conviction, see “Sentencing” in the chapter “The criminal courts”.

If you’re charged with any Category 1 offence and you plead not guilty, you’ll have a trial in the District Court without a jury (these are called “judge-alone trials”).

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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.

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