Traffic cases

Traffic is an interesting part of law as it often involves people who have never been in trouble before.

If you have been charged with a traffic offence you are at risk of losing your licence.

Other penalties include fines, community work, community detention, home detention and prison.

On this site I cover a number of topics that address the most common charges and frequently asked questions. For anything else please get in touch.

Drink Driving

This is one of most common charges I represent people on.

The broad outline is this:

The legal level for an adult is 400mg / litre of breath.

400-650 is a low to moderate reading.

650-1000 is a moderate to high reading and you will be suspended for driving for 28 days on the spot – you are not credited with this time if you are disqualified on the charge, nor does it apply towards a 28 day stand down period for a limited licence.

Over 1000 is a high reading and you are in serious trouble.

FAQ on the process:

Will I be convicted?

If you plead not guilty and win then no. There are limited defences for drink driving but they exist and if available should be pursued.

If you plead guilty – You cannot get diversion for drink driving. However you may apply for a discharge without conviction which is granted very rarely.

Will I lose my licence?

There is a mandatory disqualification period for a minimum of 6 months on drink driving – and 1 year and 1 day if it is your 3rd or subsequent.

You may be eligible for a work licence or limited licence, community work in lieu of disqualification, or special reasons not to disqualify.

What am I looking at?

Roughly – first time fine, second time community work, third time electronic sentence or prison, above 3 prison is always on the table. Note: This is a very rough idea and your personal circumstances, other factors in the case, drink drive history etc.. may very well affect this.

I’ve represented 1000’s of people on drink drive charges as a duty lawyer and counsel. If you would like to discuss your case feel free to get in touch, please have your paperwork handy.

Disqualified Driving

If you have been disqualified by a Magistrate or a Judge you are not allowed to drive for the period stated.

This makes it different to driving while suspended which is a suspension from a police officer.

If you are caught driving during this period you will likely be charged and the vehicle impounded.

If you are convicted you risk being disqualified for a minimum of 6 months (or a minimum of 12 months if it’s your 3rd or more time).

You risk your car being seized and sold by the court. This is actually a mandatory law though clients are rarely told about it. There are loopholes to protect your car from being seized.

In terms of not being disqualified again there are several options:

Win the case
Receive community work in lieu of disqualification
Be judged to have committed the offence where there are special reasons not to disqualify you.

To be clear you cannot apply for or be granted a limited licence if you are disqualified for driving while disqualified.

I have successfully defended charges of driving while disqualified and saved people’s licences using the other legal option available.

Driving while suspended

If you exceed 100 demerit points within 2 years your licence will be suspended for 3 months.

You are eligible for a limited licence or work licence.

However you are caught driving within that 3 months you will be charged with driving while suspended.

The vehicle you are driving will be impounded for 28 days.

If convicted you face a minimum of 6 months disqualification and a fine. If it is a second, third, or more, then you will likely be dealt with in a more serious manner.

The major problem with this particular charge is that you cannot get a limited licence for a disqualification from driving while suspended.

In terms of saving your licence:

You can plead not guilty and if you win you save your licence. (It helps to have a legal defence)

You may be eligible for special reasons not to disqualify.

You may be eligible for community work in lieu of disqualification. However for this section to apply you MUST have been previously disqualified by a court.

Driving contrary to limited licence

If you have been granted a limited licence you must:

  1. Carry your logbook and fill it in correctly and
  2. Carry the licence and present it to an officer and
  3. Carry the court order

The problem with being convicted and disqualified (for a minimum of 6 months) is that your limited licence will immediately be cancelled and you cannot apply for another one.

The good news is there are ways around this.

There are two main groups of driving contrary to a licence:

  1. Being caught driving within the terms of the licence but you forgot to have one of the above on you.
    If it is a genuine error the court will recognize this and give some leniency. However you still broke the law and it is therefore taken seriously. If you don’t take it seriously and expect everyone to pat you on the back and send you on your way and you lose then you will have an expensive trip to the High Court to try and fix it. In the mean time your limited licence will probably be cancelled pending appeal.
  2. Driving in totally the wrong place at the wrong time.
    The court will likely be less sympathetic in this situation. You still legally have the options of community work in lieu of disqualification or special reasons but it will likely require a very detailed analysis and rock solid submissions to win.

In both cases options include: defending the charge (pleading not guilty) and winning, applying for special reasons not to disqualify, or seeking community work in lieu of disqualification.

I have saved people’s limited licence and general licence in each of this situations and many more.

Keeping a clean record

If you are charged with careless driving or driving while forbidden you may be eligible for diversion.

However there are different practices in different courts.

If you are charged with any of the serious traffic charges which have a mandatory disqualification as part of the sentence, such as drink driving, dangerous driving, careless causing injury, you cannot be offered diversion.

It is possible to apply for a discharge without conviction.

If you are discharged without conviction the court usually will still disqualify you.

As in any other case seeking a discharge without conviction you must convince the court the consequences of a conviction outweigh the seriousness of the offence.

The most common query I have is around drink driving. Yes it is possible to be discharged without conviction on drink driving. However due to the seriousness of drink driving on New Zealand roads it requires a very compelling argument.

I have successfully argued for discharges without conviction on traffic charges including drink driving.

Not guilty

If you plead not guilty to your charge it will be heard by a Judge.

Traffic cases can be very complicated. E.g. In cases of crashes experts may need to be hired at your cost.

There are often defences raised on technical or legal points.

If you wish to defend a traffic charge please get in touch to discuss your options.

Demerit points

If you are given a ticket by a police officer there are often demerit points put against your record.

If you accrue over 100 demerit points within 2 years your licence will be suspended.

Land transport is supposed to notify you when you are getting close to 100 points but that doesn’t always happen.

In many cases people are pulled over for a new offence and told that they must surrender their licence immediately as they were already over 100 points.

If you are suspended you are able to apply for a work licence immediately. However, given that it make take some time to put your paperwork together it is best to organize matters in advance.

If you commit an offence the demerit points will only be entered when you pay the fine or the the fine is sent to courts (after 56 days).

As such – if you wish to apply for a work licence it is best to contact me as early as possible – then we can manage the time that the demerits are entered and your suspension starts. E.g. if you were traveling overseas for a period of time it would be preferable for the suspension to be running then.

Even after you have paid the fine it is possible to manage the timing of the suspension so a court date can be organized and papers filed.

If you have over 100 demerit points and the suspension is imminent feel free to call to discuss your options.


If you lose your case and are convicted and sentenced you have the option to appeal within 28 days.

If you are disqualified it is possible to apply for the disqualification to be suspended pending appeal. However if this isn’t prepared by an organised lawyer you may find you have to wait months to get to the High Court while being disqualified.

Appeals can against conviction – e.g. that you should not have lost the case, or they can be against sentence – e.g. the sentence was too harsh.

If you were disqualified in court because the duty lawyer failed to advise you of options such as special reasons or community in lieu of disqualification you may be able to appeal and have those options addressed at the High Court.

I have successfully won appeals against conviction and sentences at the High Court (Whangarei, Auckland, and Tauranga).

If you would like to discuss appeal options please contact me.