Traffic offences are a complex area of law, and being charged with an offence can be very serious. Penalties can range from receiving a fine, incurring demerit points, disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver licence, a probation order or even going to jail. This depends on the type of offence, the circumstances, and your traffic history.
If you've been charged with a traffic offence you should get legal advice.
Traffic offences are any offences involving the use of motor vehicles anywhere, and the use of other vehicles or devices, (for example, bicycles, non-powered scooters, skateboards, animals, eg horses) for the purposes of transport on a road or road related.
When driving a car or other motor vehicle there are laws to make sure you drive safely and obey the road rules. It is a traffic offence if you disobey these road rules.
Here are some examples of common traffic offences:
- unlicensed driving—including driving while disqualified
- drink driving and drug driving
- exceeding the speed limit (eg speeding)
- disobeying a red light
- driving without due care (eg careless driving)
- dangerous driving (called ‘dangerous operation of a motor vehicle’)
For some traffic offences you may be given an on-the-spot fine or you may receive a fine in the mail—this is your infringement notice. This will tell you:
- what law/s have been broken
- how much you’ll have to pay
- where or how to pay
- the due date for the fine.
If you don’t pay on time, the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) can:
- suspend your driver licence
- direct your bank to transfer funds from your account (to them)
- direct your employer to deduct a certain amount from your wage each month
- register an interest over your property
- immobilize your vehicle
- seize and sell your property
- issue a warrant for your arrest and imprisonment.
SPER may also charge you an enforcement fee on top of the original fine.
If you can’t afford to pay the fine by the due date, you can make a payment plan with SPER to pay off the fine.
If you’re concerned about the enforcement action SPER is taking against you, you should get legal advice.
Disagreeing with an infringement notice
If you disagree with an infringement notice you can go to court to dispute it.
To go to court to dispute an infringement notice, you must fill out and submit:
The form should be submitted to the Department of Transport and Main Roads. After the form has been submitted a complaint and summons or a Notice to appear will be mailed to you with your court date.
If you choose to go to court to dispute an infringement notice and you’re found guilty of the offence, you will be charged the offender levy, on top of any fine, summons cost and witness expenses (if any).
If you’re thinking about contesting an infringement notice get legal advice before electing to go to court.
If you don’t elect court by the due date on your infringement notice, you may lose your right to have the matter heard in court.
Transferring a fine
For traffic offences detected by cameras, an infringement notice will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.
If you receive an infringement notice as the registered owner of the vehicle, but you weren’t driving the vehicle at the time of the offence, you must complete a statutory declaration.
If you know who was driving the vehicle, in the statutory declaration you must state the name and address of the person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.
If you don’t know who was driving the vehicle, in the statutory declaration you need to:
- state that you didn’t know who was driving the vehicle
- make reasonable enquiries to find out who was driving the vehicle, and state what enquiries were made
- show that you had a system in place to identify the driver and describe the process undertaken.
Before completing a statutory declaration you should get legal advice.
You should follow the directions on the infringement notice for information about where to return the statutory declaration, and by what date.
There are strict timeframes for transferring a fine or electing to have the matter heard in court. Check the infringement notice for details—if you’re still unsure, get legal advice.
Disputing a speeding fine
If you’ve been charged with a speeding offence and you want to challenge the accuracy of the speed detection device or speedometer or the way it was used, you should get legal advice before proceeding.
This is a complex area of law, there are strict rules to be followed when disputing a speeding fine. You may incur extra costs if your challenge is unsuccessful.
Your traffic history (also known as your traffic record) includes information about any traffic offences you have committed and any penalties you have received such as fines, demerit points, licence suspensions, cancellations or disqualifications.
Some traffic offences have demerit points attached to them. Your traffic history will show the number of demerit points (if any) for each offence.
If you accumulate too many demerit points, your licence may be suspended. Usually, (unless you are a learner) you will receive a letter from the Department of Transport and Main Roads giving you the choice of:
- having your licence suspended for several months, or
- going on a good behaviour licence for a year. If you accumulate two or more demerit points during this period your licence will be suspended.
For a ‘high speed offence’—such as going 40km or more over the speed limit, your licence will be immediately suspended for six months and you cannot choose a good behaviour licence. This applies to all types of licences.
You can check the demerit points schedule for a list of traffic offences incurring demerit points.
You can check your demerit points online.
If your licence is suspended but you still need to drive for work or some other reason, in limited circumstances you may be able to apply for a special hardship order. Get legal advice if you think this applies to you.
Applying for a special hardship order
A special hardship order is an order granted by the Magistrates Court that you be issued with a driver licence that lets you drive under special conditions even though your normal driver’s licence has been suspended.
You can apply for a special hardship order if your licence has been suspended because:
- you’ve been charged with driving more than 40km over the speed limit (ie a high-speed offence); or
- two or more demerit points have been recorded on your traffic history while you were driving during a 12 month good behaviour period; or
- Both of the above
If you want to apply for a special hardship order, get legal advice and/or see our guide - Are you going to lose your driver licence? Applying for a work licence or special hardship order
You must apply to the Magistrates Court in the district or division in which you live after your licence has been suspended (you can apply on the day your licence is suspended, but not before that day). Contact the Magistrates Courts to find out which court division or district you live in.
You are not able to apply for a special hardship order to drive during a court ordered disqualification for unlicensed driving.
Get legal advice before applying for a special hardship order.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you:
- have been charged with a traffic offence
- disagree with an infringement notice and want to elect court
- received a fine and weren’t driving the vehicle at the time of the offence and wish to transfer the fine to another driver
- want to dispute a speeding fine
- are applying for a hardship order because your licence has been disqualified.
How to get legal advice
We may give legal advice about traffic offences. Contact us to find out if we can help with your matter.
The following services may also be able to give you legal advice.
Community legal centres may give legal advice on drink driving matters—contact them to find out if they can help.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.
Who else can help?
These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.
State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay SPER a set amount on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.
Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for offenders who want to plead guilty to a traffic offence, including drink driving, unsafe driving, disqualified driving, suspended licence, appealing licence disqualifications (fees apply for this service).
Department of Transport and Main Roads deals with complaints and enquiries concerning drivers' licences, registration, traffic fines, etc.
Disclaimer: This page is provided as information only, and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 15 August 2023
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.