This article will provide you with a brief overview of the strict liability offences. This is in relation to traffic law in Australia. The streets of Australia are a busy place. Every day, millions of people drive, ride, walk, and cycle on our roads. To keep everyone safe, we have a comprehensive set of traffic laws.
These laws cover everything from speed limits to seat belt laws. They also define a variety of traffic offences, such as speeding, drunk driving, and reckless driving.
If authorities catch you breaking a traffic law, you can face a fine, penalty points, or even imprisonment. So it’s important to know the rules of the road and to obey them.
What Are Strict Liability Offences?
Strict liability offences under traffic law are criminal acts that do not require proof of intent, knowledge, or negligence on the part of the offender. The defining feature of a strict liability offence is the absence of any requirement of intention. This means that the accused need not have had the intention to commit the offence.
In the context of traffic law, strict liability offences mean that it is sufficient to prove that the act occurred, regardless of the driver’s intention or knowledge.
What About Criminal Liability?
Typically in criminal law, the defendant’s awareness of what he is doing would not negate a strict liability. For example, being in possession of drugs will typically result in criminal liability. This is the case regardless of whether the defendant knows that he is in possession of the drugs.
It is essential to provide evidence of sincerely and genuinely holding the mistaken belief. For instance, if you face charges of driving while disqualified but were unaware of your disqualification because the relevant authorities informed you that your licence was still valid.
Examples of Strict Liability Offences
Some examples of strict liability traffic offences in Australia include:
- Speeding: If a driver exceeds the speed limit, they can receive a charge of a strict liability offence, as it is only necessary to prove that they were driving above the speed limit.
- Failing to wear a seatbelt: If a driver or passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, they can receive a charge with a strict liability offence, as it is only necessary to prove that they were not wearing a seatbelt.
- Driving while disqualified: If a driver is found to be driving while disqualified, they can be charged with a strict liability offence, as it is only necessary to prove that they were driving while disqualified.
- Running a red light: Running a red light is another example of a strict liability offence, where the act of running the red light is sufficient to establish guilt.
- Driving without a valid licence: If authorities find a driver driving without a valid licence, they can face a charge of strict liability offence, as it is only necessary to prove that they were driving without a valid licence.
Other strict liability offences not mentioned above are:
- careless and inconsiderate driving,
- causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving,
- causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs,
- dangerous driving,
- causing death by dangerous driving,
- drunken driving,
- driving without insurance,
- ignoring traffic signals,
- parking offences, and
While these offences do not require proof of intent, knowledge, or negligence, they may still provide the possibility of a technical defence. This means that in certain circumstances, a person charged with a strict liability offence may be able to present a defence based on a reasonable and honest mistake or other technicalities.
Technical Defences for Strict Liability Offences
1. Honest and reasonable mistake of fact: This defence can be used when the accused person can establish that they were labouring under an honest and reasonable mistake regarding the facts that make up the offence. For example, if a driver gets a speeding charge, they may be able to argue that they were unaware of the speed limit due to unclear signage.
2. Duress: This defence can be used when the accused person can establish that they were forced to commit the offence due to threats or coercion. For example, if a driver is forced to drive without a valid license due to threats from another person, they may be able to argue that they were acting under duress.
3. Necessity: This defence can be used when the accused person can establish that they committed the offence out of necessity to avoid a greater harm. For example, if a driver is caught speeding to get a critically ill person to the hospital, they may be able to argue that they acted out of necessity.
Strict Liability Offences vs. Absolute Liability Offences
We can summarise the differences between strict liability and absolute liability offences in the context of Australian law as follows:
Strict Liability Offences:
- Here, the accused can be held liable for their conduct regardless of their moral responsibility.
- Proof of intent, knowledge, or negligence is not required to establish guilt.
- The focus is on the act itself rather than the mental state of the offender.
- Technical defences, such as an honest and reasonable mistake of fact, may be available to the accused.
Absolute Liability Offences:
- Absolute liability offences are relatively rare but can still be charged in certain circumstances.
- In absolute liability offences, the only question to be considered is whether the physical act or conduct that contravenes the relevant section occurred.
- Proof of intent, knowledge, or negligence is not required to establish guilt.
- Here, there is generally no possibility of a technical defence for absolute liability offences.
- Examples of absolute liability offences in Australia can include environmental crimes and specific importation issues.
Both strict liability and absolute liability offences fall under the no-fault liability principle, which means that liability can be established without proving fault or intent. However, the key distinction lies in the availability of a technical defence for strict liability offences, which provides an opportunity for the accused to justify and prove an honest and reasonable mistake.
Impact of Strict Liability Offences on Drivers
1. Penalties: Strict liability offences can result in significant penalties, including fines, demerit points, and licence suspensions. These penalties can have a direct impact on a driver’s ability to continue driving and can also affect their insurance premiums.
2. Reputation: Being charged with a strict liability offence can also have an impact on a driver’s reputation, both personally and professionally. This can be particularly true for offences such as drunk driving, which can carry a social stigma.
3. Legal costs: Defending against a strict liability offence can be costly, both in terms of legal fees and time spent in court. This can be particularly challenging for drivers who may not have the financial resources to mount a strong defence.
4. Compliance: Strict liability offences can also have a positive impact on driver compliance with traffic laws. By removing the need to prove intent or knowledge, strict liability offences can make it easier for authorities to enforce traffic laws and encourage drivers to comply with them.
Overall, these traffic law offences in Australia can have a significant impact on drivers, both in terms of penalties and other consequences. While they can be an effective tool for enforcing traffic laws, it’s important to balance this with the potential impact on drivers and their legal rights.
Talk to a Traffic Offence and Criminal Law Solicitor
Traffic lawyers can provide a range of services related to traffic law offences in Australia. That is why you should seek legal representation immediately if you committed serious crimes like traffic and criminal offences. Here are some of the ways in which an experienced criminal lawyer and a traffic lawyer can assist drivers charged with traffic offences:
- Legal representation for drivers who have a charge of traffic offences.
- Advice on the availability of technical defences for strict liability traffic offences.
- Advice on the potential penalties associated with traffic offences, including fines, demerit points, and license suspensions.
- Compliance with traffic laws and avoid future offences.
- Aid in criminal proceedings and help you prove your innocence beyond reasonable doubt.