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Police Powers When I’m Driving

Police Powers When I’m Driving

The police have some extra powers against drivers which they wouldn’t have if you weren’t driving, like stopping you at random to check your licence.

This section describes the powers police have when you’re driving.

Can I appeal a driver licence suspension?

If your driver licence is automatically suspended by an enforcement officer, you might be able to appeal to the Director of Land Transport Safety. You can appeal if:

  • You weren’t driving the vehicle at the time of the offence;
  • The officer didn’t have good reason to believe that you had committed an offence;
  • The officer didn’t give you notice that your licence was suspended in the required way.

If your appeal is unsuccessful you can appeal to the District Court. For more information on the appeal, please click here.

Can a police officer stop me from driving?

If an officer has good reasons to believe that you’re incapable of properly controlling the vehicle that you’re in charge of and that it is necessary for your safety or that of the public, they can stop you from driving. The officer may forbid you to drive any motor vehicle for a period (normally between 8 – 12 hours), take all keys to your vehicle, and take your vehicle to another place or immobilise it. If the car can’t be disabled easily, then it can be impounded for up to 12 hours.

Can I be arrested for a driving offence?

If you commit a serious traffic offence, you could be arrested. This isn’t common! It’s more likely that you’ll be sent a summons to come before the court at a later time. If you don’t show up in court on the set date, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. The police can then arrest you and keep you in custody until you can be brought before the court.

If you get arrested, you have a right to a free lawyer under the Bill of Rights Act.  If you’re under 17, you have the right to have a supportive adult accompany you at the police station.

While I’m driving can the police stop and question me?

While you’re driving, the police can stop you at any time to question you. They can keep you for up to 15 minutes in order to establish your identity. You and any passengers have the right to remain silent, but the driver of the car is required by law to give their:

  • full name;
  • full address;
  • date of birth;
  • occupation;
  • phone number;
  • information about whether they own the vehicle and
  • any details which will help the officer locate owner of the vehicle if the owner is not the driver.

What happens if I don’t give the police my details when I’m stopped while driving?

An officer can arrest you for not stopping, not giving your details, or if they have good reasons to believe that you’re giving them false or misleading details. You can be fined up to $10,000.

If you’re the driver of a vehicle and an officer has good reasons to believe that you’ve committed an offence while driving, they can get your details from the owner of the car. The owner must give the officer all the information they can to identify you. If they don’t, they can be fined up to $10,000 if convicted in court.

What are some reasons that police may stop me?

Some reasons an officer may stop you are to:

  • Inspect, test and examine your vehicle or other associated equipment (e.g. a trailer);
  • Examine your vehicle registration or warrant of fitness (WoF);
  • Breath-test you;
  • Carry out a search.

When can the police search my vehicle?

An officer can search your vehicle if:

  • You agree to the search (silence may be considered as consent);
  • They have a search warrant;
  • They arrest you and you’re with or near your vehicle at the time;
  • They have good reasons to believe there are drugs or weapons in the car;
  • They have good reasons to believe that there is any stolen property in the vehicle;
  • They have good reasons to believe that a person they’re trying to find is in the vehicle;
  • They have good reasons to believe that evidence about an offence is in the vehicle.

If any search is done without your permission and without a warrant, the officer has to tell you and anyone else being searched which Act (law) they are relying on to search you and why they can search you.

Can the police fine me for driving offences?

If you commit an infringement offence, a police officer, enforcement officer or parking warden can give you an instant fine. Infringement offences are things like parking offences, not having a Warrant of Fitness or registration, or not wearing a seatbelt to name a few. You will be given an Infringement Offence Notice (traffic ticket), which will tell you how much the fine is and when you need to pay by.

When can the police suspend my licence?

An enforcement officer (police) will suspend your licence if they have good reason to believe that you have:

  • Taken an evidential breath test and been found to have a breath-alcohol concentration of over 650 micrograms per litre of breath;
  • Taken an evidential blood test and been found to have a blood alcohol concentration of over 130 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood;
  • Failed or refused to take a blood test, after being required or requested to do so;
  • Driven more than 40 km per hour over the speed limit.

Your licence could get suspended for lesser offences if you already have previous convictions.

If an enforcement officer suspends your licence, they have to give you written notice. The suspension starts immediately, which means you can’t even drive home. A suspension lasts for 28 days.

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