No one wants to be prosecuted for a traffic offence. It’s not a fun experience. Even worse is being expected to reimburse the prosecutor for their expenses in pursuing you. It adds insult to injury.
Unfortunately, the RMS routinely asks magistrates to order the defendant to reimburse them for their legal costs. The magistrate normally agrees.
As your lawyers we want to get you through as unscathed as possible. That means looking at the big picture when we advise you, including warning you when costs orders are possible.
When does the RMS seek a costs order?
In most cases, the court can make a costs order against a defendant who is guilty of the offence.
The RMS usually only seeks professional costs when the person has defended the matter (i.e. plead “not guilty”). The don’t normally seek costs when a person pleads guilty from the outset.
How much are costs likely to be?
The amount of the costs order depends on how involved the case was. In many cases they are more than the fine that the court imposes as punishment for the offence.
What can we do about it?
There are 2 main ways that we protect you from excessive costs orders:
- Prepare your case carefully – we want to protect you from costs orders. That means we assess your case carefully. We use our experience to make realistic assessments of the strength of your case. Importantly we will be honest with you. We don’t recommend defending cases unless we think you can win and, if we think you can win, we will give an honest assessment of how likely that is.
- Dispute the amount of costs – the court can only award the amount of costs that are ‘just and reasonable’. The amount of costs sought by the RMS lawyers is sometimes well above that. We will always dispute the amount of costs if we think you are being ripped off, and usually we get a reduction.
Is it possible to get costs from the prosecutor if you win?
While possible, it is very unusual to get costs against the prosecutor even if you win your case.
The law places extra hurdles in your way to protect prosecutors from paying costs. You should never expect to get a costs order in your favour.
Unfortunately, this is not an area where the laws are very fair.