Court matters brought under the Heavy Vehicle National Law are listed at the courthouse nearest to where an offence is alleged to have occurred.
This makes sense when an accused driver is pleading not guilty because it means that any witnesses to the alleged offence are generally nearby and so can attend court relatively easily.
However, it stops making sense for heavy vehicle drivers and operators when detection at a weighbridge in the middle of nowhere a long way from home means that getting to court so that they can plead guilty and say their piece is difficult and expensive.
When you’ve been charged under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, you are most likely already facing serious possible fines, so it feels like an extra kick in the teeth to also have to take a few days off work and pay for transport and accommodation so that you can attend court hundreds of kilometres away and perhaps even interstate.
Add in shifting Covid restrictions, and you have good reason to wonder if there are alternatives to trekking to a spot in the middle of your run for a court appearance.
The good news is that in NSW if you are pleading guilty to your charge or charges, there are other options open to you.
1. Send In A Written Notice Of Pleading
You can send an email to the court, entering your plea of guilty and outlining any factors you would like the Court to take into account on sentence. Then when the magistrate considers your matter, they can decide on a sentence without you being there and the registry can let you know the result afterwards.
While this is definitely the easiest option, I would add a word of warning. This can backfire because:
A) The magistrate could have questions about your matter which you won’t be able to clarify, and so will sentence you without the benefit of any extra information you might be able to provide in person.
B) If the matter carries heavy fines and/or demerit points, the magistrate might form the view that you are not taking it seriously enough by not showing up in person – this could lead to harsher penalties.
2. Send A Lawyer On Your Behalf
Often, particularly given the Covid situation, the Court will allow a lawyer to appear on your behalf without you attending court yourself. This is a good middle ground because it avoids the extra loss of work and cost of travel for you but also ensures that your case is put clearly and shows that you have taken it seriously.
3. Use Technology
Thanks to the Covid situation, many courts have embraced appearance via an audiovisual link – so you can dial in at an allotted time and have your matter heard without leaving home. If this option appeals to you, it is important to get in touch with the relevant court registry well in advance of your court date to see if this technology is available for your matter and to make the necessary arrangements.
4. Ask To Transfer The Matter Closer To Home
Once you have entered a plea of guilty, you can make an application to the Court seeking that your matter is moved to your nearest courthouse, or to the one closest to your lawyer. The limits on this are that the courthouse must be in NSW, as courts in other states can’t hear matters charged in this one, and that it comes down to the discretion of the magistrate – so if they want your matter to remain where it is, then they can refuse your application.
If you have a matter that is listed at a courthouse a long way from home, the most important thing is that you work on a plan as soon as possible so that you can make the most of your options. To discuss the best way to handle your matter, feel free to give Ainsley Law a call. Our team at Ainsley Law are more than happy to chat with you.
Please call us today at (02) 8294 5697 or leave an enquiry.