Let’s talk about the ‘F’ word...Fines

by Fortune Manning

Most of us will remember the Government’s television advertisement campaign a couple of years back, “Pay your Fines or Pay the Price”, which dramatised the consequences of not paying fines. It seems that the prospect of having to listen to a test match on the radio because your television has been confiscated through non-payment of fines was not enough of an incentive for compliance. According to the Courts Minister, Chester Borrows, there are approximately 136,000 people who owe a total of $48 million in traffic related fines. Those people have made no attempt to pay.

Your gut reaction to that statistic as a both a tax-payer and a compliant transport operator is most probably outrage. However, as an employer, contractor, or driver, the new consequences for failing to pay fines have raised the stakes and it is worth taking note of the new enforcement powers.

Driver Licence Stop Orders (DLSO’s) came into effect on 17 February 2014 and provide another level of ‘encouragement’ to comply with transport law.

What is a DLSO?

A DLSO is an order issued by the Ministry of Justice which suspends a driver licence or limited licence due to non-payment of fines. This order continues in force until cancelled by the Ministry (usually when the fine is paid or when a suitable arrangement is entered into for payment). When served with a DLSO the driver is required to surrender their physical licence to the enforcement agent or, if the DLSO is served by post, the licence must be posted to the enforcement agent.

If you don’t have a current licence when served with a DLSO, you are disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence (including limited licence) until the DLSO is cancelled or terminated.

If you are authorised to obtain a limited licence by the Court and you are subsequently served with a DLSO, the licencing agent will not issue the limited licence.

A DLSO also comes with an enforcement fee which is payable. The enforcement fee is also a ‘traffic fine’ that if left unpaid can result in a further DLSO being issued.

Who can be served with a DLSO?

Anyone who fails to pay a traffic fine is liable to be served with a DLSO.

A traffic fine has been widely defined by the legislation to include the following:
  • All offences under Land Transport legislation and regulations;
  • Court imposed offender levies, Court costs and enforcement costs (such as when you fail to pay on time and the fine proceeds to Court); and
  • All offences under any bylaw or regulation relating to moving vehicles, parking places or transport stations (which includes everything from a parking ticket, to failure to have a current vehicle licence displayed, to parking on yellow lines).

Fair Warning?

The legislation requires a warning notice to be served on you before a DLSO is imposed. The warning notice will give 14 days to pay the outstanding fines or make an arrangement to pay. Be warned, however, a DLSO is not invalid merely because the warning notice was not received or because the DLSO was implemented before the warning notice was received.

How can a DLSO be served on a defendant?

Ignoring a DLSO or attempting to avoid service will not be an option. The ways in which a DLSO can be served are numerous and the legislation makes it difficult to defend on the basis that it hasn’t come to your attention.

Service of a DLSO can be effected by:

  • Being personally served on you or being brought to your attention if you refuse to accept the order;
  • Leaving it at your known place of residence with a person who appears to be over the age of 14;
  • Leaving it at your place of work or business address; or
  • By emailing it to an email address (if known).

What will happen if a DLSO is not complied with?

Driving while a DLSO is imposed on you is an offence under section 32 of the Land Transport Act and carries a maximum penalty (for your first and second offence) of 3 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $4,500 and a mandatory disqualification of 6 months. It is important to note that if you are found guilty under this section, you will not qualify for a limited licence.

The other consequence of driving in breach of a DLSO is that the vehicle you are driving can be confiscated and impounded for 28 days.

Some General Thoughts

Employers may want to think about their work place policies and how non-payment of fines may affect availability of drivers and company vehicles. Owner drivers may want to consider how their agreements with sub-contractor drivers and their head contractors will effected by the possibility of a DLSO being imposed.

In a media statement, Chester Borrows has claimed that the target will initially be ‘the worst offenders’ only. However, this is merely a policy statement. The reality is that anyone with outstanding fines can be caught by this legislation and the enforcement officers out on the front lines have the power to take action when a DLSO is issued.

If you have been issued with a traffic offence notice, or infringement notice that you dispute, it is important to act quickly. Once you have paid a fine it is too late to dispute the infringement. In the first instance, it pays to seek advice. Fortune Manning offers one half hour free consultation service every six months to National Road Carriers members.

For assistance and/or more information please contact Fortune Manning on (+64 9) 915 2401 or use the Contact Us form on our website.

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