Contesting parking and speeding fines

Ever wondered how to contest unjust parking and speed camera fines?
Learn more

01 .Introduction

Speed camera

In brief

  • Knowing which defences commonly work will increase your chances of successfully contesting speed camera and parking fines.
  • Procedures to appeal fines vary from state to state, but all require comprehensive documentation.

The statistics show that contesting your parking fine could well be worth your while. Although just 10% of the 1.6 million parking fines issued in Victoria between July 2007 and June 2008 were contested, 45% of those cases were successful. And CHOICE found 30% of the 81,236 parking fine appeals received by the NSW Treasury’s Office of State Revenue were successful, avoiding fines of $3.2 million.

Speeding fines differ from parking infringements in that their prime purpose is to reduce accidents and injury. However, you may still have grounds for challenging them. CHOICE reveals which speeding and parking defences commonly succeed and how to go about your appeal.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2009 but is still a useful guide today.

Contesting a fine

According to the Australian Road Rules, the regulations that underpin road rules in each state and territory at least 100 parking offences could land you a ticket. Common ones include:

  • parking without paying a meter fee
  • overstaying your allotted time in a parking spot
  • parking in residential or disabled parking areas without valid permits

The grounds for contesting parking tickets differ with the offence. Common defences include faulty parking meters, a time-restriction signpost that was difficult to see, or blatant errors made by the council parking officer in issuing the ticket. One council told CHOICE that appeals that don’t demonstrate exceptional circumstances include “I forgot to check the sign,” “my appointment ran over time”, “it was raining”, “I was in a hurry” or “I do not live in the area”.

If you believe you have been unfairly hit with a parking fine, you have three options:

  • pay up
  • appeal to the council whose parking warden issued the fine
  • contest your case in court

In deciding whether you should bother appealing, first weigh up the cost involved. If you choose to appear in court instead of appealing to the council first, factor in the time you’ll need to take off work.

Mitigating circumstances

Here is a checklist of the ways our members won their appeals.

  • Penalty notice Does the offence regulation code match its title? Does the make and registration number match your vehicle?
  • Parking signs Are they visible from you were parked or were they covered by a tree or any structures?
  • Road markings Are the bay markings clear and visible?
  • Lack of parking signs/markings Are there signs or markings that should be there for the offence you were booked for (such as a “no stopping” sign that wasn’t there when you were fined for this offence)?
  • Parking meters Was the parking meter faulty? Was there a number on the meter or sign nearby with a number you could call to report the faulty meter?
  • Parking tickets Do you have your original tickets to show you did not stay too long in the space or that you did pay to park?
  • Medical emergency or vehicle breakdown Do you have evidence or witnesses to verify that circumstances caused you to commit the parking offence?

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Before appealing, you should gather as much evidence as you can in your defence. When CHOICE extended a call-out to members to tell us how they’ve successfully contested their parking fines, we received more than 60 responses.

Several told us of blatant mistakes made by parking wardens who issued notices when no offence was committed or issued a ticket for the wrong offence. Most cases had one thing in common: those who thought they were unjustly fined made sure they gathered as much information as possible at the scene of the “crime”.

Building up evidence increases your chance of winning your appeal so you may not need to take your case to court. You can still elect to have your case heard in court if your appeal is rejected by the council, so you’ll need the evidence anyway.

For example, taking a photo of your car and capturing the immediate area around it may help you dispute a ticket. If you were parked in a space that required a ticket and the ticket machine was faulty, take a photo of the machine in question.

Appeal avenues

Many councils allow parking ticket appeals to be made online, so check your local council website for details. An online penalty review form may help save you time manually writing out and posting a long explanation. In most states, you have 28 days to appeal. But you should act quickly, as the process can take months.

When Brisbane CHOICE member Lorraine was told she had to pay a fine for not displaying a ticket – despite appealing to the council with photos of how there were no ticket machines in sight – she decided to go to court. “About a month later I got a letter from the council that it had made a ‘technical error’ and that I was not required to pay the fine!”

Whether you intend to appeal or go to court, be sure to act quickly before the payment due date as every reminder sent to you typically incurs further penalty fees.

Attending court

Going to court gives you the opportunity to defend your case in front of a magistrate, provided you’re prepared to take a day off work to attend. The procedure generally starts with letting the relevant council know you intend to contest the case. The council contacts a magistrate’s court, which in turn lets you know the time and date of your appearance.

You will have to prepare supporting evidence to produce in court If you convince the magistrate the fine was unfairly or mistakenly issued, your fine will be waived. If you lose, however, you may have to pay the fine as well as the costs to the court and the council that issued the fine.

Fixed speed cameras are usually located in black spots (areas that have recorded a high number of crashes and fatalities) to reduce and prevent road accidents. In NSW alone, more than 140 people died while more than 4000 were injured in 2007 because of speeding.

CHOICE does not dispute the need for speed cameras. While they generate speed tickets worth millions of dollars in revenue, they also help reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the roads.

Member feedback

When we asked members to nominate their city’s most active speed cameras, Victorians singled out the speed camera at the intersection of Greythorn and Doncaster Road in Balwyn North, where the speed limit of 60km/h applies as drivers approach the downhill intersection. Similar cameras at the corner of Mont Albert and Union roads in Surrey Hills, and Gallaghers Road in Glen Waverley, were also mentioned.

Motorists in NSW nominated fixed speed cameras in Sydney’s Cleveland Street, between Anzac Parade and South Dowling Street. Motorists travelling at 70km/h from these roads must slow down to 50km/h (40km/h during school hours) on the Cleveland Street stretch. Many motorists speed on that stretch – both cameras there have issued $10.5 million in fines since they were installed in 2007.

Latest figures from the SDRO showed that 105,000 speed penalty tickets – the highest compared to all other fixed speed camera in NSW – were issued from speed offences picked up by these two cameras between March 2007 and June 2009.

The results show in the traffic statistics as well: according to the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, three years before these two cameras in Cleveland Street were installed, there were 17 crashes and 12 injuries along this road, which has a large high school student pedestrian volume. But between November 2007 and June 2008, there was only one crash and no injuries.

Interestingly, however, CHOICE found that of the 69,386 speeding notices issued for the Cleveland Street hot spot last financial year in “out of school period” (when the speed limit is 50km/h), 93% were for those clocked travelling less than 65km per hour.

Extenuating circumstances

If you receive a speed camera fine, you may be able to get away with a caution. You can submit an appeal to the police or road authority in your state for the penalty to be withdrawn, or contest your case in court.

But any decision will depend on how fast you were going, your driving record and other circumstances, such as if you weren’t the driver or were rushing because of an emergency. The circumstances under which a caution can be granted differ from state to state.

In NSW, for example, if you have a clear driving record for 10 years, did not exceed the speed limit by more than 30km/h and the offence did not happen in a school zone where speed is restricted during class hours, you may submit an appeal to the SDRO.

Of the 43,805 speed camera fine appeals the SDRO received between July 2007 and June 2008, around 27% were successful. In Victoria, you can appeal for an official warning and have your fine waived if you admit the offence, you exceeded the speed limit by less than 10 km/h and have held a clear driving record for the last two years.

But in Adelaide, a good driving record is not a basis for an appeal if you have been caught speeding. When appealing against speed cameras, keep in mind you will still receive demerit points (see table) even if your fine is waived.

SPEED LIMITS & FINES (light vehicles)
STATE/TERRITORYBuilt-up areas (except where otherwise indicated by signs)School zones (when operating)Default outside built-up areas (eg country roads)How much faster than speed limit (km/h)Number of demerit pointsFine amount ($) How much faster than speed limit (km/h)1Number of demerit pointsFine amount ($) How much faster than speed limit (km/h)Number of demerit pointsFine amount ($)
ACT 50 40 110 less than 15 1 143 15-29 3 223 45 or more 6 1647
NSW 50 40 100 not more than 10 1 84 11 - 19 3 197 more than 45 6 1744
NT 50-60 40 No max 15 or less 1 100 16 - 30 3 200 45 or more 6 500
QUEENSLAND 50 40 100 less than 13 1 133 13 - 20 3 200 more than 40 8 933*
SA 50 25 100 less than 15 1 190 15 - 29 3 302 45 or more 6 564
TASMANIA 50 40 100 less than 10 1 50 10 - 14 1 80 45 or more 6 400
VICTORIA 50 40 100 less than 10 1 146 10 - 24 3 234 45 or more 8 502
WA 50 40 110 less than 9 0 75 10 - 19 2 150 More than 40 7 1000**


Table notes

* Plus six months' suspension
** Or nine months' jail

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