Section 51 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) (“the Act”) provides that in certain circumstances, an accused charged with any one of a range of offences under the Act may have their drivers licence suspended with immediate effect by the provision of a notice given under the Act, commonly referred to as a Section 51 notice.
The licence suspension will take effect immediately and last until such time as the particular charges have been determined by a Court unless the licence holder makes an application to the Court and can show that exceptional circumstances exist such that the Court ought to overturn the notice and accordingly, the immediate suspension.
It is unfortunate that the provisions of section 51 of the Act are rather harsh and fly in the face of the presumption of an accused being innocent until proven guilty. However, the harshness of the provisions are offset to a certain extent by further provisions to the Act that mandate that if the accused’s driver licence is subsequently cancelled and they are disqualified from obtaining a licence for a period of time, the Court must take into account the period of time spent off the road by virtue of the Section 51 notice. This effectively means that the Court must backdate the period of cancellation to the date that the Section 51 notice was issued.
Recently, a client attended at our office charged with driving whilst his licence to do so had been disqualified. An examination of the first offence showed that a Section 51 notice had been issued with respect to a charge of exceeding the maximum prescribed blood alcohol limit. Our client chose to represent himself in Court and plead guilty to this charge.
Unfortunately, the results of the outcome of the hearing showed that the Court had failed to take into account the period of time already spent off the road by our client pursuant to the Section 51 notice that had been issued. Effectively, this meant that our client spent a number of months more time off the road than was required by the law. Had our client been legally represented at the initial hearing, it is likely that this error would have been identified at the time and with the client being eligible to have his licence restored much sooner.
If you have been issued with a Section 51 notice, you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible to identify whether or not it may be possible for you to have your licence restored pending the outcome of your hearing, and also to ensure that you spend no more time off the road than is required by the law.
If you have been issued with a Section 51 Notice and would like to discuss the matter or you need any help or advice in relation to a traffic offence, please contact us on (03) 5941 1622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.