Got Booked by Police - No Seatbelt

So turning to OzB community for an another advice

Was travelling on Lady Wakehurst Dr, Otford past a lookout point towards Sydney one Saturday morning. My youngest started to cry quite terribly so I hesitated for a while, saw no vehicles around and performed a U-turn to get back to the lookout point. Police then suddenly appeared behind and signalled me to pullover. I stopped at the said lookout point. My wife who was in the backseat wasn't aware and upon me stopping, unbuckled our my son's seatbelt intending to step out. I told her I couldn't open the door (child locked) as an officer was approaching, she was shocked but she just stayed put.

Police told me my U-turn was illegal due to double solid lines - I should have noticed but I didn't - so I accepted and accepted the fine. He then looked at the backseats and went, oh your son didn't have seatbelts on, which I explained I U-turned to get back to this lookout point to calm my child and his restrain was just released. The police officer saw my crying son and could probably tell I wasn't lying but instead said that "yeah I have 3 kids but I don't do that". He was reluctant but and said yeah it's a serious safety matter. He told me clearly that I will receive a fine for my U-turn which I said OK and for seatbelt, it was kinda vague and my wife was under the impression that he gave us benefit of doubt (fact remains, she only released the seatbelt when we stopped). He then also tried to inspect our car seats to make sure they were the right one for our children - of course they are. My eldest was also properly restrained on his during the incident.

Two weeks later, I got two penalty notices, for the illegal U-turn as well as seatbelt. I paid for the first offence. I requested for a review - stating my circumstances. Today, I received another letter stating that they couldn't be lenient on this as it was a serious safety offence. I was quite speechless as I wasn't asking for leniency. I just didn't think it was an offence I committed.

Called up Revenue NSW who then redirected me to LawAccess and my options are:

  • Pay the fine (quite reluctant, I paid the fine on illegal U-turn which I committed, but why should I pay for this)
  • Go to court (whichI need to pay $100 upfront, if the judge decide the case against me, then might incur further cost)

Regardless, I am in a lose-lose situation. I just want to ask what should I do, and to question whether it is fair - just because of misconception by police officer that I have to go through all these?

TLDR got booked for 2 driving offences, I accepted one but I didn't successfully appeal for the other. I think its unfair. What should I do?

Comments

  • +1

    In short the belt was undone by your wife in the back of the car after you had pulled over.
    If this is true then there should not be a fine for it.
    When the cop noticed it was undone the car was stopped and parked. That is not illegal.
    You could seek legal action but the cost may outweigh the fine and the outcome is not guaranteed.
    Best to take extra care not to attract their attention in future?

    • +2

      was the engine off? If yes, no worries. You could have had your seatbeat off too! If the engine was running, i think you are unlucky, but dont have a leg to stand on.

      • -4

        As long as the vehicle was not in motion is the understanding I have. Why do you need to have a seat belt on when parked, even with the engine on?

        • +3

          I thought it was PRIOR to engine going on. Same thing with mobile phones. If you are going to pull over to answer a phone call with your hand, you need to pull over and turn the engine off.

            • +6

              @jv: "There are some circumstances in which a person may be exempt from wearing a seat belt, such as when the driver is reversing the vehicle or is engaged in the door-to-door delivery or collecting goods or garbage and is travelling under 25 km/h."

              • @GG57: taxi drivers are also exempt.

          • @JuryWheel: Car in neutral for manual or Park gear for auto after you pullover can touch and use phone , you don't need to turn off the engine to use phone.

  • +1

    Is there a new rule to pay something upfront before going to court? Sure if you dont want to pay and fine and appeal it will have to go to court. But I dont recall you have to pay anything upfront for that. That will be a rip off.

    • $100 court fee in NSW, was there mid way 2018 when I went.

      • Wasn't there in May 2019 when i went.

        • Did you appeal or was it court ordered? Mine was to appeal.

          • @mooseca: Appeal, self representation, NSW, Parramatta local court

  • +3

    I wouldn't use the excuse of U-turning across double lines to calm a child in court.

  • -3

    The only offence committed here is that your wife was in the back seat.

    • +10

      Why? That may be where the kids were conceived anyway?

    • the police didnt mention anything about wife sitting at the back so i guess thats not an issue?

    • +5

      We don't know if the wife has earnt the privilege of sitting in the front seat yet.

  • +1

    I think its unfair.

    Possibly is but the magistrate will take the word of the Policeman ahead of yours unless you've got webcam proof.

    Pay the fine, it'll be cheaper than taking a day off work and going to court, probably losing your appeal, and having to pay court costs on top of the fine.

    • No, they will not take the word of the policeman ahead of yours. You aren't even arguing against the Policeman's story of events - they never saw whether the seatbelt was on at the relevant point in time which you are talking about.

      100% I would argue this. It's definitely reasonable that your wife might have undid the kid's seatbelt because they were crying and/or you were about to get out.

  • +1

    If your car is stopped at a dedicated parking spot then removing seatbelt in a parked car is not an offence. It is a good reason to challenge the fine especially that the police could not proof that seatbelt was removed before car is being parked. The fact that you are being stopped for U-Turn is sort of proof that the police didn't see it before car was stopped.

    Depends on how much the fine vs court cost. Personally, anywhere upward $300 I will challenge it considering the upfront cost is only $100. It seems worth the shot and you have a good ground for challenge. Unless of course, your driving history is riddled with fines.. then probably judge will look at the case differently.

    • -2

      Unless of course, your driving history is riddled with fines.. then probably judge will look at the case differently.

      The judge should not be looking at that until after guilt or innocence is determined.

  • They will drop it before it gets to court probably without evidence. Magistrates often believe a defendant over the police.

  • -1

    Once the police put a charge in, they rarely will go back on it. They know it basically gets accepted as true in court. I would have gotten the officer's details and gone to his superior. Important to do this ASAP. I think you can still do a complaint. I left my one too late and always think about how I should have handled it. Then it is also key to get legal advice if you want to challenge. The evidence would be on their Body cam. Might have been good to also record the interaction on a phone when it happened.

    • +2

      Making a complaint to police (highway patrol at that) about being issued a penalty notice will do nothing. They will refer you on to the appeals processes.

      Once a ticket is submitted, it's really out of the hands of Police to withdraw unless there's significant information to alter the original facts of the matter. It will never happen.

      At the end of the day, what the officer did was not misconduct, regardless of the circumstances. He saw an (alleged) offence, and took action. If this is not the case, the defendant has options to contest.

      Complaining is a waste of everyones time and may even make you look unfavorable. All highway patrol use ICV, mandated by legislation and Body Worn Cameras.

      Being one of those tools recording cops with their phone…. I wouldn't, OP.

      • -1

        Recording may have got the cop saying that he was ok with the seatbelt issue.

        • +1

          Maybe but that doesn't bind the Police officer into taking that course of action. There is nothing stopping him from changing his mind after the fact.

  • +3

    I am noticing a trend that my friends talk about too: the cop seems "good" and lets you go for little useless crimes (like OP's child restraint), but they get a fine in the mail anyway.

    Is someone reviewing the info twice and decides whether to give the fine, are are cops being ***holes and give you the fine behind your back anyway?
    Or is it a safety issue where they are told to tell the driver they won't get fined so they don't start raging and just mail the fine.

    Can someone explain this?

    • I've had this happen. Got booked for speeding by Highway Patrol. I was speeding, owned up to it, was polite to the cop (who was pretty rude) and he gave me a fine.

      Two weeks later I receive an EPA violation in the mail. Check the time reported and it's the exact same time as my speeding ticket. I don't deny that I was doing the wrong thing but just tell me you're going to report me. Ah, my younger years…

      • +1

        What was the EPA violation for?

        • Loud exhaust (about 2-3dB above legal limit when tested). Passed with stock exhaust while I waited for quieter muffler to ship in

          • @Dikaiarchos: Oh right. How would a cop know it was above the limit? Just having a go?

            • @chriise: It's definitely louder than stock and it was a bit of a boy racer car…but yeah, anyone can report you to EPA and then the onus is on you to prove yourself innocent. Definitely wasn't innocent though lol

  • +18

    I'd challenge it out of principle. If we don't stand up for ourselves when we know we are right, what hope do we have. We all waste money on stuff, this is worth wasting money on if you feel strongly about it. Keep the bastards honest I say (not necessarily the cops…just in general).

    • +2

      IKR… but somehow i feel its really not worth my effort. The most I could do is to call up and explain. Preparing to go to court etc is just too much for me
      Maybe an awareness to everyone (not just police) that ignorance can be a real pain to others

      I was particularly offended when the said he has 3 kids and doesnt do that when asking for my license
      As JV said, all kids are different, missus and I are JUST barely coping with 2 kids
      We do stuff up, and when we do we accept the consequence (like having 2 kids LOL or performing illegal u-turn)

      • Were they twins? Didn't stop after 1?

        • lol, not twins…
          but he is so cute when is in good mood so i guess im not regretting, just stating the fact that we couldnt really cope with 2

  • +3

    Power tripping police

  • I agree with this dmbminaret above. I would fight it on principle.

    I also think that if you are willing to go to court regarding the seatbelt fine,the police will drop the case before it gets there. Whilst it costs YOU time and effort, remember it also costs them time and effort. They won't want the officer coming in for a seatbelt fine.

    If it does get to court, I'm sure given the judge sees you taking responsibility for the u turn but defending the seatbelt charge - not just frivolously disputing everything, will see you aren't punished much more than the fine if at all.

    • +2

      remember it also costs them time and effort

      Not really, the police officer gets paid their salary and does their shift whether they're out working their beat, doing paper work or attending court. They wouldn't have to go to court in a professional capacity on their own time.

      • +1

        It will have hidden costs on the community, and extra costs on the courts. If the constable is, for example, spending 50/40/10% time allocated, and everyone collectively starts contesting their tickets, it'll slowly become 20/10/70

        I wouldn't let that get in the way of taking it to court on principle, especially when it looks bad on your record and can be used against you in the future as child endangerment.

      • +1

        I understand that the officer wouldn't be in court on a day off. I probably should have been clearer.
        I was meaning more from a perspective of effort for Police in general - his station/command would have to have shift coverage, or they miss an officer on the road.

  • +4

    Opt for court and representt your self, dont pay that 100 upfront

  • JV says to go to court, then you should do the opposite.

    • +2

      jv, would you tell this nice chap not to give me $20?

  • Go to court the judge will give u benefit of the doubt

  • If you defend it the best way is to spin it out as long as possible and then bring into doubt the officer’s recollection. He will only have notes and will rely on those. If you question him enough about his memory vs yours you have a good chance of having the win because you only have to remember one situation where the officer has hundreds or thousands of situations to blur his memory. Court is all about onus of proof and a repetitive thing like issuing infringement notices can blur in the issuer’s memory. Never admit ANYTHING that may have been against the law or you will lose on that simple error. That being said you need to ask if the fight is necessary.

  • +2

    Have you been booked in the last 10 years for any other offence? If not, ask for leniency on u turn if it is one you can seek leniency for eg red light, school zones offences you can’t. Even if you paid it they will refund the money. With the seat belt, pay it perhaps and write to your local member and the Police Minister. They could ask Revenue NSW to review the matter again. Revenue NSW has a Ministerial Section to review representations on behalf of citizens.

  • No refund for paying. You are issued an infringement notice. You either go to court to fight OR pay the offence. Paying the offence is in court jargon admission of offence you paid it & that ends that matter. Sometimes the law is KEYS NOT in the ignition. eg if you sleep it off in the car after drinking KEYS need to be removed from the ignition otherwise you can still be asked to do breathalyzer & if over charged with dui

    • In some areas it's being intoxicated and in control of a motor vehicle. So having the keys with you or being behind the driver seat could be enough.

    • ** This advice is of no use in modern keyless ignition vehicles.

      Sorry officer check three bushes over, under the rock. :)

  • Do you have a dashcam with the audio recording?
    If so, then there will be audio evidence of your wife releasing your son's seatbelt once you were stopped.

    If not, then buy a dashcam.

    • no we dont….
      wasnt into it
      but i guess its now necessary

  • +5

    Seriously, some things are just outright wrong (the seatbelt fine, not the u-rurn). Typical of cops to pick on a decent family whilst failing to tackle the scum of society making people's lives miserable. It's all about money. You obviously looked and acted decently enough to accept and pay 2 fines. I'd fight it in court, that's ridiculous.

    • +2

      funny that you say that,
      we stopped at the lookout point just to relax after the whole incident
      didnt want to drive when my mood was bad
      not long later there was a group cars doing burnout… lots of smoke etc and yet the officer wasnt there

      • Group of cars doing burnout seems higher risk.

  • The cop is an arse. But I'd probably just pay the seatbelt fine if it was less than $300. If it was more I'd possibly challenge.

  • How much is fine and do you get $100 court fee back if you win?

    • I'm also curious about this. Furthermore, can the accused claim for any cost associated with attending court and defending himself eg lawyer, transport, parking, taking day off, loss of wages for day off, stress incurred, time associated with researching legalities aka Ozbargain forums, etc. Maybe stretching it a bit, but having only seen this in movies was curious about the reality

      • $349, exactly the same cost as the first penalty.
        guess what, i could have just kept driving and unbuckle my son's seatbelt and not get caught
        tried to do the right thing (well u-turn is wrong i know) to stop and unbuckle and led to a $700 fine + 6 demerit points

        I dont think I can recoup any of those cost IF the magistrate rules in my favour
        And hence my point on being on the lose-lose end and its so unfair since I dont think I broke the law on this
        But having said that, learned something new which was to have seatbelts on when engine is running, regardless of whether vehicle is stationary or not.. thats probably why I was caught

        To be clear, I pulled over just outside of the parking lot of the lookout point
        Parking outside the lookout point was legal, as there were cars there as well but i didnt turn off the engine / pull out my keys as I was observing what the police was about to do..

        • -1

          Now that I have read this extra confirmation that you were pulled over and stationary but not parked (with engine off), it is does seem pretty clear that you did technically breach rule 266 and that the penalty is valid.

          It is a very shitty technicality and you may have been unlucky to cop that fine as well, but it sounds legally valid.

          Please note that if you try to challenge the penalty notice in court and fail a magistrate may issue you a higher penalty (up to 20 penalty units which is $2,200) plus costs.

          Personally I'd take it as an expensive lesson learned.

          • @kjg: yup per your previous comment on the seatbelt must remain buckled even if car is stationary means that I did indeed broke the law
            just didnt know this - as you said, it is an expensive lesson

            • @legendary-noob: Happy to have helped - sorry that it wasn't the outcome you were after.

          • +1

            @kjg: @kjg

            stationary but not parked (with engine off)

            I've heard of this before, that in order to be considered parked, the engine must be switched off, but I am not finding it in the rulebook that you linked to. Could you please point to where this definition of parking is given?

            • @Mikeer: Its in the link below posted by Stphen

              But now that I think about it, does that mean that if I drop my kids at school that I need to turn off my engine? Seems overkill

              • +1

                @legendary-noob: Stphen's link is the same NSW road rules that @kjg posted earlier, and I believe @kjg is wrong on the definitions of "park" and "stationary". I would like to see some evidence to support his claim that in order to "park" one must turn off the engine, which he repeated several times in this thread.

                IANAL and nothing I write is legal advice, but I believe that in order to "park" it is sufficient to place the vehicle into state where it will stay, i.e. not move on its own, even if the driver leaves the vehicle. E.g. if you have to hold down the brake pedal to prevent it from moving - it's only "stationary" and "stopped" but I think doeesn't qualify as "parked". But if you can get out of the vehicle and it won't go anywhere - I believe that's considered "parked", even if the engine is running. If this is correct, and if you engaged the park brake and put the transmission into park or neutral, then your passenger not wearing a seatbelt/restraint at that time was perfectly legal.

                Again, IANAL, you should seek legal advice from someone qualified to give legal advice on traffic law, on what the definition of "parked" is, and what your chances of success in court are as well as what costs you would incur in the process.

                • @Mikeer: agreed… IANAL too so we're unsure what is the legal definition of "park"

                  just imagine, that when you are picking up / dropping passengers that you have to turn off the engine
                  what a pain - but we would naturally put transmission into park or neutral when you stop to pick up / drop someone
                  i feel like the latter is more practical and sensible but again, not a legal expert

                  I definitely changed to Park as I wasnt expecting to go anywhere
                  But again, it was more an uncoordinated coincidence between me and my wife (as we were both unaware of such technicality) rather than a strong point to present in court

  • The time to argue your case is during the actual stop. Without any proof it's going to be very hard to get off in court.

    The cop is unlikely to remember your case in any great detail and will be going off his notes - which are probably not going to say anything to help your case.

    • We told him that it was only released when the car stopped
      He doubted our words, walked back to his car to do some checks
      When he came back, he made it very clear that "you are getting a notice for the illegal u-turn"
      Then he kinda touched on the seatbelt issue and said yeah its a safety concern… and thats it
      My wife and I agreed that he was quite vague and we're both under the impression he's not gonna pursue it further

  • Depends if the key was in the ignition and/or the engine was on as this can sway the legalities of it.
    Only choice at this point is go to court, which in that case you have to weigh up the chances of winning, and any time/money lost due to time off work.

  • Fight the Power! Magistrate will throw it out or worse case scenario you will be found guilty and receive a section 10 dismissal.

  • I'm actually interested to see how this all turns out and whether or not JV's advice is correct and lets you off with a waver, on a technicality…..keep us posted on what you do and if you fight them….

  • its revenue earning - gotta pay Gladys bungs so since everyone in nsw loves gladys take the bad with the corrupt…

    • You have no idea of the situation north of the NSW border!

  • +1

    At least he is not asking for somebody else. I was fined during commercial work for letting off a disabled person on a commercial loading zone on a Sunday where commercial vehicles were banned on that street. Of course all diabled spots were used by show goers. A review brought nothing as I could have dropped the person off about 2km away legally from where they wanted to be. Even parking reverted to become free again on Sunday the said loading zone still is in effect on Sundays!

  • if i didnt commit i would fight. sometimes it’s about doing the right thing and it’s not considered wasting time because thats why the court appeal is for in first place.

  • +2

    You stopped and your wife unbuckled the seat belt. Just take it to court and she can be the witness. The police probably won't even show up to the hearing because they have no evidence of reason to pursue the charge.

    They probably forgot the circumstance of your incident after a full days shift and hundreds of other people they dealt with and issued both fines because that's what's they saw in their diary.

    For once, an OzHelpMeWeaselOutOfMyFine post is plausible and approved

    • +1

      Sigh; your approach only seems plausible and approved by those who don't actually understand the offence for which the OP received an infringement penalty. If the OP challenges the fine on the advice of the uninformed majority posting in this thread then he runs the risk of a higher penalty, similar to the case of unfinishedsentenc below.

      • See my reply to the comment below.

        If what the OP is saying is true and the officer did not see the seat unbuckled until after the car was stopped and the driver was outside of the car (he says he couldn't open the door because of the child lock). Then unless the police lie about what happened, this is the exact grounds for taking it to court.

        • I didn't interpret the OP as being outside of the car - he says above the engine was still running and I doubt he got out of a car still running when pulled over by police.

          The OP has still committed an offence even though the car was stationary - see rule 266 of the Road Safety Rules (NSW).

  • +3

    I‘ve been in this situation before (not seatbelt-related but another traffic offence), got booked and went to court. Ended up having to pay nearly double my original fine. Not worth it.

    • In this situation, the police would have witnessed you driving without a seatbelt. The OP's situation is different because the officer did not see the unbuckled seat belt until after the car was stopped

      • +1

        The offence still applies when a car is stationary (pulled over and engine still running). You or your child can only take your seat belt off once a car is parked.

        • There are exceptions to the rules. RR reg 264(2)(a) and (b) which are rarely used by drivers. Even officers don't know about them. I've previously used them when being stopped by a patrol. The officers had to call the LAC sergeant for clarification.

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