Feeling Reckless? What it’s Going to Cost you to be a Hoon on the Road

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh

 

On September 7, 2018, boulder man Travis James Ball was jailed for eight months for reckless driving and other traffic offences after he shamelessly performed multiple burnouts only metres away from Kalgoorlie Police Station back on June 2.

The 21-year-old hoon, who situated himself in the city’s busiest intersection of Hannan Street and Boulder Road, conducted the burnouts after midnight while he was encouraged by bystanders applauding him. He later told police the reason he imperilled the lives of pedestrians was for “s***s and gigs.”

Ball appeared in Kalgoorlie Magistrate’s Court via video link to the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison where CCTV footage was played of the June 2 incident. Magistrate Adam Hills-Wright requested for the recording of the incidents to be played in court, which showed his black Holden Commodore conducting burnouts near numerous pedestrians who had congregated outside two active pubs. The burnouts began at 12:37am.

Specifically, the footage revealed the car running red lights and being hurled on the wrong side of the busy city street for approximately 300 metres.

It also showed the vehicle carrying out a doughnut in the middle of the intersection, soon after which it drifted across the intersection and became overwhelmed in smoulder as onlookers standing outside the Exchange Hotel scuttled over to touch the car.

The burnout continued for 24 seconds, at which point Ball drove the vehicle away down Boulder Road. Meanwhile, three taxis waited at the lights for him to drive off.

The overall incident lasted for more than 25 minutes and following this reached viral status on social media.

Additionally, footage recorded by Ball’s passenger from inside the car, which was also played in court, revealed Ball smirking as he conducted the burnouts. The court heard that earlier that night, Ball was asked to leave a nightclub.

The next morning, Ball reported his car stolen to the police station at about 5am, and when he was interviewed at 3pm, maintained this narrative.

He eventually conceded he had been the driver and days later was arrested.

According to Magistrate Hills-Wright, Ball’s attempt to avoid responsibility by registering the car stolen was “doomed to fail,” while the possibility for significant injury to bystanders was “very real.”

“It is not suggested any injury was caused,” he said.

“But a car can be a lethal weapon and your actions exposed others to danger.”

Back in July, Ball pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering life, reckless driving and creating a false belief.

The seriousness of burnouts

Defence lawyer Ashley Watson said the burnouts were carried out slowly and in a controlled manner, and that the offender was simply showing off after being egged on by onlookers. As a result, the risk presented to pedestrians was low.

Mr Watson also highlighted to the court that the large crowd that congregated on the street were cheering Ball on.

“Burnouts can be controlled. This was almost at a professional level,” he said.

Magistrate Hills-Wright said this would have been an extraordinary spectacle and dismissed the argument on the basis that suburban streets cannot be compared with a racetrack.

Of reference to an annual car stunt festival held in Canberra, he said that “this is a world away from Summernats.”

Furthermore, the Magistrate drew attention to the fact that the hoon was not in control of the car at all times.

“It is acknowledged by you that alcohol was a factor in your driving… it will never be known what your blood alcohol limit was,” Mr Hills-Wright said.

“Your explanation for your conduct that it was for ‘s***s and gigs’ suggest you don’t understand the seriousness of your behaviour.”

Speaking of the reckless driving, Kalgoorlie Police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Peter Healy said he was left entirely shocked.

“In my personal experience, this is the worst incident I’ve seen,” he said.

The Senior Sergeant said he hoped the eight-month imprisonment sentence sent a vigorous message to other motorists.

“This just shows the courts look at it as a serious matter,” he said.

“Everyone needs to understand that when you’re in charge of a motor vehicle, you need to respect others, obey the law and be mindful you’re driving an object that can hurt other people.”

Along with the jail term of eight months, Ball was also had his driver’s licence disqualified for two years.

Dangerous Driving Laws in NSW

In NSW, the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) imposes heavy penalties and consequences to those who commit anti-social and dangerous behaviour in a car, van or motorbike. This kind of motor vehicle conduct includes burnouts, speeding, street or drag racing and reckless driving.

In Australia, the penalties for dangerous driving offences and the period of imprisonment differ from state to state and include impounding or confiscating vehicles which are suspected to be involved in the commission of a dangerous driving offence. These penalties are also dependent upon whether the offender has formerly been convicted of one of these offences.

Law and Penalties for Reckless Driving in NSW

You will face up to 9 months imprisonment and/or $2,200 fine, and an automatic licence disqualification period of 3 years for committing a furious or reckless driving offence in NSW under section 117 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

The Magistrate can reduce that disqualification period to a minimum of 1 year unless you receive a section10(1)(a) or Conditional Release Order by the Magistrate which will mean that you completely avoid these penalties. This means that you will not be disqualified from driving.

The penalties are harsher if within the 5 years from committing this offence, you have been convicted of another major offence such as drink driving or furious or reckless driving. This tends to make convincing a Magistrate to give you a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order more difficult to get.

You will be guilty of reckless or furious driving if the police can prove that:

  • You drove your motor vehicle in such a manner, as to the control or management of it, that it was dangerous to the public; and
  • You foresaw the possibility of causing that danger to others.

As a defence to a reckless driving charge you will be not guilty if any of the below apply to you:

  • You didn’t foresee the possibility of the danger to the public from your way of driving.
  • You were driving in that way due to duress or necessity.
  • You honestly believed in a set of mistaken circumstances that you were not committing this offence where that belief was reasonable to have held in the circumstances.

Law and Penalties for Drag Racing in NSW

You will face a fine of up to $3,300 as a first time offender for drag racing under section 116 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). A first-time offender is someone who commits this offence for the second time within the last 5 years.

If this is your second time committing the offence of drag racing, you will face a fine of up to $3,300 and/or imprisonment of up to 9 months.

in addition to that, whether or not it’s your first offence or second offence of drag racing, if the Magistrate convicts you, you will also be faced with a 1-year automatic driver licence disqualification period.

There is no imprisonment penalty for a first time drag racing offender. However, if the Magistrate is convinced to give you a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order, you will not be disqualified, nor will you be fined or imprisoned.

You will be guilty of drag racing if you:

  1. Operate a motor vehicle on a road in a way that causes it sustained loss of traction by the driving wheels; and
  2. Where either one or more of the following apply to you:
    • You repeat causing the vehicle a sustained loss of traction.
    • You cause the vehicle a sustained loss of traction knowing there is petrol, oil, fuel or other inflammable liquid on the surface where you are doing the burnout.
    • You cause the vehicle a sustained loss of traction on a road, at a place and time that you know there is an appreciable risk that it’s likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the area, make it unsafe for anyone around, or interfere with the amenity of the area.
    • You participated willingly in a group activity involving the vehicle to drag race.
    • You organised or promoted or influenced a person to either take part in or be a spectator in a group activity involving the use of a vehicle(s) to be operated to cause a sustained loss of traction.
    • You took photos or video recorded a vehicle being operated to cause a sustained loss of traction.

As a defence to a drag racing charge, you will be not guilty if any of the below apply to you:

  • You honestly but mistakenly believed in a set of circumstances that you were permitted to drag race where the court concludes that your belief was reasonably held in the circumstances.
  • Where you caused the vehicle a sustained loss of traction of the wheels by accident (it was not deliberate).
  • You were drag racing after having obtained approval from the commissioner of police.
  • You were acting under duress of necessity.

Law and Penalties for Racing in NSW

You will face a fine of up to $3,300 if you’re a first time offender of street racing under section 115 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). A first-time offender is someone who has not committed this offence in the last 5 years.

If this is your second time of having committed this offence within the last 5 years, then you will face a fine of up to $3,300 and/or 9 months imprisonment.

Regardless of it being your first- or second-time street racing, unless you get a s10 dismissal or conditional release order, you will also face an automatic driver licence disqualification period of 1 year.

There is no imprisonment penalty for a first-time offender of street racing.

However, getting a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order by the Magistrate will result in no fine, no imprisonment and no disqualification period.

You will be guilty of street racing if you either took a part in, organised or promoted a race between motor vehicles on a road, attempted to beat another vehicles speed record on a road, trialled the speed of a motor vehicle on a road, competitively trialled to test the driver’s skills or mechanical condition or reliability of a motor vehicle on a road.

As a defence to a street racing charge you will be not guilty if any of the below apply to you:

  • Before street racing, you obtained approval from the commissioner of police.
  • You honestly but mistakenly believed that you were permitted to race in a set of circumstances where the court finds it reasonable for you to have held that belief.
  • You had no intention, or you were not trying to obtain an advantage by overtaking another vehicle.
  • You were acting under necessity or duress.

Additional Penalties: When Can Police Seize & Impound my Car, or Remove & Confiscate my Number-plate in NSW?

Under section 238 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), a police officer can impose any 1 or more of the following sanctions on you if the police officer has a reasonable basis to believe that you committed a ‘sanctionable offence’ (a ‘sanctionable offence means either, speeding over 45km/h, racing, drag racing or police pursuit):

  • Police can seize and take your car where they can then impound it. Upon the car being impounded, the vehicle will remain there for 3 months (unless it is released sooner). The vehicle will be kept there for 6 months if you were already disqualified from driving at the time of committing the offence that caused the vehicle to be impounded.
  • Issue you a motor vehicle production notice and/or a number plate production notice which is a notice to produce your car or number-plate to a police officer at a certain place and time.
  • Remove and confiscate your number plate where the police will attach a number plate confiscation notice to your car. Upon receiving this notice, the motor vehicle is not allowed to be used for 3 months from the date of the notice. In fact, if your number plate is confiscated, the authority who holds it will hold onto it for 3 months (unless it is released sooner). The number plate will be kept there for 6 months if you were already disqualified from driving at the time of committing the offence that caused the number plate to be confiscated.

Under section 243 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), you will face a penalty of up to $3,300 for a failure to comply with a motor vehicle production notice or number-plate production notice within the specified time period noted in the notice. In addition to this, you will also face a 3-month suspension of the registration of the vehicle.

Can I Get My Impounded Vehicle or confiscated number plate Released Early?

If your motor vehicle is impounded by police or number plate confiscated, you may apply to the local court for the vehicle or number plate to be released under s249 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). In determining whether to release the vehicle or number plate, the Magistrate in court will consider any extreme hardship people other than you are suffering as a result of not being able to use the vehicle, and the safety of the public.

Do Police have a Responsibility to Ensure my Impounded Vehicle is Safe?

Under s251 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), once a motor vehicle is impounded, the Police have the responsibility to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to secure the impounded vehicle against damage or theft while it’s impounded.

When Can Police Dispose, Sell or Destroy Your Motor Vehicle in NSW?

Police may dispose by selling or destroying your motor vehicle in the following circumstances:

  • Where you fail to claim the motor vehicle and fail to pay the specified amount payable (for the seizing, removing, towing, keeping, impounding or releasing of the vehicle) within 3 months from the date it was seized by police (Rule 42 of the Road Transport (General) Regulation 2013 (NSW)).
  • Where within the last 5 years of committing the offence of failing to comply with a motor vehicle or number-plate production notice, you committed the same offence without reasonable excuse (s243(5) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)).
  • Where within the last 5 years of committing a ‘sanctionable offence’ (an offence of speeding over 45km/h (non-camera recorded), drag or street racing, or police pursuit), you committed the same offence (s245 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)).

What Ways Can My Car Be ‘Disposed’ of By Police in NSW?

If you fail to claim your vehicle within the specified time period from when it was seized by police, or you fail to comply with a production notice or where you commit a ‘sanctionable offence’ (being a ‘second or subsequent offence’), police can dispose your motor vehicle in any one of the following ways under section 252 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW):

  • Put it up for sale by a public auction or public tender;
  • Where the police believe (on reasonable grounds) that the vehicle doesn’t have a monetary value or that the selling price will not likely exceed the cost of selling it, or no one purchases the vehicle after putting it up for sale- the vehicle can be disposed of by being used as a crash testing vehicle and educational program for drivers.

If going to court, it’s important to understand the importance of preparing well drafted good character reference letters for court. See here for a character reference example.

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