April 8, 2013

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or traffic offence, always seek legal advice because even if you admit the offences, you might have been charged incorrectly. It is not unusual for a person to be charged with a number of offences that are ‘duplicitous’ because they arise out of the same incident.

In a recent decision of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia, a juvenile appealed against the sentence he received in the Youth Court. The juvenile had been charged with three counts of aggravated driving without due care, contrary to section 45 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA)[1].

Without receiving legal advice, the juvenile pleaded guilty to all three counts and received convictions for all three counts.

There was only one road accident which caused injury to three people.

The question to be determined was whether the circumstances of the accident gave rise to one offence of aggravated careless driving or three such offences as had been charged. In other words – were the charges laid by police duplicitous?

This scenario could occur in a number of ways – whether multiple offences are laid following an accident or following the commission of a criminal offence.

In this case, not only did the Full Court find that the charges were duplicitous but that the Youth Court Judge sentenced the juvenile on the basis of a material misunderstanding of the law that three separate offences had been committed.

Although the results of accidents and incidents can be tragic, it is also important that the offender charged with the offences is dealt with in accordance with the law.

If legal advice had been sought and the person had been represented in Court, a lawyer practising in this area of law would have questioned the issue relating to the duplicitous charges by bringing the matter immediately to the attention of the police prosecutor thereby preventing the potential injustice that occurred in this matter.

At Websters Lawyers we recommend that you always seek legal advice and discuss the charges or offences with a specialist lawyer. If you would like to speak to a specialist Criminal Lawyer or a specialist Traffic Lawyer contact Websters now to arrange a free initial interview. Websters have available lawyers in Adelaide and North East who specialise in criminal charges and traffic offences (including traffic fines).

G, JJ v Police[2012] SASCFC 1391.