What do the police need to prove in order to prosecute me for a traffic offence?

Question Details: I received a letter from the police saying that my car was involved in "sustained loss of traction" on two occasions. What do the police need to prove, and what will be the outcome of a prosecution in a worst case scenario?

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Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

The law states that an offence is committed if someone, without reasonable excuse, operates a motor vehicle on a road in a manner that causes the vehicle to undergo a sustained loss of traction.

The first thing the Police will need to prove is that you were driving your car (the car involved) at the time they allege the sustained loss of traction occurred. The Police may rely on the evidence of officers or other witnesses to the alleged incident to attempt to prove this. You cannot be convicted of the offence if you were not driving the car at the time.

The courts have approached the interpretation of the phrase "sustained loss of traction" in two steps. The Police are required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the vehicle was operated on a road in a manner that caused the vehicle to undergo a loss of traction, and also that the loss of traction was sustained. The court will assess the facts of each case and take a common-sense approach to making the decision.

Whether there is a reasonable excuse for the loss of traction will depend on the particular circumstances. The courts consider the reason why the offence was put into the legislation. The offence was introduced in what is casually referred to as the "Boy Racer Act" which was to deal with unauthorised street racing, drag racing, wheel spinning, other stunts involving motor vehicles on roads, and people spilling lubricants on the road. The courts generally consider the facts of a case against this purpose in coming to their decision.

Helpful information on the penalties for the offence as well as more background information can be found on the Police website by clicking here: www.police.govt.nz.

Answered 13 Mar 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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