Within the last 25 years fixed charge penalties or so called “on the spot” fines have become a significant feature of road traffic legislation. The Road Traffic Act 2010 updated the provisions in respect of penalty notices. A wide range of offences are declared to be fixed charge offences. These include offences under the Road traffic Act but also offences under road transport, taxi regulation, road safety and a range of EU legislation relating to traffic. The Minister for Justice may by regulations declared offences under the Road traffic Act which subject to the fixed penalty notice provisions.
Where a member of an Garda Siochana has reasonable grounds for believing a fixed charged offence has been committed, he may serve a fixed penalty notice personally or by registered post. The notice may be served with the summons giving details of the fixed charge, requiring production of details of the licence and state that if the person pays the fixed charge or is convicted a different number of penalty points will apply.
The notice allows that the person at least seven days before the date specified by the summons to appear in court, to make the fixed charge payment in the manner specified. If the person makes the payment proceedings are discontinued and a lesser penalty (than court possibility) and points sanction applies.
A notice may be served on the registered owner of the vehicle where the person driving it can’t be identified. Road traffic Wardens may also exercise the powers to give fixed penalty notices within the scope of their duties.
Notices may be validly served if served at particular places notwithstanding that they do not come to the attention of the person concerned. This includes addresses given by the person concerned and the registered address of the registered owner.
Members of the Gardai have powers to request information by notice served in order to assist in prosecuting offences. Where an on the spot fine notice is served or affixed and the registered owner of the vehicle was not driving or using the vehicle he must within 28 days of the notice give notice in a prescribed form specifying who was driving or using the vehicle at the time or give information as reasonably requested to identify the whereabouts of the person concerned.
The 2010 Act provides that where a notice or fixed charge notice is served on the registered owner who was not driving the vehicle he shall within 28 days give particulars of the person driving together with such other information as is within their knowledge for the purpose of identifying the person concerned. The onus is on the registered owner to prove that they gave notice in response.
The notice is in prescribed form and contains a statement to the effect that if payment of the prescribed penalty is made, that prosecution will not be brought. It specifies number of penalty points which will or would be endorsed. The penalty is generally to be paid within 28 days or as specified. In certain circumstances notices may be affixed on the vehicle.
Where the penalty is paid, the prosecution shall not be instituted in respect of the offence concerned. If the person does not make a payment within 28 days, there may be provision for an increased fixed penalty. The payment of a fixed charge is not permitted after 56 days.
There are certain presumptions in a prosecution for a fixed charge offence. It is presumed that the relevant procedures has been followed unless the contrary is shown, and payment has not been made. Evidence of a postal certificate or other alternative specified mode of proof suffices.
It is presumed that the owner was driving the vehicle or where a company is registered owner, that an authorised person was driving it. Where the owner is a car hire business it is presumed to be use authorised by the hire company.
The principal offences subject to a fixed charge penalty notices include: non-display of insurance, parking offences, various breach of road traffic byelaws such as failing to yield, entering traffic box, bus lane, offences in local authority car parks, failing to display tax or insurance, certain speeding offence, tyre offences, seat belts, child restraint offences
A fixed charge notice contains a statement to the effect that if payment is made of the specific penalty within the time period the person will not be prosecuted and a fixed (generally reduced) number of penalty points will be endorsed. The notice must contain details of the manner of payment and specify where it is to be made. It will specify that if payment is not made within 28 days that the fixed penalty may be stepped up after a further period of 28 days by 50% and if not paid that the offence may be prosecuted in Court. The matter will not prosecuted if the on the spot fine is paid.
The registered owner may himself pay the penalty in which event he need not identify the person driving or using the car. Alternatively he may give the requisite information in which event he will not be prosecuted. In a prosecution for a fixed charge offence it is presumed that unless the contrary is proven that the fixed charge penalty notice was served and was not paid.
The Road Traffic Act 2010 allows for a penalty notice providing for a fixed charge penalty one and a half times the standard amount with the imposition of fewer penalty points and the cancellation of a court summons.
The regulations provide for differential penalty fixed charge penalties for several types of offence. They range from €100 €80 €60 €40. They include such offences as
- driving without reasonable consideration
- failure to stop when required by the Gardai
- failure to stop for a school warden
- failure to comply with lawful direction
- failure to yield right-of-way
- driving at speed in excess of distance required to stop.
- unsafe overtaking
- failure to follow a signal of a Garda Siochana
- failure to obey stop or yield sign
- crossing the continuous white line
- entering the hatched area of a roadway where prohibited
- not obeying traffic lights
- not having proper lights and equipment
- not having the required authorisation plates
- driving outside the road markings
- disobeying certain rules of the road
- not complying with traffic signs
- beaching traffic lane markings
- driving in a bus lane
- unlawful U-turns
- entering a tram line were not permitted
- disobeying various signs
- not wearing a safety belt
- not having the required child restraints
- unlawful parking
- stopping or parking in a clear way
- stopping or parking in a bus lane
- stopping or parking at the school entrance
Traffic wardens employed by local authorities have powers to issue fixed charge penalty notices. They cover a range of offences including
- parking offences
- contravention of licences
- bus stand offences
- contravention of parking bylaws
- contravention of a range of signs prohibiting parking stopping
- failure to display tax disc
- failure to vehicle licence
The traffic warden may serve the notice on the person identified or on the registered owner. The notice is in prescribed form and contains details as to the operation of the fixed charge. The provisions are broadly similar to those in the case of fixed charges.
If paid within 28 days the penalty is half that payable within the second 28 day period. Broadly similar provisions apply. Similar presumptions apply in aid of enforcement.
It is an offence to interfere with a fixed penalty notice affixed to the vehicle of another person. Only the person addressed may remove it. This is effectively the vehicle owner or driver. Contravention is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine of €1,000.
It is an offence to obstruct a traffic warden. A traffic warden may request the name and address of the person whom it believes who he believes is committing one of the relevant offences. It is an offence to give false or misleading information or to fail to give name and address. Breach is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €100.