If you have been charged with a traffic offence in Queensland, you potentially face serious consequences. These could range from a lengthy licence disqualification to actual imprisonment. It is therefore important that you seek legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the correct outcome.
The best thing that you can do is to hire a lawyer to represent you throughout your case. An experienced traffic lawyer will know the laws and the procedures to ensure that you get the best results.
Sometimes, however, a person simply cannot come up with the funds needed to hire a private lawyer. In such situations, the Queensland Government can provide assistance through Legal Aid Queensland which will cover the fees for a lawyer to represent you in court for free.
Legal Aid funding is not automatically granted though. Legal Aid Queensland will only grant funding to certain applicants and its decision will be based on several different factors. The most important factors it will consider are:
- The type of case that a person needs assistance with; and
- The applicant’s financial circumstances.
What Cases do Legal Aid Queensland Fund?
Legal Aid Queensland can provide funding for a wide range of cases, including family law and civil law cases.
Relevantly, Legal Aid Queensland also provide funding for criminal law matters including traffic offences such as drink-driving, drug-driving and unlicensed driving.
Therefore, a private lawyer can be funded by Legal Aid Queensland to represent you in court for traffic offences.
This does not however mean that all traffic offences are covered by Legal Aid. In fact, they have a specific policy which states that “legal assistance is not available for minor traffic prosecutions”.
Therefore to be eligible for legal aid funding for a traffic offence, you need to be able to show that you face a real likelihood of being sentenced to actual jail for the first time or, if not your first time, for a period of six months or longer.
As a result, most people who have been charged with a traffic offence in Queensland will not be eligible for Legal Aid funding since they will not face imprisonment.
Are You Financially Eligible for Funding?
If you have been charged with traffic offences and you face the prospect of an actual jail sentence, the next step is to review your financial circumstances.
Legal Aid Queensland have two tests that they apply to examine a person’s financial circumstances:
- The Income Test; and
- The Assets Test.
The Income Test
Applicants for Legal Aid are required to disclose their income from all available sources, including salaries, income from insurance payouts, child support payments and rental income from investment properties.
Legal Aid Queensland will then consider your total income along with whether you are married and/or have children. If your income exceeds the allowable limit, your application for funding will ordinarily be denied.
The Assets Test
Similarly, you will need to disclose all the assets you own including real estate, cash and vehicles. Funding may still be granted if your assets exceed certain amounts, but you will be expected to contribute an amount towards the legal fees.
There are special conditions and exceptions that apply to the assets test. For example, certain amounts of assets are not included in the calculation of a person’s assets. A person’s age can also have an impact on the assets test.
What If Your Application is Refused?
If your application for Legal Aid funding is refused, you can appeal the decision. Legal Aid Queensland will then carry out an “internal review” to decide whether the refusal was appropriate.
If the internal review decides that the refusal was appropriate, you can then request an “external review”. An External Review Officer will go through the application to decide whether it should have been granted or not.
If all of these options are unsuccessful, the decision is final and you will not receive financial assistance from Legal Aid Queensland.
There are however other community-based legal organisations that may be able to help. They can provide you with free legal advice about your case but will not be able to provide representation.
If you think that you may be eligible for Legal Aid funding, we are a Legal Aid Queensland preferred supplier which means that we can help. Contact us now so that we can discuss how we can assist you.