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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Failing to Stop for Police Offences Failing to Stop for Police Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Failing to Stop for Police Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Failing to stop for the police accounts for some of the road accidents in New South Wales. This is because refusing to stop the vehicle upon receiving the order can cause the police to go in pursuit. This pursuit consequently makes the road unsafe for other road users.

    Apart from the dangers involved, failing to stop prevents the police from carrying out the duty of maintaining law and order.

    As such, New South Wales has provided rules and sanctions to discourage the act of failing to stop for the police. Interested individuals can find these regulations in the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) and the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

    This write-up will discuss what the law says on failing to stop for the police, including the penalties. Also, it will consider the possible defences for refusing to stop after receiving the order.

    If an individual is convicted in a NSW court for a failing to stop for police offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national criminal background check in NSW.

    What the Law Says on Failing to Stop for the Police

    Based on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) and the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), the police have the following powers:

    #1. Authority to Stop and Search Vehicles Without a Warrant

    Section 36 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 empowers the police to stop and search a vehicle without a warrant.

    According to this section, a police officer can stop a vehicle and search if they have enough reasons to suspect that:

    • A person is driving a stolen vehicle or has a stolen item present in their vehicle.
    • A vehicle has been used in committing a relevant offence.
    • A vehicle contains anything that a person can use in committing a crime or that links to a relevant offence committed in the past.
    • A vehicle is in a public location and has a dangerous article connected to a relevant offence committed.
    • The person driving a vehicle has an illegal substance.
    • A person drove a vehicle into an area to commit a crime.

    Refusing to stop a vehicle after receiving the order from the police can attract a maximum of 50 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.

    However, before the police can convict a person for failing to stop the vehicle upon receiving the order, the prosecution must establish that:

    • The defendant was driving a motor vehicle.
    • While driving, the police ordered the defendant to bring their vehicle to a halt.
    • The accused was aware of this order but refused to comply.
    • The defendant has no legitimate reason for not stopping their vehicle after the police have given the order.

    #2. Power to Erect Roadblocks and Stop Vehicles

    Section 37 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) gives the police the authority to erect roadblocks and stop vehicles. Failing to stop at a roadblock or avoiding a roadblock can result in a fine of 50 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.

    Nevertheless, the court will only convict a person for an offence in this section after the prosecution has proven that:

    • The defendant was driving on the road.
    • The accused saw that there was a roadblock.
    • The defendant failed to stop at the roadblock for the police.
    • The accused has no justifiable reason for failing to stop at a roadblock.

    #3. Power to Apprehend a Person Trying to Evade the Police

    Section 51B of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that a driver can be guilty of an offence if:

    • They know that the police are in pursuit of their vehicle and the police want them to stop their vehicle.
    • They continued to drive.
    • The driver drove recklessly or at a speed that put other road users in danger.

    Committing an offence in this section can attract a three-year imprisonment sentence if it is a first-time offence. On the other hand, a second time or a subsequent violation can result in a five-year imprisonment sentence.

    Nevertheless, the court will only convict a person after the prosecution has proven that:

    • The defendant drove a motor vehicle.
    • The accused received an order to stop their vehicle.
    • The accused tried to evade the police.
    • The police pursued the defendant, and in the process, the accused drove dangerously.
    • The accused has no justifiable reason for their action.

    The Court that Handles the Trials for Failing to Stop for the Police

    In New South Wales, there are primarily three courts. These are the Local, District and Supreme courts. Among these three courts, the Local Court conducts most of the trials for different offences, including failing to stop the vehicle after receiving the order.

    Possible Defences for Failing to Stop for the Police

    There are several defences for failing to stop after receiving the order from the police. Successfully raising these defences can help a defendant to avoid conviction. Some of these defences are:

    #1. The Defendant Was not Aware of the Police Order

    The police use different signals to order a person to bring their vehicle to a halt. Some of these signals involve using hands, the siren, headlights or the red and blue flashing light on the top of the service vehicle.

    If the accused did not get any of these signals, they could claim they did not stop because they were unaware of the police order.

    #2. Necessity

    A defendant could use the defence of necessity if they committed the offence of failing to stop in the process of responding to an emergency. For instance, a defendant might have driven without stopping because they were trying to get immediate medical attention for someone.

    #3. Duress

    Using the defence of duress is applicable if the defendant committed an offence because of a threat they received from another person. However, this defence can only stand if the defendant can convince the court that they had no other option but to commit the offence.

    #4. Mistake of Identity

    A defendant can claim that they did not stop their vehicle because they did not know that the person giving the order was a police officer. This ignorance could result from the police officer not having anything that points to their occupation. It could also be that the police officer was not using their official service vehicle at the time of the incident.

    Bottom Line

    It is a severe offence for a person to refuse to stop for the police. As such, the first step to take is seeking the assistance of a legal practitioner. This action can help a person avoid conviction for failing to stop for the police.

    Will a failing to stop for police offence in NSW show up on a criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of failing to stop for police offence in NSW, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal background check.

    Individuals can obtain a national police clearance online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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