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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Hooning Offences Hooning Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Hooning Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    It is not out of place to state that hooning activities have accounted for several road accidents in the Northern Territory. Based on this reason, the Northern Territory has decided to take it up a notch regarding the penalties for hooning offences.

    Most of these penalties are evident in the Traffic Act 1987 (NT), and they serve the purpose of cutting down the rates at which people engage in hooning activities.

    Primarily, this article will delve into what the law says regarding the offences that fall under hooning and the penalties that follow. Also, this writeup will consider the possible defences that a defendant can claim when facing charges for hooning.

    What the Legislation Says Regarding Offences Considered as Hooning

    Under the Traffic Act 1987 (NT), the Northern Territory considers several offences as hooning. These offences are:

    #1. Excessive Noise From Vehicle

    Section 29AU of the Traffic Act 1987 (NT) states that it is an offence for a person to operate their vehicle at a public place or street to generate excessive noise.

    Committing this offence often leads to a police officer ordering the offender to reduce or stop the noise. Refusal to obey this order can result in a maximum fine of 20 penalty units.

    However, before the court can convict a person for a crime under this section, the prosecution will need to establish that:

    • The defendant noisily operated a vehicle.
    • The accused received an order from a police officer to stop or reduce the noise.
    • The accused disobeyed the order they received from the police.
    • The defendant has no legal excuse for committing the crime.

    #2. Dangerous Driving

    Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1987 (NT) makes it a crime for an individual to drive recklessly/negligently or at a speed that endangers the lives of other road users. Committing this crime attracts a maximum of 20 penalty units or 2 years in prison.

    Also, the court will have to disqualify the offender from obtaining or possessing a license for 6 months. A subsequent offender may face 12 months disqualification or more depending on the court’s discretion.

    However, the court will need to consider some circumstances surrounding the case before convicting a person for an offence under this section. These circumstances are:

    • The nature or condition of the public place or street where the crime occurred.
    • The amount of traffic as at the time the crime happened.

    Also, a conviction will only take place after the prosecution has convinced the court beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • The accused person drove a vehicle on a public street or area.
    • The accused drove recklessly/negligently or at a speed high enough to endanger the lives of others.
    • The defendant has no justifiable excuse for committing the crime.

    It is crucial to note that the law regarding driving at a dangerous speed does not apply to some particular individuals. These individuals are:

    • A member of the Northern Territory (NT) Fire and Rescue Service who is on duty.
    • Police officers that are carrying out their duties.

    The law excuses these individuals because they may need to drive dangerously to prevent a serious risk to public safety.

    #3. Driving at a Dangerous Speed

    Section 30A of the Traffic Act 1987 (NT) states that a person can become guilty of an offence if they drive a vehicle at a speed of 45km/h or faster than the prescribed speed limit. An offender under this section will be liable to a fine of 20 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment.

    Also, the court will have to disqualify the offender from possessing or holding a license for 3 months, assuming the individual is a first-time offender. On the other hand, a subsequent offender may face disqualification for 6 months or longer.

    Nevertheless, the court can only give penalties for the crime of driving at a dangerous speed after the prosecution has convinced the court that:

    • The accused drove a vehicle.
    • The defendant drove beyond the prescribed speed limit.
    • The defendant has no justifiable excuse for committing the crime of driving at a dangerous speed.

    It is important to note that the law exempts specific individuals from facing charges for driving at a dangerous speed. These individuals include statutory Rescue Services and the Police.

    This exemption is because there are emergencies that may require these officials to go beyond the speed limit.

    Penalties that the Police Can Give For Engaging in Hooning Activities

    In the Northern Territory, the law allows the police to immediately impound or immobilise the vehicle of anyone caught engaging in hooning activities.

    The time frame for which the police will impound or immobilise the vehicle depends on if the offender is committing the hooning offence for the first, second or third time.

    A first time hooning offence comes with an impoundment for 48 hours. A second hooning offence attracts an impoundment for 3 to 6 months, while a third hooning offence can result in the forfeiture of a vehicle.

    Possible Defences

    An accused can raise several defences to challenge a hooning allegation depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Some of these defences are:

    #1. Necessity

    A defendant might have a defence to the charge of hooning if they committed the crime to prevent a terrible event. However, this defence can only stand during the trial if the defendant can convince the court that there was no alternative other than committing the crime.


    #2. Mechanical Fault

    A faulty vehicle can make it appear like a driver is being reckless or negligent. In such a case, a person might have a defence since they did not intentionally commit the hooning offence.


    #3. The Defendant Did Not Drive on a Public Street or Place

    Before the court can convict a person for a hooning offence, the prosecution will have to prove that the defendant drove on a public street or place. Based on this, claiming not to have driven on a public road or street is a defence to a hooning allegation.

    The Court that Handles Most of the Trials for Hooning in the NT

    In the Northern Territory, the Local Court conducts most of the trials for hooning offences.

    Conclusion

    There are several penalties for hooning. As such, it is essential for a person charged with a hooning offence to seek legal counsel. Consequently, this will ensure that they can achieve the best possible result.

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