Police Pursuit

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What is Police Pursuit ?

Police Pursuit occurs when a suspect attempts to use a vehicle to escape from law enforcement attempting to stop/detain or arrest him or her. The assumed offence committed may range from misdemeanours such as traffic infractions to serious matters such as murder. When suspects realize they have been spotted by law enforcement and they attempt to lose their pursuer by driving away, sometimes at high speed the crime of police pursuit will occur.

Case law/Jurisdiction

In 2010 following the death of 19-month-old Skye Sassine in Sydney new laws were introduced. Skye died when the vehicle in which she was travelling was hit by a man leading police on a high-speed pursuit. Following this tragic death there were calls for tougher penalties on people who lead police on dangerous pursuits. These new laws became known as “Skye’s Law”. The New South Wales government thus introduced Skye’s Law which is intended to deter people from attempting to evade police which can lead to dangerous chases and high-speed police pursuits.

An offence of Police Pursuit  is what is known as a “Table 1” offence under the relevant legislation, which means it is to be dealt with in the Local Court unless an election is it is to be dealt with on indictment by the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The Law

Under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)-Section 51B it is an offence to:

“drive a motor vehicle negligently, recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to any person in order to escape pursuit by a police officer or to cause a police officer to engage in a pursuit”.

What must the prosecution prove?

Since Police Pursuit is a criminal offence, the burden of proof lies on the Prosecution.

The prosecution must prove the Accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

That is a high standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before someone can be convicted of Police Pursuit

To establish Police Pursuit, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt:

  • The driver knew, ought reasonably to have known or has reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers were in pursuit;
  • The driver knew, ought reasonably to have known or has reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver was required to stop the vehicle;
  • The driver did not stop the vehicle, and
  • The driver subsequently drove the vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others.

If you are charged with the offence of Police Pursuit what are your options?

National Criminal Lawyers have been successful in defending a number of Police Pursuit charges where the prosecution could not establish each of the elements of Police Pursuit. We have also achieved a number of non-convictions for Police Pursuit charges.

NCL offer the following options for those who have been charged with Police Pursuit:

  1. We will negotiate with prosecutors (police or DPP) (a term referred to as “plea negotiations”) to request that the charge is withdrawn, downgraded or fact sheets amended;
  2. NCL will Plead Not Guilty and go to hearing/trial and persuade the Court that prosecution has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt;
  3. Plead guilty to the elements of the charge and then dispute the facts (at a special “disputed facts” hearing) with the view of having you sentenced less harshly; and/or
  4. Plead guilty with full acceptance of the facts as set out by the police and make strong submissions on your behalf requesting that the Court not record a criminal conviction.

Pleading Guilty

If you agree that you have committed the offence and the police are able to prove all the elements of the offence, it is best to plead guilty at an early opportunity to receive the maximum discount. Currently the maximum discount available for an early plea of guilty is 25% of the sentence.

Furthermore, the early guilty plea shows the Court that you have remorse and contrition for your actions.

Our Lawyers at National Criminal Lawyers work closely with you to ensure that we obtain all necessary paper work at increasing the chances of obtaining a non-conviction or section 10.

Maximum Penalties

For offenders of Police Pursuit the maximum penalties are as follows:

(a) in the case of a first offence–imprisonment for 3 years, or

(b) in the case of an offence on a second or subsequent occasion–imprisonment for 5 years.

Please note that the penalties mentioned are reserved for the worse case offending.

Pleading Not Guilty

If you decide to plead not guilty you will need to prepare to go to a Defended Hearing.

A defended hearing is where all the witnesses of that case are called to give evidence. The witnesses are both examined by the prosecution and tested by your defence lawyers.

National Criminal Lawyers have defended numerous people charged with Police Pursuit and are experts at these hearings.

Defences

Some of the possible defences available for those charged with Police Pursuit can include:

  • If you were compelled to act in a certain way due to the circumstances, or the threats of another you may be able to argue “Duress”;
  • If your actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm from occurring, you may have the defence of “Necessity”;
  • If you were defending yourself or another OR yours or another’s property you may have a Defence of “Self-Defence”

Statistics

The Courts are not bound by statistics however there must be reasonable consistency in sentences. A Magistrate or Judge should have regard to what has been done in other cases. In Green [2011] HCA 45, the plurity judgement of French CJ, Kiefel and Creennan JJ stated:

“Equal Justice” embodies the norm expressed in the terms “equality before the law”. It is an aspect of the rule of law.

For police pursuit offenders 51% of first offenders received a full-time prison sentence whereas 88% of subsequent offenders received a full-time prison sentence.

Possible Penalty's

In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a Police Pursuit charge.

  • Prison sentence;
  • Home Detention;
  • Intensive correction order (previously periodic detention);
  • Suspended sentence;
  • Community service order (CSO);
  • Good behaviour bond;
  • Fine;
  • Section 10.

However, from the 24 September 2018 new penalty’s will be replacing the above. They are as follows:

  • Full time Imprisonment;
  • New ICO (ICO) with a home detention condition available;
  • New Community Correction Order (CCO);
  • Fine;
  • New Conditional release Order (CRO).

Case Studies

Our client was involved in a police pursuit. We represented our client where we argued that his case should be dealt with by way of the relevant mental health provisions. Our client’s case was that he was off his prescribed medication for his chronic Schizophrenia condition and had an attack of paranoia and when asked to stop by police he for medical reasons fled. A psychological report and psychiatric report supported this argument. The Local Court Magistrate agreed with the defence’s submissions and dismissed the charges under the relevant mental health provisions.

Why National Criminal Lawyers?

There are three reasons to choose National Criminal Lawyers:

1. We get the results

We are the experts in either beating or having criminal charges withdrawn AND/OR obtaining the least restrictive penalty available. This is because no matter which option you choose within our tailored Options at Law you will be dealing with experienced criminal lawyers who can make sure the evidence is not only obtained properly but also that your case is prepared and presented to the highest best practice standards possible. This is also done without breaking your pocket.

2. We give a Senior Defence Lawyer guarantee

No matter which option at law you choose, National Criminal Lawyers can guarantee that a Senior Defence Lawyer will represent you. This means that with our over 25 years of Combined criminal law experience you will get the best result possible.

3. National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights

At National Criminal Lawyers we know that Criminal Law is a matter of Human Rights. For this reason, we take pride and passion in representing our clients. This pride and passion to assist those charged with an alleged or actual breach of the criminal law is to us a matter of righteous necessity and in that sense, you can always rest assured that National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights. This true not only when the police have just simply got it wrong OR if they have got it right then we can speak with you and make sure you get you the best result available.

If you have been charged with any Police Pursuit offence our Team at National Criminal Lawyers are well versed and specialists in having charges either withdrawn and otherwise achieving favourable outcomes.

Please contact our office on 02 9893 1889 or visit www.nationalcriminallawyers.com.au for more information about your options

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