Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged

– 61(1)(f) of the Road Safety Act 1986

AccidentThere is an obligation on the driver of a motor vehicle to report an accident to the Police in certain circumstances.

This report must be made in person at the most accessible police station that is open at the time. Failure to do so is an offence pursuant to 61(1)(f) of the Road Safety Act 1986.

Examples of Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged
  • A car sideswipes a stationary vehicle and the driver immediately departs. Neither the stationary vehicle’s owner, their representative nor a police officer is present at the scene. The driver does not proceed to a police station to report the incident.
  • A car collides with a dog that is running across the road, injuring the dog. The dog is wearing a collar and tags. Neither the dog’s owner, their representative nor a police officer is present at the scene. The driver departs and does not proceed to a police station to report the incident.
Questions in cases like this
  • Did an accident occur?
  • Was property damaged due to the accident?
  • Was the owner of the property, someone representing the owner of the property or a police officer present at the scene?
What are some of the possible defences to Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged?

Defences in this type of case ordinarily turn on factual disputes. Such defences include:

  • No accident occurred.
  • The damage to the property was pre-existing.
  • Although an accident occurred and property injured, a police officer was present at the scene. The person who injured the property stopped and made a statement to that police officer.
  • Although an accident occurred and property injured, the person who owned the injured property was present at the scene. The person who injured the property stopped and exchanged their details with the owner of the injured property.

As with any criminal offence, whether or not someone should plead guilty to this charge depends on the specific features of their case.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

The maximum penalty for this offence depends on whether it is a first offence or a subsequent offence.

In the case of a first offence, the maximum penalty is 5 penalty units (a $805.95 fine) or a maximum of 14 days imprisonment.1

In the case of a subsequent offence, the maximum penalty is 10 penalty units (a $1611.90 fine) or a period of imprisonment not less than 14 days and not more than 1 month.2

A ‘subsequent offence’ means any subsequent offence after a person has committed an offence under any provision of section 61(1) of the Act. This means that if a person commits an offence under s 61(1)(d) (fail to give name and address at scene of accident to police officer present) and subsequently commits an offence under s 61(f), the appropriate penalty for the offence against s 61(f) will be the ‘subsequent offence’ penalty.3

The Department of Treasury and Finance reviews and updates the value of a penalty unit on 1 July each year.4 As such, the maximum fine for this offence is liable to change.

This offence is primarily heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

What is the legal definition of Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged?
  1. If owing to the presence of a motor vehicle an accident occurs whereby any person is injured or any property (including any animal) is damaged or destroyed, the driver of the motor vehicle—
    1. if any property is damaged or destroyed and neither the owner of the property nor any person representing the owner nor any police officer is present at the scene of the accident, must as soon as possible report in person full particulars of the accident at the police station that is most accessible from the scene of the accident if that station is open and, if it is not open, at the next most accessible station.
Legislation

The relevant legislative provision for this offence is section 61(1)(f) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic).

Call Doogue + George

Elements of the offence

The prosecution must prove:

  1. A person was the driver of a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident;
  2. Any property (including an animal) was damaged or destroyed due to the accident;
  3. Neither the owner of the property, nor their representative nor a police officer was present at the scene of the accident; and
  4. The person did not report the full particulars of the accident in person at the most accessible police station that is open at the time.

Element 1: A person was the driver of a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident
The prosecution must prove that someone was the driver of a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident for this offence to apply.

Being the ‘driver’ of a motor vehicle means being the person who was driving or in charge of the motor vehicle at the time when it was involved in the accident.5

Element 2: Any property (including an animal) was damaged or destroyed due to the accident
The prosecution must then prove that property was damaged or destroyed due to the accident.

“Can they prove that the property was damaged or destroyed due to the accident?”

Property can include animals, such as household pets or farm animals.

It is necessary for the property to be damaged or destroyed due to the accident. A person being charged with this offence is not liable for property damage that existed prior to the accident.

Element 3: Neither the owner of the property, nor their representative nor a police officer was present at the scene of the accident
This offence will only apply if neither the owner of the damaged property, their representative nor a police officer was present at the scene of the accident.

‘Owner’ in relation to a motor vehicle is defined broadly. It means an outright owner, a part-owner and also includes a person who has possession of the motor vehicle under a hire-purchase agreement, or a bill of sale or like instrument, or under a written hiring agreement (not being a hire-purchase agreement) which requires the person to register the motor vehicle in their name.6

However, the term ‘owner’ in relation to a motor car does not capture a person in whom the motor vehicle or any absolute or conditional right to take possession of the motor vehicle is vested under a hire purchase agreement or bill of sale or like instrument, where the instrument requires another person to register the motor vehicle in their name but who has not for the time being possession or use of the motor vehicle.7

‘Any person representing the owner’ is not defined in the Act. It could foreseeably include the owner’s family members or associates who have authority to act on their owner’s behalf.

‘Police officer’ means a police member appointed under the Victoria Police Act 2013.8

Element 4: The person did not as soon as possible report the full particulars of the accident in person at the most accessible police station that was open at the time
The final element of this office is that the person did not as soon as possible report the full particulars of the accident in person at the most accessible police station that was open at the time.

If the most accessible police station to the accident is closed at the time the accident occurred, the person must attend the next most accessible police station that is open at the time.

The person must report the ‘full particulars’ of the accident. The term ‘full particulars’ is not defined in the Act. It foreseeably requires the person to report all relevant information to the police when they report to the most accessible police station that is open at the time.

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

There were 1,323 cases (1,340 charges) of Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged heard in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These cases resulted in: fine – 59.6%, adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal – 18.4%, Community Correction Order – 9.9%, imprisonment – 8.2%, wholly suspended sentence – 2.6%, partially suspended sentence – 0.8%, Youth Justice Centre Order – 0.5%, and other sentencing options – 0.2%.

The majority fines were in the “$500 < $1,000” category (44.1% for aggregate) and “less than $500” (5.4% for non-aggregate). The highest fine imposed was in the $4,000 < $5,000 category.

ImprisonmentOf those who were sentenced to imprisonment, the majority were sentenced to more than 3 but less than 6 months (27.8%). The longest term imposed was > 36 months, however this was handed down the least (only 0.9% of those who were given prison terms) out of all prison terms imposed.9

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.10

Other important resources
Media Information
Case studies related to Fail to Report Accident to Police When Property Damaged

 



[1] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 61(5)
[2] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 61(5)
[3] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 61(7)
[4] http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/justice+system/fines+and+penalties/penalties+and+values/
[5] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3
[6] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3
[7] Road Safety Act 1986 s 3
[8] Victoria Police Act 2013 s 3
[9] SAC Statistics – Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) : s 61(1)(f) – fail to report accident to police when property damaged < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/86_127_61_1_f.html >
[10] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >