Being charged with running a red light means the police think that you did not stop:
- at a red traffic light
- before the stop line at a red light
- at a ‘stop here on red signal’ sign.
Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case. Look at the ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.
Even though this offence is considered a minor traffic matter, you may still have to appear in court if police also charged you with other offences or if you choose to take the matter to court instead of paying the fine.
Going to court
If you have a future court date, you may be eligible to get help to prepare before you go to court. You can request help .
The prosecutor is the police or other authorised officer who argues the case against you in the courtroom. The prosecutor must prove two things:
- you were driving a car
- you did not stop at a red traffic light, before the stop line at a red light, or at a ‘stop here on red signal’ sign.
If you were caught by a red-light camera, the police will often give you the red-light camera photos. This is part of their evidence to show that you committed the offence.
If the police have not given you the photos, you can view them at the Fines website. You will need your infringement or obligation number to view the photos. These numbers are on your fine or reminder notice. Visit the Fines Victoria website .
If you were not caught by a red light camera, the police will rely on eyewitness evidence that you ran a red light. For example, that a police officer saw you.
For information about pleading guilty or not guilty and how to prepare for the court hearing see Going to court for traffic offences.
What are my options if I have to go to court?
If you agree that you broke the law, you should tell the court that you are pleading guilty. During the court hearing, the prosecutor will read out the statement of alleged facts. The magistrate will find you guilty and give you a penalty.
If you plead guilty the magistrate treats this as a sign that you are co-operating and may give you a less severe penalty.
For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading guilty.
Plead not guilty
If you believe that you did not break the law, or you disagree with what is in the statement of alleged facts, you must tell the prosecutor before your court date that you plan to plead not guilty. They will hold a summary case conference with you before your case is heard in court. If you still want to plead not guilty after the conference, tell the magistrate. The magistrate will adjourn (put off) your case for another day.
You will come back to court for a contested hearing. When you come back the magistrate listens to evidence from you and the police before making a decision. You should have a defence. Saying that you did not know you were breaking the law is not a good enough defence.
If you are pleading not guilty, get legal advice before the contested hearing.
For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading not guilty.
You might have a defence if you had to run a red light because of an urgent reason. For example, someone was critically ill in the car. The magistrate will decide if your reason is good enough.
The law assumes that red light cameras are accurate. If you want to argue that the camera was wrong, you would have to show that it was broken or not used properly. You would need an expert to explain this in court.
If you were not the driver of the car, you need to provide the name and address of the person who was driving.
Can I adjourn my hearing?
You can ask the magistrate to adjourn (put off) your case if you have a good reason. For example, to get a lawyer.
If you have not adjourned your case before and you are on summons, you may be able to get an adjournment without going into the courtroom. When you arrive at court, go to the counter and tell the staff you want an adjournment.
What are the penalties if I am found guilty?
VicRoads adds three demerit points to your licence from the date the offence happened, not the date you went to court. The magistrate cannot change this.
Losing your licence
The magistrate may cancel or suspend your licence for a certain amount of time. You should not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. For example, you cannot drive to work or to pick up your children. There are no special licences that allow you to drive some of the time. There are very serious penalties if you drive when your licence is cancelled or suspended.
Usually a magistrate would only suspend your licence if you committed other offences at the same time or if you have a bad driving record.
The magistrate may give you a fine. You can get up to 10 penalty units for running a red light.
You should tell the magistrate about your income and things you have to pay for, and whether you support a family.
If you get a fine you can pay it straight away at court. If you do not pay the fine straight away, Fines will send you a Court fine collection statement. This will tell you how much you owe and when the fine is due.
You can ask Fines Victoria for a payment plan if you cannot afford to pay the fine in one payment.
If you do not pay the fine when it is due, Fines Victoria may increase the fine. The court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
The magistrate may also place you on an undertaking to behave well for a certain amount of time. An undertaking is a promise to the court not to do certain things.
If you are found guilty what happens in court goes on your criminal record.
- the finding of guilt
- a conviction if there is one
For more information visit our page on Criminal records.
Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?
Yes. If you do not agree with the decision you can appeal to the County Court. You have 28 days to do this. Get legal advice before you decide. You could get a higher penalty.
Print this page
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Reviewed 21 August 2022