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What demerit points count if you get booked in another state?

No matter where you commit an offence, the appropriate Demerit Points are supposed to appear on your licence back home.

There are some things you can do when you're on holiday that you simply can't at home, because the shame can't follow you back. Men can ride scooters or drink cocktails or even sing karaoke, as long as they are far enough from their friends to be seen doing so. Women can... already do all those things, but they can commit crimes against fashion, or wear Ugg Boots outside, or drink beer.

Because Australia is so large, just going interstate can be far enough to do things you wouldn't dream of, but speeding is not one of them, because, unlike the United States, our states are actually united as one ball-breaking nation in their approach to punishing your driving indiscretions, which means that someone caught speeding in Perth will pay for it with points on their NSW licence when they get home. Eventually. Probably. In theory.

It didn't used to be this way, of course, and there was a time when a Victorian walloper would look at your Queensland licence and hiss through his teeth with disappointment, as he knew he'd never realistically be able to pursue you across state lines, but if there's one thing that governments of all stripes, and all states, agree on, it is that speeding fines, are a great way of raising revenue, and crushing the public under the boot heel.

In short, no matter where you commit an offence, the officers who catch you are supposed to contact your home state's authorities and inform them.

The Australian Road Rules Agreement was concocted and approved by all state and territory Transport Ministers in 1999 to make sure that there was some national conformity, and that the Demerit Points Schemes operated by various regions would work in an interconnected national fashion.

In short, no matter where you commit an offence, the officers who catch you are supposed to contact your home state's authorities and inform them, so that the appropriate Demerit Points can pile up on your licence back home.

As the website helpfully points out for its residents: "Demerit points are incurred whether the offence is committed in South Australia or interstate."

One trap to watch out for is that if you think you want to challenge a fine you've been given in court, it might be implausibly expensive to do so. Get pinged by an overzealous and unreasonable copper in WA and attempt to challenge the matter and they'll tell you you have to show up, in person, in a Perth courtroom to fight your case, which will clearly cost you more than the fine if you live in any other state.

Interesting anomalies

Where things get interesting is that incurring one particular offence in one state might be worth less points, or a shorter suspension, in your home state. The state in which you've recorded the offence will generally advise your home regulatory authority of your crime, and you will then get the points or suspension that would have applied if you'd committed the offence in your own jurisdiction.

VicRoads, for example, will suspend your licence for six months if you are caught driving between 35 and 45km/h over the limit (if they don't just shoot you on the side of the road), but this same crime is only a three-month sin bin in NSW, so you might be better off than a local.

If you're a Victorian and you get caught in NSW doing the same thing, however, it's probably not going to be a better a result for you.

If you're in NSW, you also have 13 points rather than the 12 you get in Victoria, and other states.

Anecdotally, however...

Here's the strange and hard to quantify thing. Anecdotally, people who look nothing like your author and definitely don't share a driver's licence with him, tell us that the system is, shall we say, imperfect.

Many are the sinners who tell us they have committed a speeding offence in a state other than their own and, surely enough, been followed home by the fine, and forced to pay it by annoying red-coloured notices in the mail. The demerit points, however, have not - or not always - turned up on their licence.

This seems to particularly apply to residents of the territories. ACT and NT drivers can somehow, magically, avoid being demerited for offences they incur elsewhere. And it can happen to drivers from other states as well, particularly if they commit their crimes in the Territories.

Under the law, your demerit points will follow you, and haunt you, no matter where you rack them up.

It's hard to explain how this happens, or doesn't happen, but someone in the field of policing used the phrase "paperwork" closely followed by the words "too hard" to offer one theory.

This is not, in any way, a suggestion that you'll get away with such a thing, it's merely a strange anomaly that we've noted anecdotally and, under the law, your demerit points will follow you, and haunt you, no matter where you rack them up.

So beware, be square and be safe.

Have you ever managed to avoid being demerited when booked in another state or territory? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.