It turns out you don’t need to be a criminal to get yourself a record that will follow you around for life. Ever run a red light? Used a phone while driving? Been caught speeding? It’s all recorded in your driving record.
And like a vehicular coldsore, once you’ve got one, it’s yours for good.
In NSW, for example, your driving (or traffic) record captures every fine you've ever paid, with the exception of parking fines, along with any traffic offence you've opted to fight in court and lost.
And that includes any for which you were issued a 'Section 10', in which the court finds you guilty but records no conviction. Should you go to court and win, however (and yes, we're told that can actually happen), there'll be no mark recorded on your file.
"All of that information is stored on government servers, and all of it is waiting to pop up again when you least expect it."
So what does that mean for you, and why should you care? You would know already that an unblemished driving record can mean cheaper insurance, but did you know that having too many offences recorded against your name could mean a stiffer penalty should you challenge an offence in court?
Yup, in the same way that you can hope for leniency should you sport an unblemished driving record, you should equally be crossing every finger and toe if yours is the kind of file the judge needs a wheelbarrow to lug into the courtroom.
"In NSW, your driving record will have all the offences recorded against your name - period," says Andrew Tiedt, partner at Armstrong Legal in Sydney. "The RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) has a record of every offence that has ever been recorded against your name.
"Should you find yourself in court for a traffic-related offence, you can expect that record to be tendered. And it might help or hinder, depending on what’s on it".
"If you’re applying for a certain role, like a professional driving job, you might be expected to present a copy of your driving record,"
So you know that time you forgot to wear a seatbelt while on your P-plates, or when you accidentally jumped a stop sign? All of that information is stored on government servers, and all of it is waiting to pop up again when you least expect it. The good news, though, is that only you or the police can access that information, with insurance companies, employers and everybody else locked out unless they're in possession of an appropriate subpoena.
But that doesn't mean your driving record won't stop you getting particular jobs.
"If you’re applying for a certain role, like a professional driving job, you might be expected to present a copy of your driving record, and not doing so can harm your chances of getting that job. But nobody can go to the RMS and get a copy of your record without a subpoena," Mr Tiedt says.
"Lying about your record can be a very serious criminal offence."
"Insurance companies can’t access you record either, but they can require you to provide it. For example, when they say a certain policy is available if you haven’t committed an offence in the past five years, they might require you to prove that you qualify.
"And lying about your record can be a very serious criminal offence."
Want to see what's on your record? In NSW, getting a copy is fairly straightforward, with the RMS able to post or email you a copy, provided you're willing to pay for it. And it's the same in Queensland, where your standard traffic history report will show every offence recorded against your name for the proceeding five years (but they can go back further, if required).
In South Australia, you can apply to have your driving record posted to you, either as an unofficial document or as a certified file you can use in court, while in Western Australia, a record spanning the past five years can be ordered through the WA Police website.
In Victoria, you can choose between a five year or lifetime record, both of which are ordered through the VicRoads website, while in the Northern Territory, you can apply for all fines and offences since your licence was issued, but any convictions can only be accessed via the Northern Territory Police.
Finally, in the ACT you can apply for a licence statement covering three, five or 10 years, while in Tasmania, you can access a five-year history.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.