Driving with a suspended licence in Queensland may attract serious penalties such as fines and even imprisonment periods.
The Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (the Act) governs this area of law in Queensland, these significant penalties aim to decrease road accidents and fatalities/serious injury in the state.
If you have been charged with driving with a suspended or cancelled licence, it is important you know your obligations and rights.
In this article explains your rights and liabilities in relation to Driving with a suspended licence or a cancelled / suspended license.
The Act states that it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle unless the individual holds a valid driver’s licence in Queensland.
It is important to note this article primarily discusses driving without a license in terms of being suspended from driving or driving with an expired license, not circumstances where the individual has had their license disqualified as it is a different offence and is briefly discussed.
In order for an individual to be successfully charged of an offence, the police/court will need to prove the following:
- The individual charged was the driver of a motor vehicle on a public road; and
- The individual did not hold a valid driver’s licence; and
- Did not hold a valid driver’s licence due to either never holding a driver’s licence or the alleged individual’s licence was suspended or had expired prior to the incident.
Once these requirements are established, while also taking into consideration important factors surrounding the incident, the courts will decide if the offender is liable for a fine and/or a period of imprisonment.
Penalties for Driving With a Suspended Licence
Driving whilst unlicensed or suspended offences are generally heard in the Magistrates Court.
Section 78 of the Act issues a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or 1 year imprisonment.
A penalty unit as of 1 July 2021 is $137.85 in Queensland, meaning the maximum fine for driving a vehicle whilst unlicensed or suspended is up to $5,514.
However, it is important to note the penalty is greater if the person committed the offence while they are disqualified, by any court order, from holding or obtaining a driver licence.
This penalty is up to 60 penalty units ($8,271) or 18 months imprisonment.
Driving Whilst Disqualified in Queensland
Driving a vehicle whilst you are disqualified is a separated offence in Queensland with different penalties as briefly mentioned above.
Reasons why an individual may have their licence disqualified may be due to a drink driving offence (DUI), a dangerous driving offence or any other criminal charges involving a motor vehicle.
When someone’s licence is ‘disqualified’, it is confiscated and their driving privileges are revoked for a specified period.
In such cases, they must apply for a new licence once that time has elapsed.
Section 78(2)(f) of the Act states that the court, when issuing a penalty for driving whilst disqualified or a repeat unlicensed driver, must take into account any relevant considerations.
This allows the court a wide scope when sentencing offenders. Section 78(2) of the Act specifies a number of factors the court must consider such as the circumstances of the case in regard to aggravating or mitigating factors, public interest, the individual’s criminal and traffic history, and the nature of the offence and whether it was committed in conjunction with another offence.
Defences to Driving Offences
A number of defences may apply to an individual’s situation when being charged with driving whilst unlicensed/suspended. Most common ones include:
- That the offender did in fact hold a valid licence at the time of the charge;
- The offender was not driving the vehicle on a public road as defined in the act (dedicated for use by the public) at the time of the charge;
- The offender was forced to drive a vehicle whilst suspended due to a threat of violence or other types of duress;
- There was an emergency that is considered extraordinary;
- Or most commonly, that the offender made an honest and reasonable mistake and evidence must be provided that they were unaware they were suspended or unlicensed at the time.
More serious and complex defences, such as insanity, should be consulted with a lawyer due to the high standard of evidence required.
When should I contact a lawyer?
If you are unsure about the process or believe you may have a claim for a defence, it is best to engage a lawyer to help you through the process in the most efficient way within your best interest.
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