Driving Whilst Suspended in the Australian Capital Territory
In an effort to decrease the instances of road accidents and fatalities on ACT roads, the traffic law of the ACT has zero tolerance for those who drive whilst suspended or disqualified. If you have been suspended from driving a motor vehicle, or if you have been disqualified for a certain period of time, you must not drive. If you are caught driving whilst suspended in the ACT, the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act 1999 and the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2000 impose very strict penalties. These range from a further period of suspension/disqualification, to a fine or even imprisonment.
What is the offence?
The traffic law of the ACT mandates that a person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road in the ACT unless they are the holder of a valid driver’s licence. A licence may not be valid due to it having been suspended or disqualified by a court. There are many reasons why a licence may be suspended or disqualified in the ACT.
The most common reasons for a suspension are;
- The individual has accumulated speeding or other traffic fines.
- The individual has not converted their non-ACT licence within sufficient time.
- The individual has never held a valid licence.
The most common reasons for a disqualification are;
- The individual has been caught drink driving.
- The offender has lost their licence as a result of a dangerous driving offence.
It is important to note that a charge of driving whilst suspended and a charge of driving whilst disqualified will carry separate penalties. This is because they are dealt with under separate sections of the Act. A charge of driving whilst disqualified will generally carry a more severe penalty.
Driving whilst suspended
If you have been caught driving whilst your licence is under a current suspension, you may be handed a fine of up to $3000. If the offence is considered less severe, the matter may be dealt with by a police officer. This will generally attract a fine amount that is substantially less than if the matter was dealt with in court. In addition, the court will order a further period of disqualification of up to 3 months for a first time offender and up to 12 months for a second or subsequent offender.
Driving whilst disqualified
If your licence has been disqualified in any state or territory in Australia and you have been caught driving on a public road in the ACT, you will be guilty of an offence under the Act. For a first time offender, you will be liable to pay a fine of up to $7500 and/or serve a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months. For any second or subsequent offences, you will be liable to pay a fine of up to $15000 and/or serve a term of imprisonment of up to 1 year.
A further period of disqualification will also apply to any charge of driving whilst disqualified. For a first time offender, the courts will generally disqualify you for a further period of 12 months. For a second or subsequent offender, the court has the power to order a further disqualification period of up to 24 months. For an offence that is considered severe, the courts also have the power to order a longer period of disqualification regardless of whether it was a first or subsequent offence.
As noted above, there are limited circumstances where you may be able to appeal to the court to allow you a restricted licence. This means that you will still have to serve your period of suspension/disqualification, however, the courts may issue a restricted licence for limited use. For example, the courts may allow you to drive for work purposes if it can be proven that you or your family will experience severe financial hardship if you are unable to drive your vehicle as a condition of your employment.