The Traffic Act in the Northern Territory sets out the rules that drivers must adhere to when driving on public roads. The Act makes it an offence to drive whilst unlicensed, suspended or whilst disqualified. This means that if your licence has been taken away from you for a certain period of time or you have never held a valid licence, it is illegal to drive on any road in the Northern Territory.
If you are caught driving whilst suspended in the Northern Territory you will be liable for various penalties depending on the severity of the offence. This typically involves a fine, a further period of disqualification and/or a term of imprisonment.
Driving while not licensed or while suspended
In the Northern Territory, you will have committed an offence if you drive a motor vehicle on any public road and do not have a valid driver’s licence because either you have never held a valid licence or it has been suspended. It is important to note that this offence will also apply to those who permanently reside in the Northern Territory and are driving with a licence from a different state or territory.
Driving whilst disqualified
A charge of driving whilst disqualified in the Northern Territory will be handed down irrespective of whether the original disqualification was given to the driver in the Northern Territory or another state/territory. In simple terms, you will be guilty of an offence under the Northern Territory Act if you are caught driving a motor vehicle on a public road whilst your licence is under a disqualification from anywhere within Australia.
Driving while not licensed or suspended
If you are caught driving without a valid licence or a suspended licence in the Northern Territory, you will generally receive a fine of up to $3,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The courts also have the discretion to further disqualify your licence for a period that they deem reasonable.
Driving whilst disqualified
If you are charged with driving whilst disqualified in the Northern Territory, the penalties will vary depending on whether you have been disqualified within the Northern Territory or whether the disqualification came from another state/territory. If the disqualification came from within the Northern Territory and you are caught driving, you will be liable to serve a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months. If the disqualification came from outside of the Northern Territory and you are caught driving, you may be liable to pay a fine of up to $3,000 and/or serve a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months.
It is also important to note that regardless of the circumstances, the courts have absolute discretion to order a further period of disqualification on your licence for a period that is deemed reasonable taking into consideration the circumstances and facts of the case.
In limited circumstances you may be able to escape the maximum punishment under the Act by pleading a defence. For example, if you have been suspended from driving because of a failure to pay a fine or in circumstances where you have accumulated too many demerit points, and you satisfy the authorities that you were honestly unaware of the suspension, they may choose to issue a caution notice. However, this is only in very rare circumstances and is entirely dependant on whether the police officer exercises their discretion to issue a warning rather than a charge sheet.