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Driving Unlicensed in the Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, you may commit one of a number of offences if you drive a motor vehicle on a road without holding a valid Northern Territory drivers licence to do so.  These offences are found in sections 31 and 32 of the Traffic Act (Northern Territory).  Different offences (and penalties) apply if you drive a motor vehicle on a public street or in a public place:

  • without holding a Northern Territory drivers licence to do so or, in certain circumstances, an equivalent interstate or foreign drivers licence (and international permit, if applicable) to do so;
  • whilst you are disqualified from holding a drivers licence in the Northern Territory or any other State or Territory; or
  • whilst your entitlement to drive a motor vehicle in the Northern Territory has been revoked or suspended.
  • You will also commit an offence if you permit another person to commit any of the above offences.What happens if I drive without a licence in the Northern Territory?

Driving unlicensed in the Northern Territory

You commit an offence in the Northern Territory if you drive a motor vehicle on a public street or in a public place and do not hold either a Northern Territory drivers licence (including a learners’ licence), or, if you are visiting the Northern Territory temporarily, a drivers licence or permit from another country or another State or Territory (including an international driving permit).  If you are a resident of the Northern Territory, you must hold a Northern Territory drivers licence (i.e. you cannot avoid committing an offence by holding a drivers licence from another State or Territory), unless you have been specifically exempted from the requirement to do so. 

If you commit this offence within 2 months of your licence expiring you should receive a traffic infringement notice for $200.  Otherwise, a maximum fine of 20 penalty units (i.e. $2,980) or 12 months imprisonment may apply.  A court may also decide to disqualify you from driving for a period at its discretion.  

Driving in the Northern Territory whilst disqualified

You will commit an offence if you drive a motor vehicle in the Northern Territory and, at the same time, you are disqualified from driving in the Northern Territory or another State or Territory.  You can become disqualified from driving in the Northern Territory for a number of reasons.  For example, you can be automatically disqualified from driving for a number of drink driving offences, or for excessive speeding.  If you have been caught drink driving and disqualified from driving but hold an “alcohol ignition lock” drivers licence, you will also commit an offence if you drive a motor vehicle in the Northern Territory except under that licence. 

Strangely, the penalty you may face changes depending on whether you are disqualified in the Northern Territory or another State or Territory.  If you are disqualified from driving in the Northern Territory, the maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment.  If you are disqualified from driving in another State or Territory, a maximum fine of 20 penalty units (i.e. $2,980) or 12 months imprisonment may apply.  In both cases, a further disqualification may be imposed.

Driving in the Northern Territory whilst licence is revoked or suspended

Your licence may be suspended or revoked in the Northern Territory for a number of reasons.  For example, your licence may be suspended for drink driving or because you have lost too many demerit points.  Your licence may be revoked by the Registrar on medical grounds.  If your licence is suspended or revoked, you are effectively treated by the law as not holding a drivers licence at all.  Therefore, you will commit an offence if you drive in the Northern Territory whilst your driver’s licence is suspended or revoked. 

The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units (i.e. $2,980) or 12 months imprisonment.  However, if your licence is suspended because you have defaulted on paying a fine, or because you have lost too many demerit points, then a police officer may choose to give you a caution if they are satisfied that you were not aware of the suspension.  They may also allow you to drive the motor vehicle back home.  Being unaware of such a suspension is also a defence to a charge of driving unlicensed in the Northern Territory in some circumstances.

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