Driving on a suspended drivers licence in Queensland may have very serious penalties including fines, a term of imprisonment and further periods of disqualification. The traffic law imposes significant penalties for the offence of driving whilst suspended in Queensland in an effort to decrease the instances of road accidents and fatalities in the state. If you find yourself charged with driving with a suspended or cancelled licence, it is important that you be aware of your rights and obligations. Below is a general summary of the offences that you may be charged with, the penalties you may face and any defences that may apply to your situation.
The Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 makes it an offence to drive a vehicle unless the person holds a valid driver’s licence in Queensland. Please note that driving without a valid licence includes circumstances where the individual is suspended from driving or where their licence has expired. This offence does not include circumstances where the alleged offender has had their licence disqualified as this is a different offence which carries a separate penalty.
In order for the Police and/or court to be satisfied that an offence has been committed under the Act, the following must be proven;
- The offender was the driver of a motor vehicle on a public road; and
- The offender did not hold a valid drivers licence; and
- Did not hold a valid drivers licence in Queensland due to:
- Never being the owner of a drivers licence; or
- The alleged offenders licence was suspended or had expired prior to the incident.
If these elements are satisfied, the offender may be liable for a fine and/or imprisonment. The punishment that is handed down will vary depending on the severity of the circumstances and whether there were any intervening factors.
Fines and/or imprisonment
The Magistrates Court will usually hear this type of matter. The penalty for a first time offender includes a fine of $4,400 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year. However, if the alleged offender has not committed a similar offence within the previous 5 years of the current incident, the Police have the discretion to issue an infringement notice (a fine) of up to $4,400.
Licence disqualification period
It is also important to note that in circumstances where an offender is convicted of an offence under the Act, the Courts must also impose a period of disqualification even if no other punishment has been handed down. If you have been charged with driving without a valid licence, you will be disqualified from obtaining a licence for a period of up to 6 months.
Driving while disqualified in Queensland is a separate offence with separate penalties. A person’s licence may have been disqualified due to a drink driving offence, a dangerous driving offence or a criminal offence involving a motor vehicle.
It is important to note however that if the offender committed the offence whilst they were already disqualified from obtaining a licence, the maximum fine that may be handed down by the Magistrates court is $6,000 or up to 18 months imprisonment. You will also be given a further period of licence disqualification between 2 years and 5 years depending on the circumstances of your case.
There may be a valid defence that applies to your situation. The most common defences considered by the Courts are:
- The offender actually did hold a valid licence at the time of the offence.
- The offender was not driving on a public road subject to the Act at the time of the offence.
- The offender was not suspended from driving on valid grounds and/or there is a dispute as to the validity of the person’s licence.
- The offender was forced to drive whilst suspended due to a threat of violence or other type of duress.
- The offender was forced to drive whilst suspended due to an emergency that is considered extraordinary.
Other more serious defences such as insanity or mistaken identity require a higher standard of evidence and should always be discussed with a lawyer prior to your court hearing.