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Driving Whilst Suspended in South Australia

Driving whilst suspended in South Australia is considered a very serious breach of traffic law.   The penalties vary depending on the circumstances of the case but typically involve a fine, a further disqualification and/or imprisonment. This is all outlined in the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 that makes it an offence to drive whilst suspended/disqualified. The sections of the Act also set out the penalties that may be handed down and also whether a court will hear any defences.

Driving on a suspended licence SA
Under SA traffic law, you must not drive while disqualified or on a suspended licence.

Under South Australian traffic law, a licence may be disqualified or suspended for various reasons including the following;

  • If you accrue 12 demerit points or more within three years.
  • If you accumulate 4 or more demerit points as a learner driver.
  • If you breach a condition of good behaviour already imposed on your licence.
  • If you accumulate 2 or more drug driving offences within a period of five years.
  • If you fail to pay fines after they become due.
  • If you have an accumulation of drink driving offences.
  • If you have an accumulation of speeding offences.

If you have been charged with any of the above offences, it is possible that your licence may be suspended or disqualified. If you continue to drive whilst suspended, you will be guilty of an offence under the Act. Depending on the severity and other factors involved in the charge, various penalties may be imposed. In addition, the penalty handed down to an offender will depend on whether it was a first or subsequent offence.

Driving whilst suspended/disqualified

Section 91 of the Act makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle on a public road in South Australia whilst holding a suspended or disqualified licence. The penalty imposed on a first time offender could include a fine and/or imprisonment for 6 months. Any second or subsequent offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. The courts also have the power to impose any period of disqualification that they deem reasonable according to the facts of the case. It is important to note that this further period of disqualification cannot be reduced or changed in any way.

Further, the provisions of the Act deliver harsher penalties for those who are caught driving whilst suspended/disqualified and have also been caught committing another offence i.e. drink driving. If you are caught driving whilst suspended/disqualified and are also guilty of a drink driving offence, you will be liable to pay a fine of approximately $5,000 or serve a term of imprisonment of up to 1 year.  If you have been convicted of a drink driving offence at the same time as being caught driving whilst suspended/disqualified, the courts are required to also impose a further period of disqualification on the individuals drivers licence for a period of at least 3 years.

Driving whilst unlicensed

You may also be charged in South Australia with driving whilst not carrying a valid licence. In real terms, this will apply in circumstances where you have failed to renew your driver’s licence and are caught driving a motor vehicle on a public road. This offence carries a maximum fine of $1,250. The fine imposed for an individual caught driving who has never held a valid driver’s licence is approximately $2,500.

Under the Act, there are circumstances in which you may be able to plead a defence in South Australia. In limited circumstances the courts may accept a defence that the offence was only committed due to the presence of a serious emergency that warranted the driving of a motor vehicle. The courts must be satisfied that the individual only chose to drive whilst suspended/disqualified as it was the only way to avoid the emergency situation. This defence is not always accepted and carries a heavy evidentiary burden.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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