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Driving Unlicensed in South Australia

Driving unlicensed in South Australia Image In South Australia, you may commit one of a number of offences if you drive a motor vehicle on a road without holding a valid drivers licence to do so.  These offences are contained in sections 74, 91 and 143 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA).  Different offences (and penalties) apply if you:

  • drive a motor vehicle on a road without holding a valid drivers licence to do so, but you have previously held a drivers licence to do so in Australia (section 74(1));
  • drive a motor vehicle on a road without holding a valid drivers licence to do so, and you have never held a drivers licence to drive that class of motor vehicle in Australia (section 74(2));
  • drive a motor vehicle on a road while you are disqualified from holding or obtaining a drivers licence because of a serious drink driving offence (section 74(3)); or
  • drive a motor vehicle whilst your licence is disqualified or suspended in South Australia or any other State or Territory in Australia (section 91(5)).

Driving unlicensed in South Australia

You commit an offence in South Australia if you drive a class of motor vehicle on a road without holding a valid drivers licence to do so.  The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $1,250, however you are likely to receive an expiation notice from a police officer for $436 rather than a summons to attend court: Schedule 5 of the Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 (SA).  There are a number of exemptions to this general rule.  The most important exemptions (subject to certain conditions) are:

  • if you hold a drivers licence in another State or Territory, you do not need to hold a South Australian drivers licence for the first three months you reside in South Australia; and
  • if you travel to South Australia from overseas and hold both a foreign drivers licence and an international driving permit (or a foreign drivers licence written in English), you do not need to hold a South Australian drivers licence for the first three months you are in South Australia if you are also a permanent resident or citizen of .

Driving unlicensed and never holding a drivers licence

You commit an offence if you drive a motor vehicle on a road in South Australia and you have never held a drivers licence in Australia to do so.  There is no specific rule explaining when you will be treated as having never held a drivers licence before.  For a first offence, the maximum penalty you will face is a $2,500 fine which cannot be dealt with by way of an expiation notice, so you should receive a court summons.  If you commit this offence more than once, you may have a $5,000 fine or imprisonment for one year imposed, together with a minimum disqualification period from driving of 3 years.

Driving unlicensed after committing a serious drink driving offence

If you are caught driving unlicensed after committing a serious drink driving offence, then you will commit an offence that is punishable by a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for one year, together with a minimum disqualification period from driving of 3 years.  Such an offence cannot be dealt with by way of an expiation notice so you will be summoned to court for the offence. 

A “serious drink driving offence” is an offence where your blood alcohol concentration was .15 or more, or an offence where your blood alcohol concentration was between .08 and .15 and you had already committed a similar offence before.

Driving while your licence is disqualified or suspended

If you drive a motor vehicle in South Australia whilst you are disqualified from driving or your licence is suspended, whether that is the case in South Australia or any other Australian State or Territory, you will commit an offence that is punishable by six months imprisonment for a first offence, and imprisonment for 2 years for any subsequent offence.

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