Driving Without a Licence
Driving unlicensed in Victoria, is an offence. If you drive without a valid licence, you could be fined, be prohibited from applying for a licence for a period of time, and/or ordered to serve a term of imprisonment. The court can also make other types of orders, including vehicle immobilisation or community work.
Unlicensed driving includes the following categories:
- Drivers who never obtained a licence or whose licence has expired
- Drivers who have had an existing licence suspended or cancelled
- Drivers who have been disqualified from obtaining a licence
- Drivers who are in breach of any condition of their licence
Driving without a licence is a summary offence, which means it is a less serious criminal offence. Summary offences that involve court hearing are usually heard in the Magistrates’ Court. Section 18(1)(a) of Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) (‘the Act’) says that the licence must be the right type of licence for the motor vehicle being driven. This means it is an offence to drive a type of vehicle if you do not hold the appropriate type of licence. Note that if you hold an interstate licence, you will need to convert it to a Victorian licence once you have lived in the state for a continuous period of three months.
Penalties for Driving Unlicensed in Victoria
The penalties for driving without a valid licence can vary depending on several factors; for example, if your licence has lapsed, or if you have been disqualified from holding a licence. You could face a fine of up to around $3,600 and up to 3 months in prison (Section 18(1) of the Act). However, if you have previously held a Victorian licence, an interstate licence, or an International Driving Permit and the licence was not cancelled for road-related reasons in Australia, the penalty could be less severe, with a fine of to $1,470 and a prison term of up to 1 month in prison (Section 18(2) of the Act)).
Penalties for Driving Unlicensed While Disqualified or Licence Suspended
If you are unlicensed and would have had an alcohol interlock order imposed on you if you had applied for a licence, you could be fined up to $4,400 and serve up to 4 months in prison (Section 18(3) of the Act). The same penalties could apply if you were otherwise disqualified from having a driver licence or had your licence suspended (Section 30(1) of the Act). If it is not the first time you have been caught driving disqualified or after your licence has been suspended, you may be facing a fine of up to around $35,000 and a prison term of up to 2 years (Section 30(1) of the Act).
Possible Defences for Driving Unlicensed
In some cases, you might be able to raise a defence to a charge of driving unlicensed. The most common defence is if you had an honest and reasonable belief that you held a valid licence at the time of the alleged offence. For this defence to work, you usually need to convince the court that your belief that you were licensed was a reasonable belief.
Driving Unlicensed in Other States
The other Australian states and territories have similar rules against driving while unlicensed, though penalties vary. In New South Wales, fines can range from $2,200 to $5,500. As in Victoria, stricter penalties – including jail terms of up to 18 months or 2 years – apply if you are a repeat offender, a disqualified driver, or a driver with a suspended licence. The approach is similar in Queensland, where fines range from up to around $4,500 to $6,800 and terms of imprisonment from up to 1 year or 18 months, with more serious penalties if you are a disqualified driver or otherwise unlicensed.
In Western Australia, fines are generally much smaller: a first-time unlicensed or disqualified driving offence will attract a $300 fine, with repeat offenders subject to double that amount. As in the other states, if you have been refused a licence, disqualified from having one, or had your licence suspended, the fine could be as high as $4,000 and a prison term of up to 12 or 18 months imposed. One major difference in WA is that the police will automatically impound your vehicle for 28 days if you are caught driving unlicensed.