The Road Traffic Act 1974 in Western Australia sets out very strict rules when it comes to driving on public roads. In particular, the Western Australian legislation creates the offence of driving whilst suspended or disqualified under section 49 of the Act. The traffic law of Western Australia is very detailed in respect of the offence of driving whilst suspended in Western Australia and depending on the way that your licence was suspended or disqualified, different penalties will be applied.
This strict approach to law enforcement on WA roads serves to decrease the number of accidents that occur every year by deterring potential offenders with harsh penalties. These penalties include the accumulation of demerit points, further periods of disqualification, fines or even imprisonment.
The Western Australian legislation makes it an offence for any person to drive a motor vehicle on a Western Australian road when they are not authorised to do so. The Act also makes it an offence for a person to employ or permit anybody else to drive a motor vehicle on Western Australian roads without being authorised to do so.
The Act then splits the offence into categories depending on any extra factors that may influence the charge. This includes whether the person has been suspended or disqualified from holding a licence. These factors are considered below;
- Any person who drives after being denied an Australian licence at the application stage will commit an offence.
- Any person who drives without ever holding an Australian licence or after having been disqualified from holding an Australian licence will commit an offence.
- Any person who drives after being suspended will commit an offence.
- Any person who drives after being handed down a licence suspension order due to an accumulation of fines or other less serious penalties will be guilty of an offence.
Depending on the type of offence that you are charged with, varying penalties will apply.
Driving whilst unauthorised
The simple offence of driving whilst unauthorised to do so (driving whilst unlicensed) carries a penalty of $300 for a first time offender and $600 for any second or subsequent offences.
Driving whilst suspended due to an accumulation of fines
For any first time offenders whose licence has been suspended due to any provision under the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994, a fine of between $200 and $1,500 may be handed down as well as a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months. The court also has the power to disqualify the alleged offender from obtaining an Australian licence for a period of up to 3 years.
Driving whilst denied, disqualified or having never held a valid licence
For a first time offence, the court may hand down a punishment of between $400 and $2,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months. For any second or subsequent offences, the court may impose a fine of between $1,000 and $4,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months. Further, the court has the power to disqualify the alleged offender from obtaining an Australian licence for a period of between 9 months and 3 years depending on the severity of the offence.
Under section 49 of the Act, there are certain defences that are available to an offender that may assist in obtaining a penalty that is less severe. For example, it is a defence under the Act that the alleged offender held a restricted licence as per the provisions of the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act 2008. This defence also applies if the alleged offender was driving under a necessity permit.
It is also a defence under the Act if the alleged offender did not know that their licence was under suspension or disqualification. However, this defence is only available in limited circumstances and carries a heavy burden of proof before the courts will accept it as a valid defence.