In recent years, the Western Australian government has been cracking down on drivers who repeatedly commit traffic offences. Whilst the vast majority of traffic offenders are dealt with by way of infringements where they pay a fine and incur some demerit points, some offences are considered too serious for this and must be dealt with in a court. Many traffic offences carry mandatory license disqualification periods. In the case of serious traffic offences these mandatory periods may be lengthy and some offences may even mean facing life disqualification.
This primer provides a short summary of traffic offences that carry life disqualification and what can be done to remove them.
What is the effect of a life disqualification and when is it imposed?
A life disqualification means that the offender is not permitted to hold or apply for a driver’s license for the rest of their life, or until the disqualification is removed.
There are three situations where the Court must impose a life disqualification. They are where:
- The offender has three or more counts of driving under the influence of alcohol (a reading of an excess 0.15g of alcohol per 100ml blood) under Section 63 of the Road Traffic Act);
- The offender has three or more counts of driving whilst impaired by the influence of illicit drugs pursuant to Section 64AB of the Act; and
- The offender has three or more counts of reckless driving or driving at a reckless speed (driving more than 45km/h over the limit or at a speed over 155km/h) pursuant to s60 or s60A of the Act.
If an offender refuses to comply with a direction to provide a sample of breath, blood or urine at the direction of a police officer, they are taken to have committed an offence and such an offence is a prior offence for the purposes of a life disqualification.
How do you remove a life disqualification?
An offender sentenced to a life disqualification can make an application to the District Court of Western Australia (or the Supreme Court of Western Australia if the life disqualification was imposed in that court) to have the life disqualification removed. However this application can only be made once ten years have passed since the disqualification was imposed (Section 24, Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act).
However, it is left up to the discretion of the presiding Judge to determine whether or not the life disqualification should be lifted.
Factors that the court takes into account include:
- Whether the public would be endangered if the disqualification was removed;
- Whether the offender is a person of good character;
- The circumstances of the offence that led to the life disqualification;
- Whether the offender has taken steps to rehabilitate since the disqualification;
- Whether any further offences were committed since the life disqualification; and
- Whether there is a need for a driver’s license.
Applicants should file an affidavit addressing these points.
What else do I need to do?
Applicants to have a life disqualification removed will need to obtain and annex to their application a copy of their Criminal/Traffic History and a Record of Traffic Infringements. The Criminal/Traffic History can be obtained by a Freedom of Information Application (or alternatively through a lawyer who can request a copy from prosecution) whilst the Record of Traffic Infringements can be obtained from a local police station.
Applicants may also want to consider obtaining character references from people they have known for a long time (excluding immediate family members) to increase their chances of the application being successful.
Removal of life disqualification is not a license to drive
It is important to note that if an applicant is successful in having their life disqualification removed, it is not a license to drive. The successful applicant will have to wait for the Department of Transport to re-issue their license or alternatively if their license was cancelled, to make an application to re-apply for their license.
In any event, it is always best to check with the Department of Transport before commencing to drive again
Is there anything offenders can do before 10 years have passed?
In some circumstances, offenders may be eligible to apply for an Extraordinary Driver’s License, which will allow them to drive with certain restrictions. For more information about obtaining an Extraordinary Driver’s Licence or if you require legal advice about any other matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.
By Jemin Jo, Associate.