This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Suspended/Unlicensed/Disqualified Driving (NSW)


The offences of driving while disqualified, cancelled or suspended are treated very seriously by the courts. Many repeat offenders receive prison sentences or an alternative to a full-time sentence such as home detention or a suspended prison sentence. Suspended/Unlicensed/Disqualified driving offences in New South Wales are summarised below.

Driving while unlicensed

The least serious offence relating to driving without a valid license is drive while unlicensed. This offence occurs when a person drives on a public road without a valid license but when they have not had their license disqualified, suspended or cancelled.

A first offence of driving unlicensed is punishable by a fine only. A second or subsequent offence can attract a term of imprisonment.

Driving while cancelled

The offence of driving while cancelled is committed when a person drives on a public road after Transport for NSW has cancelled their driver’s licence. The penalty a person receives for this offence will depend on whether it is their first or second or subsequent offence of this nature within a five-year period. A person may be fined up to $3300, imprisoned for up to 12 months and disqualified from driving for up to 12 months.

Driving while disqualified

The offence of driving while disqualified occurs when a person drives on a public road after their license has been disqualified by a court. For a first offence of driving while disqualifies, a person faces a fine of up to $3300 and imprisonment for up to six months. For a second or subsequent offence, a person can be fined up to $5,500 and jailed for up to one year. 

Driving while suspended

The offence of driving while suspended occurs when a person drives on a public road after Transport for NSW has suspended their licence. A person can be fined up to $3300 for this offence jailed for up to six months for a first offence or up to 12 months for a second or subsequent offence.

The defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact is open to a person charged with this offence. This defence will succeed if the person can show that they were unaware that their licence had been suspended.

Removing a license disqualification

If a person’s license has been disqualified by a court, the person can make an application to shorten or remove the licence disqualification.

The Local Court can shorten or remove a disqualification period where:

  • An application is made by the disqualified driver (through their legal representative or otherwise);
  • The disqualified driver has completed their “offence-free period”;
  • The disqualified driver has not been convicted of any other moving traffic offence; and
  • The court is convinced that it is “appropriate” to remove the remaining disqualification.

The offence free period that a driver is required to complete depends on their driving record and past convictions.

Police suspension notice

In some circumstances, police can issue a police suspension notice, which suspends a person from driving from the moment they receive the notice until the matter is determined by a court. Circumstances where police can do this include where the person has been charged with murder or manslaughter alleged to have been committed using a vehicle, dangerous driving, a high-range drink driving offence or refusing to submit to a breath test. Police can issue an immediate suspension notice within 48 hours of a charge being laid.

Demerit points

A person’s licence can be suspended as a result of accruing the maximum number of demerit points allowed within a period of time. The period of license suspension depends on the number of points accrued.

If you require legal advice or representation in relating to suspended/unlicensed/disqualified driving or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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