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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.

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