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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Obtain Licence by Deception


It is an offence under section 49 of the Road Transport Act 2013 to obtain or renew a driver’s licence by a false statement, misrepresentation or dishonest means. It is also an offence to possess a driver’s licence obtained by those means. The maximum penalty is a fine of 20 penalty units.

What is a Misrepresentation?

This section is extremely broad in the sense that it refers to any misrepresentation, with no requirement that the misrepresentation be material, intended to deceive or involve the misappropriation of the name of another person.

Examples of possible misrepresentations include:

  • a fake name;
  • an incorrect address;
  • the wrong date of birth, for example, to avoid certain age requirements contained in the licensing legislation.

Will I Lose my Licence?

If your driver’s licence has been obtained by way of a false statement, misrepresentation or dishonest means, it is immediately void. That means that it is not a valid NSW licence, and not a lawful authority to drive. This would be the case even if the person has otherwise passed all other regulatory requirements (such as driver competency tests) and even if they are not aware that their licence is void and of no effect. If you continue to drive with that driver’s licence, you could be subject to further charges, such as drive whilst unlicensed or drive whilst never licensed.

Could I be Subject to Other Charges?

A person who obtains a licence by false declaration may also be subject to prosecution under the fraud provisions in the Crimes Act 1900, which carry maximum penalties of long terms of imprisonment. This was the approach adopted by the prosecution (and accepted by the Court) in Clarkson v R [2007] NSWCCA 70.

In Clarkson, the Defendant sought to argue that it was not an offence to apply for a licence using a name that is an alias. He had filled out the licence application forms using four different names and provided false birth certificates in support of each application. The court found that an offence could be committed under the Crimes Act in relation to fraudulently obtaining a driver licence if three key elements were met:

  • that the accused person pretended to be another person; and
  • that the accused person had done so with the intent to obtain “property” in the form of a driver licence; and
  • that the actions of the accused were carried out with an intention to commit fraud.

In considering any identity-related fraud offence, it should be noted that the mere use of an alias (including a name that has not been registered with the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages) will not necessarily amount to criminal conduct. As the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has noted: “Speaking generally, the law of this country allows any person to assume any name, provided its use is not calculated to deceive and to inflict pecuniary loss.”

At the time that Clarkson was prosecuted, the offence of obtain licence by false declaration was contained in section 22 of the now repealed Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Ac 1998. The wording of the old section 22 and the current offence under section 49 of the Road Transport Act 2013 are identical. There is no reason why prosecuting authorities would not be able to take the same approach as they did in Clarkson for an offence under section 49.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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