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Drive While Unlicensed

Driving a motor vehicle while not the holder of a valid drivers licence (commonly called “unlicensed driving”) is punishable in Queensland by a maximum of 1 year  imprisonment and/or a 40 penalty unit fine. In addition to any penalty imposed, a court is required to disqualify a person convicted of unlicensed driving from holding or obtaining a licence for a minimum of 6 months.

In certain circumstances an offence of unlicensed driving can be dealt with by way of an infringement notice (that is, a ticket). In this case no disqualification period applies and the matter will not be heard in court (unless you ask for it to be heard by a magistrate). Whether or not to issue an infringement notice for the offence is a decision for the police.

If you are convicted in court of unlicensed driving you cannot apply for a restricted or work licence during the term of your disqualification.

The court has discretion to not record a conviction against your name in relation to an unlicensed driving offence. The starting point, however, is that a conviction will be recorded.

Likely Penalties

The reason that you did not hold a licence is relevant to the penalty calculation for an offence of unlicensed driving. In some cases a person might commit the offence simply because their licence expired and they forgot to renew it. If you are charged in circumstances like that, a fine will likely be imposed, calculated with reference to your financial circumstances such as your level of income, expenses and other financial obligations. A conviction may or may not be recorded against your name.

If you did not hold a licence because of a suspension from the Department of Transport and Main Roads, such as a demerit point suspension, or from the State Penalties and Enforcement Registry for a failure to pay fines, your offence will be treated as more serious by a court. A conviction will almost certainly be recorded.

Possible Defences

A defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact is available with respect to an unlicensed driving charge. This defence requires a person to establish that they were mistaken about the status of their licence (that is, they thought they held a licence which was not suspended) and that this mistake was both honest and reasonable.

While this is often a difficult defence to make out, in cases of unlicensed driving which relate to suspensions issued by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, there can be cases in which letters or other notices are sent which create confusion as to the status of a person’s licence. Sometimes, these might be sufficient to defend a charge of unlicensed driving.

Simply failing to keep your address updated with Main Roads and then arguing that you did not receive any notifications is usually not sufficient to make out a defence of mistake.

Which Court Will Hear My Matter?

A charge of unlicensed driving will be heard in the Magistrates Court.

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

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

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...

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