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Driving While Suspended or Disqualified

The Western Australian Road Traffic Act 1974 contains very strict rules around driving on public roads. In particular, the legislation creates an offence of driving whilst suspended or disqualified. This offence falls under section 49 of the Act. The penalties that apply to driving while suspended or disqualified in Western Australia vary depending on the way the driver’s licence was suspended or disqualified.

The courts take offences of driving while suspended or disqualified very seriously, particularly when the period of disqualification was imposed by a court. 

When is an offence committed?

The legislation makes it an offence for a person to drive on a Western Australian road when they are not permitted to do so. It is also an offence for a person to employ or allow another person to drive a motor vehicle on Western Australian roads when not authorised to do so.

The Act then divides the offence into categories depending on other factors. These include whether the person has been suspended or disqualified from driving. The different offences that may be committed when a person drives without authority to do so are listed below:  

  1. Driving after being denied an Australian licence at the application stage;
  2. Driving without ever holding an Australian licence or after having been disqualified from holding an Australian licence;
  3. Driving after being suspended from driving;
  4. Driving after being handed down a licence suspension order due to an accumulation of fines or other less serious penalties.

Different penalties apply to these offences, reflecting the varying level of seriousness of the offending involved.

Driving while unauthorised

 The simple offence of driving whilst unauthorised to do so (also known as driving whilst unlicensed) carries a penalty of a fine of $300 for a first time offender and a fine of $600 for a second or subsequent offence.

Driving while suspended due to an accumulation of fines

For any first time offender who drives after their licence has been suspended under the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994, a fine of between $200 and $1500 may be ordered as well as a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months. 

The court can also disqualify the driver from obtaining an Australian licence for a period of up to three years.

Driving while denied or disqualified

For a first-time offence of driving while denied or disqualified from holding a licence, the court may hand down a fine of between $400 and $2000 and a term of imprisonment of up to one year. For a second or subsequent offence, the court may impose a fine of between $1000 and $4000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months. The court can disqualify the driver from obtaining an Australian licence for a period of nine months to three years depending on the severity of the offending.


The defences that are available to a person charged with one these offences are set out in section 49 of the Act.

Offender held a restricted licence

It is a defence if the alleged offender held a restricted licence under the provisions of the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act 2008, which allowed them to drive in certain circumstances. This defence is also available if the alleged offender was driving under a necessity permit.

Offender did not know about the suspension

It is also a defence if the alleged offender did not know that their licence had been suspended or disqualified. However, this defence is only available in limited circumstances and the defendant bears a heavy burden of proving that they were not aware of the suspension or disqualification.  

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to driving while suspended or disqualified or in any other 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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