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It is common knowledge in Queensland that driving a motor vehicle unlicensed can have significant consequences, legal or otherwise. Therefore, it is a legislative requirement that all drivers hold a valid driver’s licence. What might not be clear is the types of driving warranted as “unlicensed”, how significant the consequences are, and the attached penalties. 

Types of Driving Unlicensed

In Queensland, there are two types of driving offences which are related to driving without a valid licence. 

Unlicensed driving is the first – it can carry a fine and even a term of imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. Unlicensed driving occurs when you are intercepted by police while driving on the road and have never held a licence, your licence is expired, you are deemed medically unfit to hold a licence, you have voluntarily surrendered your licence or your licence is temporarily suspended. It even applies to not holding the correct class of licence, for example, if you are operating a motorcycle without a motorcycle licence or are a learner driver who is not accompanied by an open licence holder. These matters are heard in the Magistrates Court. 

Disqualified driving is the second, more serious driving offence. It occurs when a person is caught driving on a licence that has been disqualified by a Court. Examples of where a licence is disqualified include, where a driver has been previously convicted of any drug or drink driving offences, dangerous driving offences, or any criminal offence involving a vehicle. The penalties for these offences are more severe than those of unlicensed driving.

The Consequences of Driving Unlicensed

a) Licence disqualification

If you drive a motor vehicle in Queensland while disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver licence, you will be dealt with by the Magistrates Court. If convicted of this offence, the court is bound to disqualify you from holding a driver’s licence for an additional period of at least 2 years up to a maximum of 5 years. You may also receive a maximum fine or be imprisoned for up to 18 months.

b) Licence suspension

Your license can be temporarily suspended for a number of reasons. For example, through the accumulation of too many demerit points, if you’re caught speeding 40km/hour or more over the speed limit, or as a consequence of not paying a court-issued fine. Further, your licence may be put under an immediate suspension if you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and are awaiting trial. While your licence is suspended, you are not permitted to drive. 

Possible Penalties of Driving Unlicensed

If it is proven that you were disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence, your right to drive was suspended, or you never held a driver’s licence, the penalties are quite severe. Driving unlicensed or whilst disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver licence by court order or the Department of Transport and Main Roads carries a maximum fine of approximately $7833 or 18 months imprisonment. For other offences related to driving without a licence, a maximum fine of $5222 or 1 year imprisonment can be imposed. Police also have the discretion to issue first time unlicensed driving offenders (or those who have not offended within the past five years) with an infringement notice of a maximum of approximately $5222, rather than charging them with an offence.

If you are caught driving with a suspended licence, you will face harsher penalties than other types of unlicensed driving. The penalty you face if caught driving with a suspended licence will depend on the reason your licence was suspended initially. If it was suspended due to an unpaid court-imposed fine, you could receive anywhere between a 1-6 month licence disqualification. A suspension due to accumulated demerit points or due to a high-speed offence (speeding 40km/hour or more over the speed limit) will attract a mandatory 6 month disqualification. These situations can also all attract a maximum fine of $5222, or imprisonment of up to one year. If you are caught driving on an immediate suspension, the penalty can be a 2-5 year licence disqualification, maximum fine of approximately $5222, and a jail sentence of up to one year.

To arrive at an appropriate penalty, the court will take into account a range of factors for disqualified or repeat unlicensed driver matters. Factors like the circumstances of a person’s particular case, public interest, any criminal or traffic history, medical history, physical and mental capacity, and whether the offence was committed in the process of committing or attempting to commit another offence. 

What Should I Do If Charged With Driving Unlicensed?

Seek the advice of an expert Traffic Offence Lawyer.

With offices in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the team at Howden Saggers Lawyers appear in Court every day. We know the Magistrates; we understand the procedures. We have a great relationship with many Barristers at the Queensland Bar. We understand how the Courts work. We understand the pressures that you may feel in having to go to Court.

We also believe that legal fees shouldn’t break the bank and for that reason we are quite often able to undertake matters on the basis of a fixed fee. This means you will know exactly how much your matter will cost from the start.

Howden Saggers Lawyers is also a Preferred Supplier for Legal Aid Queensland. This means that we are able to undertake matters funded by Legal Aid Queensland as long as you meet the required eligibility criteria.

At Howden Saggers Lawyers our lawyers appear in Court every day, we understand that procedures, we know the law, we get the results.

We are on your side.

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