Under Section 78 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, “A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road unless the person holds a driver licence authorising the person to drive the vehicle on the road”. There are many reasons why a person might drive without a valid license. If you have been caught unlicensed driving in Qld, it is important to understand the penalties you might be subject to.
Types of Unlicensed Driving Offences
There are two key types of unlicensed driving offences in Queensland that result in penalties; ‘unlicensed driving’ and ‘disqualified driving’.
If a person is caught driving on the road without ever holding a driver’s licence, with an expired licence or without the correct licence (for example, riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle licence), then they are committing an unlicensed driving offence. It is also considered an unlicensed driving offence if a person is court driving while being medically unfit to hold a licence, of if a person’s licence is temporarily suspended. Licences can be temporarily suspended for a number of reasons – accumulating too many demerit points, caught speeding 40km/hour or more over the speed limit, and not paying a court issued fine (issued through SPER, State Penalties Enforcement Register). Unlicensed driving is considered a ‘simple offence’ and all matters are dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Disqualified driving, on the other hand, is a serious offence and occurs when a person is caught driving on a disqualified licence. A license is disqualified if the driver has previously been convicted of a drug or drink driving offence, dangerous driving offence, or other criminal offences involving driving or a vehicle.
Unlicensed Driving in Qld Penalties
A wide range of penalties exist for these offences. The penalty usually involves both a fine and a period of driver licence disqualification.
If a person is caught driving while their licence is suspended, they will usually face harsher penalties than other types of unlicensed driving. If a license was suspended due to not paying a court issued fine (SPER debt), the penalty is 1-6 months mandatory licence disqualification and either a maximum fine of 40 penalty units, or up to one year in prison. Demerit points suspension and a high-speed suspension attracts a 6 month mandatory licence disqualification, and either a maximum fine of 40 penalty units, or up to one year in prison.
A person who has never held a licence will attract a 3 month mandatory licence disqualification and either a maximum fine of 40 penalty units, or up to one year in prison.
If a person is caught driving on a disqualified licence, the length of mandatory license disqualification is extended to 2-5 years, and can attract a maximum fine of 60 penalty units, or a prison sentence of up to 18 months.
Someone who is caught driving with a recently expired licence will generally be issued with an on-the-spot fine. The police officer may also choose to grant you a permit that allows you to drive to a stated place to safely store your vehicle. Until the licence is renewed, and outside of this permit, you will not be permitted to drive.
Section 78(2) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 states that when the Court issues a penalty, it will take a number of considerations into account:
- The circumstances of the case, including cases of aggravation and mitigation;
- The public interest;
- The person’s criminal and traffic history;
- Relevant information related to the person, for example, medical history and mental or physical impairment; and
- If the offence was committed in association of another offence.
Ask Guest Lawyers About Unlicensed Driving in Qld Penalties
If you have been caught driving with a suspended, disqualified licence – or having never held a licence – you may need some legal advice from a traffic lawyer. At Guest Lawyers, we can help you determine what unlicensed driving in Qld penalties apply to your specific case. Please get in touch to speak to one of our team members.