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Driving without a licence

People in Queensland are required to hold a valid driver’s licence before they can operate a motor vehicle on our roads. Sometimes, a person is required to hold a special class of licence over and above an ordinary open or provisional licence, in order to be allowed to drive a certain type of vehicle (for example a heavy vehicle).  Driving a vehicle without a licence is a potentially serious charge carrying mandatory licence disqualification and, often times, jail sentences for repeat offenders.

If you or a family member has been charged with unlicensed driving of a motor vehicle it is important that you obtain advice at an early stage and we invite you to contact Townes & Associates for a cost and obligation free discussion about the situation.

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    Unlicensed driving of a motor vehicle

    s.78 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995

    A charge laid under s.78 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, driving a vehicle without the proper licence to do so carries a maximum penalty of between 1 year and 18 months imprisonment depending on the circumstances of the case, as well as a mandatory driver’s licence disqualification.

    There are two types of unlicensed driving charges in Queensland; driving while court disqualified (commonly called disqualified driving) and unlicensed driving simpliciter. Driving while court disqualified is the most serious example of the offence and, in addition to a maximum penalty of 18 months jail, a person who commits the offence must be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for a minimum of 2 years. 

    Depending on the reason that a person is without a licence when they are charged, they will face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a mandatory disqualification period of:

    Reason for being unlicensed

    Mandatory disqualification period

    Licence never held

    3 months

    SPER suspended

    1-6 months

    Demerit point disqualified or suspended (including for high range speeding)

    6 months

    People who are repeat unlicensed drivers (meaning people who have been convicted of driving without a licence within the last 5 years) must be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for a minimum of 6 months.

    For people who drive within 4 weeks of their licence having expired, and in some other limited circumstances, the police can issue an infringement notice (i.e. a ‘ticket’) instead of commencing court proceedings.  In this case no mandatory licence disqualification period attaches to the infringement offence.

    There can sometimes be a disconnect between the Department of Transport and the Queensland Police in relation to when a person’s driver’s licence is and is not suspended (for example for an accumulation of demerit points).  There are occasions in which a person will receive a notice from the Department informing them of the conclusion of their suspension period but this cessation is not recorded in Police systems meaning the person can, very occasionally, be stopped and charged with unlicensed driving despite the Notice they received.

    In a case such as the one above, a defence could – and should – be mounted to the charge though it will be important that the person carefully read the departmental Notice before driving so as to be certain of their entitlement to drive.

    Unfortunately it is NOT a defence to a charge of unlicensed driving to simply be unaware of a licence suspension.  If the Department of Transport and Main Roads issue a Notice of Suspension to the last mailing address registered in their system for a person then they satisfy the requirements of the law in relation to serving that notice.  It is, therefore, extremely important that a person keeps their address details up to date with the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

    Where a charge of unlicensed driving simpliciter is laid, consideration should be given to a submission asking that an Infringement Notice be issued in lieu of the charge.  If successful, such a course removes the need for a court appearance on sentence and also, probably more importantly, will avoid a mandatory licence disqualification.

    The issuing of an Infringement Notice is prohibited by the Act for repeat unlicensed driving, unlicensed driving by someone has previously been an Interlock driver (with some exceptions) or if the client has never held a licence.

    Repeat offences of driving in contravention of a court disqualification will ordinarily attract a custodial penalty, even absent other aggravating features (for example additional, stand alone, traffic or criminal offences).  Santillan v Queensland Police Service [2008] QDC 33 founds the proposition that actual time inside jail need not be imposed in all cases and that the absence of related offending is a consideration in favour of suspending a sentence of imprisonment or ordering a release on immediate parole.

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with unlicensed driving, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

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