In Australia, driving isn’t an entitlement or a right. It is a privilege and a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why everyone needs a licence to do it.
But sometimes even honest, law-abiding citizens make mistakes. And in some cases, people just don’t think the rules apply to them. So they end up driving without a valid licence. But what happens if they get caught? Here’s what you need to know about being charged with driving without a licence.
When can you be charged with unlicensed driving?
In Queensland you can be charged with unlicensed driving if the police catch you behind the wheel and:
- you have never had a licence at all;
- your licence is expired;
- you are driving with the wrong type of licence;
- a doctor has declared you medically unfit to drive;
- you gave up your licence voluntarily;
- your licence has been temporarily suspended.
- A court has disqualified you from holding a licence for a period of time
The penalties for driving without a licence
The punishment that will be imposed if you are convicted of driving without a licence will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. At most you can be sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and 60 penalty points.
An infringement notice may be issued in lieu of a tougher punishment, but only in certain circumstances. Specifically, this type of notice may be issued as long as you haven’t been convicted of driving without a licence in the preceding five years; you have not had your driver’s licence disqualified in the previous two years for drink driving; and you have had a valid driver’s licence before.
Within this context it is also important to note that an infringement notice won’t be issued in your case if:
- You are interlock driver (an alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to the ignition system of a vehicle) whose licence was not reinstated after a disqualification period for drink driving; or
- you are an interlock driver who didn’t have a valid Queensland driver’s licence when the offence occurred and your interlock period has not ended; or
- you are an interlock driver whose Queensland driver’s licence had expired more than a month before the offence and your interlock period has not ended.
How your punishment is determined
If you have been convicted of driving without a licence and you are a repeat offender or a disqualified driver, the court weighs several factors when deciding how you should be punished. These typically include:
- The entirety of your case including any aggravating and mitigating circumstances;
- the public interest;
- your criminal and traffic records (if any);
- relevant information provided to the court about your medical history, mental or physical impairment or physical ability;
- if you were driving without a licence during the commission or attempted commission of another offence, and the type of offence;
- any additional matters of interest to the court.
Driving with a suspended licence
Driving while your licence is suspended is also classified as unlicensed driving. Your licence could be suspended for a short time if you have accumulated too many penalty points for excessive speeding or for failing to pay certain fines. If you were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your licence may also be subject to immediate suspension pending determination of the matter.
In any case, you are not allowed to drive while your licence is suspended. If you are caught driving with a suspended license, you will face harsher penalties than other types of unlicensed driving.
Your punishment will be based on the specific circumstances of your case. In other words, it will depend on why your licence was orriginallyvsuspended. If it was suspended for failure to pay certain court ordered fines, you could receive anywhere between a one to six month license disqualification. If it was suspended because you accumulated too many penalty points, or engaged in excessive speeding, you could lose your licence for six months. All of these situations can also carry the maximum fine of 40 penalty units, or imprisonment of up to one year.
If you are caught driving on an immediate suspension your punishment could be a two to five-year licence disqualification, maximum fine of 40 penalty units, and a prison sentence of up to one year.
Driving with a recently expired licence
A ‘recently expired licence’ can be legally classified as one that lapsed less than a year prior to the commission of the offence; or as one that was rescinded (as a result of a physical or mental ailment that renders you unable to drive) less than a year prior to the commission of the offence.
If you have been charged with driving on a recently expired driver’s licence, a police officer may grant you a permit that allows you to drive to a specific location where you can safely store your vehicle.
Keep in mind that to be valid, this permit must:
- Be in an acceptable form;
- indicate the infringement notice number;
- state the duration, which cannot exceed 24 hours, for which it is issued;
- stipulate the conditions, if any, on which it is issued.
If you have been charged with driving without a licence, it is important to get sound legal advice as soon as possible. Contact our Brisbane Criminal Lawyers today.