What is unlicensed driving?

In Queensland it is an offence to drive without holding a valid driver licence.  This offence is referred to as unlicensed driving.  Usually unlicensed driving occurs where a person has had their licence suspended due to the accumulation of demerit points, non-payment of fines or a high speed driving offence.  The offence of unlicensed driving is also applicable in circumstances where a person has never held a driver licence.

There is a difference between unlicensed driving and driving while disqualified.  The offence of driving while disqualified applies when a person drives after their licence has been disqualified by the Court.  The penalties for driving while disqualified differ to those imposed for unlicensed driving.

Penalties for unlicensed driving

The penalty for unlicensed driving is the imposition of a fine or term of imprisonment.  The maximum fine or term of imprisonment is dependant on the circumstances that lead to the offence, and the basis on which the person’s licence was suspended (if applicable).

Due to the differences in penalties, we recommend that a person charged with unlicensed driving obtain legal advice in relation to the maximum penalty that applies to their specific offence and circumstances.

Will my licence be disqualified?

The Court must impose a mandatory period of disqualification for unlicensed driving, except in circumstances where the person never held a driver licence.  In those circumstances, the Court may decide whether it is necessary to impose a period of disqualification.

The period of disqualification is discretionary.  For example, a person sentenced for driving while their licence is suspended due to non-payment of fines must be disqualified for between 1 and 6 months.  This means that the person’s licence must be disqualified for at least one month, and must not be suspended for more than 6 months.  A person will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver licence for the period of disqualification.

The disqualification period that will be imposed is dependent on the circumstances of the offence, and the basis on which the person’s licence was suspended (if applicable).  We recommend that a person charged with unlicensed driving seek legal advice in relation to the disqualification period that applies to their specific offence.

Am I eligible for a Restricted Licence or Special Hardship Order?

There are two forms of special licences, a Restricted Licence (sometimes referred to as a “work licence”) and a Special Hardship Order, that allow a person to continue to drive throughout their period of disqualification.  The eligibility criteria for these special licences are very narrow, and a person can only apply for a Restricted Licence or Special Hardship Order in particular circumstances.

Unfortunately, unlicensed driving does not meet the eligibility criteria for either a Restricted Licence or a Special Hardship Order.  Therefore, a person charged with unlicensed driving will not be eligible for a Restricted Licence or Special Hardship Order, and will not be able to drive during their period of disqualification.

Due to the inability to apply for a special licence, it is important that a person charged with unlicensed driving obtain legal advice in relation to having the mandatory minimum period of disqualification imposed.

Please contact our office on (07) 4963 2000 or via the contact form below if you would like more information regarding your traffic matter, or your eligibility for a Restricted Licence or Special Hardship Order.

Cassandra Adorni-Braccesi
Solicitor
Litigation & Dispute Resolution

Wallace & Wallace Lawyers
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