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Driving is a privilege that comes with certain responsibilities, and one of these is abiding by the rules and regulations set by the authorities. When a driver is disqualified from driving, it means they have violated these rules and lost their right to be on the road for a specified period. In New South Wales, driving while disqualified is a serious traffic offence, and repeat offenders face even more severe penalties.
Driving while disqualified refers to the act of operating a vehicle on public roads after your driving privileges have been revoked or suspended. This can happen for various reasons, including accumulating too many demerit points, driving under the influence, or other serious traffic violations. Being disqualified from driving is not a decision taken lightly by the authorities; it is meant to protect the safety of both the driver and others on the road.
A person who is disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence must not:
(i) drive on a road during the period of disqualification, or
(ii) make an application for a driver’s licence during the period of disqualification and in respect of such an application state the person’s name falsely or incorrectly or omit to mention the disqualification.
Committing the offence of driving while disqualified a second time in NSW is considered a more serious transgression compared to a first-time offence. It indicates a repeated disregard for the law and a failure to comply with the terms of the initial disqualification. The legal system in NSW takes a dim view of such repeat offences and is likely to impose harsher penalties.
Licence Suspension Vs Licence Disqualification
A license suspension can be enforced either by the Police or the Roads and Maritime Services NSW. Instances leading to this may involve scenarios such as depleting all your demerit points, engaging in traffic violations, exhibiting excessive speeding, or having outstanding fines.
On the other hand, a disqualification is mandated by a Magistrate or Judge through a court order. Examples of these encompass offences like driving under the influence, negligent driving, reckless driving, or engaging in dangerous driving behaviour.
If a person is found guilty of the offence of driving while disqualified or driving while suspended, the court has various sentencing options at its disposal.
For a first offence under this section, the maximum penalty is:
For a second subsequent offence, the penalty is:
In the case of first-time offenders, and plead guilty the court may opt to require the offender to exhibit good behaviour for a period specified by the court. This is established through a Conditional Release Order. Additionally, the court may, after considering all pertinent circumstances, choose not to officially record a conviction against the offender.
If the court decides to record a conviction, it is obligatory to impose a mandatory period of license disqualification.
For a first offence:
The automatic disqualification period is 6 months, with a minimum period of 3 months.
For a second offence:
The automatic disqualification period is 12 months, with the minimum period being 6 months.
While the penalties for driving while disqualified in NSW can be severe, there may be legal defences and mitigating factors that could influence the outcome of the case. These could include:
Lack of Knowledge
If the individual was not aware of their disqualification due to administrative errors or lapses in communication, it may be a valid defence. However, the onus remains on the driver to ensure that they have their address up to date with the RMS.
Honest and Reasonable Mistake of Fact
In NSW, to raise this defence, a criteria must be met. This defence has three elements to be proved in court:
Generally, showing the Court a genuine belief is straightforward however difficult. Unless there is proof of disbelief, it usually involves the accused person giving evidence in court.
In some cases, a person may be forced to drive due to a genuine emergency that poses a risk to life or property.
Given the seriousness of driving while disqualified, especially for a second-time offence, it is crucial for individuals to seek legal representation. A skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyer can provide invaluable guidance, build a strong defence, and advocate for the best possible outcome in court.
Driving while disqualified is a serious offence in NSW, and for repeat offenders, the penalties are even more severe. It is essential for individuals to understand the gravity of this offence and the potential consequences they may face.
Seeking legal representation and understanding the available defences and mitigating factors is crucial for those charged with this offence. Ultimately, respecting and abiding by the rules of the road is not only a legal obligation but also a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all road users. The traffic offenders program can greatly assist an offender to under the above.
If you have been have charged with driving whilst disqualified, contact our traffic lawyers Sydney immediately. Our experienced traffic offence lawyers can assist you in the Local Court and the District Court for any traffic law matter. We will provide you with free legal advice for 15 minutes over the phone.