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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Driving Unlicensed Offences Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    It is normal behaviour and legitimate practice that anyone who operates a vehicle or supervises another must hold a valid Driver's licence. It is an offence with repercussions when a person operates a vehicle without a valid licence or an expired one.

    The Road and Transport Act 2013 (NSW) is the relevant and dedicated legislation that deals with offences relating to misuse of roads or poor driving/handling conduct. One of the cardinal offences under this Act is driving without a licence. The offence also includes; where a person is guilty of operating a vehicle after their licence is seized or suspended by authorised personnel.

    If an individual is convicted in a New South Wales court for a driving unlicensed offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in NSW.

    Penalties for Driving Unlicensed in NSW

    The Road laws consider driving unlicensed as a severe offence when a person uses public or private roads for any length. However, they are handled summarily in court depending on the circumstance or the presence of aggravating situations.

    The conditions and situations for Driving offences are specified under sections 53 and 54 of the Road and Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

    Section 53 mandates a driver to be licensed at all points and in all circumstances behind the wheel of a vehicle (with a running engine).

    • The subsections under section 53 forbid a person from driving a vehicle unlicensed, or
    • Permitting, directing or employing another person to operate a vehicle without a licence.

    A person found guilty of these offences is liable to punishments reaching 20 penalty units.

    A person who has never gotten a Driving licence

    Section 53 of the Act prohibits a person who has never been licensed from operating or driving a vehicle. It does not matter on what road or the type of vehicle the person was driving at the point.

    Subsection 5 describes the scenario where a person has never gotten a driver's licence (or equivalent) in Australia within five years of committing the offence.

    The court issuing a penalty can impose penalties of

    • 20 penalty units for first-time offences,
    • 30 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment for second-time offences, or both for subsequent or severe repeat offences.

    Driving or making licence applications while disqualified

    Section 54 of the Road and Transport Act 2013 (NSW) prohibits most driving/vehicle operating actions while a person/driver has their licence suspended. Under subsection 1a of section 54, the person must not drive their motor vehicle or other vehicles while serving a suspension period.

    They must also not make another application for their driver licence while on a period of disqualification or other conditions stated in court. Or where such application is illegitimately made, the person;

    • Gives a false or incorrect name or other valid details
    • Fails to mention the pending suspension or condition from the court

    Any of their offence incurs penalty worth;

    First-time offences:

    • 30 penalty units or an imprisonment term of up to 6 months
    • Or both

    Second or subsequent offences:

    • 50 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment
    • Or both

    Driving or making licence application while licence is suspended (except for non-payment of fines)

    It is illegal for a person to drive/operate a vehicle, or apply for a licence while their licence is suspended. Unless the matter is a suspension under section 66 of the Fines Act 1996 (NSW).

    The person must not;

    • Drive on the road any vehicle relating to the suspension or withdrawal of the licence or
    • Make an application for a Driver licence during suspension for a vehicle of the class to which the suspended driver licence relates. And in any case of them making an application;
    • State a false name or incorrect information regarding the document
    • Fail to mention their suspension or any punitive measures relating to the suspension

    For first time offences;

    It is an offence that attracts a penalty of up to 30 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment, or both.

    For a second or subsequent offences

    The punishments may increase to 50 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.

    The offence of Driving or making a licence application after refusal or cancellation

    Except if it is for the non-payment of fines, a person whose driver's licence is refused or cancelled (unless for purposes under section 66 of the Fines Act 1996 (NSW)) must not;

    • Drive a vehicle or on a road that relates to the class or conditions in the licence cancellation. Or
    • That led to the licence application being refused without getting a suitable licence.

    Or where the person;

    Make an application for a motor vehicle driver's licence to a related class to those where the cancelled licence refused the application. It also includes where the person has illegitimately gone on to make such application, they;

    • State a false name or relevant details
    • Fail to mention any vital detail about the cancellation or refusal.

    Offenders can face the following punishments;

    • 30 penalty units in fines or 6 months imprisonment, or both for first-time offenders
    • 50 penalty units in fines or 12 months imprisonment or both for second or subsequent offences

    Driving or making licence applications after licence is cancelled/suspended for non-payment of fine

    It is an offence for a person whose licence is suspended or cancelled under section 66 of the Fines Act 1996 (NSW) to;

    For a suspended licence

    • Drive or operate the vehicle on a road of a class or type that relates to the reason for the licence suspension
    • Make an application for the driver's licence during the suspension period for a motor vehicle of the class to which the suspended driver relates. And in respect of that, the person incorrectly states a piece of information or reason for the suspensions.

    For the case of a cancelled Driver licence

    Drive on the road or operate any class vehicle that relates to the cancelled licence, and not subsequently get permission for driving such a vehicle.

    Make an application for a driver licence to which the cancelled licence relates, and in the process;

    • States wrong or incorrect info,
    • Knowingly omits details of the original suspension/cancellation.

    It is an offence incurring as much as 30 penalty units (for first offences) or 50 penalty units in fines or 6 months imprisonment or both (for a second or subsequent offences)

    Issuing penalties

    The Road and Transport Act 2013 (NSW) lists certain conditions that the court must adhere to when issuing penalties for offences under subsection 5. The legislation mandates the court to consider the effect of the penalty or punishment they issue on the defendant's

    • Employment,
    • Ability to pay outstanding fees for the initial offence.

    Wrapping Up

    There can be aggravating circumstances to your driving offences depending on the charges against you.

    Driving unlicensed offences can incur severe penalties such as;

    • Car impoundment,
    • licence disqualification for an extended period
    • licence seizure
    • Payment of damages caused
    • Jail term.

    Will a driving unlicensed offence in New South Wales (NSW) show up on a criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a driving unlicensed offence in a NSW court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their police record check.

    Individuals can obtain a nationally coordinated criminal history check via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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