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Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in Queensland

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.


Knowing how to operate a vehicle is not enough to drive a vehicle on the roads of Queensland. A person will need to obtain a licence or permit. Without a licence or permit, an individual will likely run into trouble with the authorities and be prosecuted under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld).

The Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld) covers driving a motor vehicle without proper authorisation or a valid licence and the penalties involved.

This article will be taking a close look at the different aspects of driving unlicensed, the penalties, and possible defences to the allegation.

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

What Queensland Legislation Says Regarding Driving Unlicensed

According to Section 78 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld), it is a crime for an individual to drive a motor vehicle on the road without a driver's licence.

This offence attracts a maximum of 40 penalty units or 1-year imprisonment. However, if the driver is without a licence due to a licence disqualification, they may receive a maximum of 60 penalty units or 18 months imprisonment.

Apart from these penalties, the court must disqualify an offender from possessing or obtaining a driver's licence if they committed the crime based on some circumstances.

Each of these circumstances come with a disqualification period of not more than six months, and they include:

  • The individual committed the crime of driving while under a licence disqualification lasting for at least two years but not more than five years.
  • The person committed the crime because of a disqualification they got due to the allocation of demerit points under the regulation for driver licensing.
  • The individual drove a vehicle while being under a licence suspension as a result of an allocation of demerit points.
  • The individual committed the offence of driving unlicensed because of a licence suspension they got due to driving beyond the speed limit of 40 km/h.
  • The individual committed the crime of driving unlicensed because their licence was suspended under the State Penalties Enforcement Act 1999 (Qld) or the Transport Operations (Passenger Transport) Act 1994 (Qld) for a period, not more than six months or less than a month.
  • The individual committed the crime of driving unlicensed due to losing their licence for a maximum of 6 months based on a conviction they received for being a repeat offender of driving unlicensed.
  • The offender's Queensland licence or non-Queensland licence was suspended for a maximum of 5 years but not less than two years.

Nevertheless, a person may get an infringement order. Typically, an infringement order states the contravention of an offence and allows the offender to pay a fine and avoid a court appearance.

According to Section 78(1A) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld), an individual can receive an infringement order for driving unlicensed or under disqualification if:

  • The individual drove a motor vehicle without possessing a valid driver's licence.
  • They have not been convicted for a similar offence in the last five years.

On the other hand, Section 78(1B) of the Act makes it clear that an individual may not get an infringement order for driving unlicensed or under disqualification if:

  • The person has been convicted of drink-driving in the last two years before the contravention.

What the Court Considers During the Proceeding for Driving Unlicensed

Section 78(2) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld) established that during the prosecution for the offence of driving unlicensed, the court must consider some factors before giving its sentence.

These factors can provide a mitigating or aggravating circumstance for the crime of driving unlicensed.

These factors are:

  • The interest of the public
  • The criminal record and traffic history of the offender
  • If the offender committed the crime of driving unlicensed alongside other offences and the nature of those offences.
  • Any other matter that the court holds relevant.

Possible Defences to the Charge of Driving Unlicensed

When faced with an allegation of driving unlicensed, there are some defences that the accused can use. The defence could be complete or incomplete. A complete defence can help the accused avoid conviction, while an incomplete defence may result in the defendant receiving a lesser sentence.

These defences include:


#1. Necessity

The defence of necessity is suitable in a critical situation where the defendant had no other choice but to drive a motor vehicle on the road without a driver's licence. An instance is a situation in which the accused had to drive someone who requires immediate medical attention.


#2. The Defendant Did Not Drive on the Road

Driving on the road is necessary for the conviction of a defendant. If the defendant can show that they did not operate a motor vehicle on the street, the court might be unable to find them guilty for the crime of driving unlicensed.


#3. Duress

The defence of duress is applicable for almost any crime. For an accused to claim duress, this means the accused committed the crime of driving unlicensed not from a free will but due to a threat received. However, this defence can only be effective if the defendant can convince the court that there was no better way to handle the situation than to drive unlicensed.


#4. Mistake of Fact

Mistake of fact is a defence that an accused can raise if they made a genuine mistake of not knowing that they possess an invalid driving licence. Nonetheless, this defence may put the defendant in a position where they will have to show the court that any reasonable person could have made the same mistake.


#5. Possessing an Interstate or International licence

If an accused can present a valid interstate or international driving licence, the court may not find them guilty of the crime of driving unlicensed. If a person just moved into Queensland, they can use their driving licence for a period not exceeding three months. After three months, they will need to apply for a licence in Queensland.

The Court that Hears the Cases on Driving Unlicensed in Queensland

The Magistrates Court handles most of the trials for driving unlicensed in Queensland.

Bottom Line

Several penalties accompany the crime of driving unlicensed. These penalties can place a defendant in a difficult situation where they either pay a fine or be imprisoned, apart from the compulsory disqualification. If the defendant has the necessary legal assistance, they may avoid these penalties or get a less severe punishment.

Will a driving unlicensed offence show up on a nationally coordinated criminal history check?

If an individual is found guilty of a driving unlicensed offence, 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.

Sources

Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld) - https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1995-009

Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1999 (Qld) (Austlii References) - http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/touma1995434/

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