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  • Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in Tasmania

    A driving licence is a way of endorsing that a person is qualified to drive a motor vehicle on the road. Consequently, this helps to tackle the high rates of road accidents.

    As such, many states in Australia, including Tasmania, have put in place strict laws that make it compulsory to obtain authorisation or licence before operating a motor vehicle on the road.

    Failure to get the necessary permission can result in fines or imprisonment. These penalties are evident in the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas).

    This article will discuss the various offences regarding driving without authorisation/licence, penalties and possible defences.

    If an individual is convicted in a Tasmanian 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 Tasmania.

    What the Tasmanian Legislation Says Regarding Driving Without Authorisation or licence

    There are several offences in respect of driving without authorisation or licence, as seen in the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas).

    These offences are:


    #1. Driving without a licence

    Under Section 8 of the Vehicle Traffic Act 1999 (Tas), a person becomes guilty of an offence when they drive a motor vehicle without possessing a driver's licence.

    For a first time offender, committing this crime can attract a maximum of 20 penalty units, while a repeat offender may receive a maximum of 40 penalty units or three months imprisonment. However, the court cannot convict a person without the prosecution proving that:

    • The defendant drove a motor vehicle on a public street.
    • The accused does not possess a licence permitting them to drive a particular vehicle.
    • The regulations do not exempt the accused from holding a driver licence.

    Under this section, the law can exempt a person from holding a driving licence obtained from the state of Tasmania if:

    • An individual holds an Australian licence from another state or territory, which allows them to operate a particular class of motor vehicle.
    • A person possesses an international driving licence or permit that gives them the chance to drive a motor vehicle of a particular class.

    Furthermore, based on Section 8 of the Vehicle Traffic Act 1999 (Tas), it is a crime for any individual to employ or cause a person without a licence to drive a motor vehicle on a public street.


    #2. Driving While Subject to licence Suspension

    Based on Section 9 of the Vehicle Traffic Act 1999 (Tas), It is a crime for any individual to drive a motor vehicle after a licence suspension. Any individual who commits this offence for the first time may face a maximum of 30 penalty units or three months imprisonment.

    For a repeat offender, this offence comes with a maximum of 60 penalty units or six months imprisonment. Nonetheless, for the court to find a person guilty of a crime under this section, the plaintiff will have to show the court that:

    • The licence of the accused is under suspension.
    • Knowing that their licence was under suspension, the accused operated a motor vehicle.

    Also, in this section, it is an offence for a person to make someone whose licence has been suspended drive a motor vehicle.


    #3. Driving while Disqualified

    Section 13 of the Vehicle Traffic Act 1999 (Tas) states that a person may be guilty of an offence if they drive a particular class of vehicle on a public street after a licence disqualification.

    Nevertheless, the court cannot convict a person unless the prosecution has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • The accused's licence was disqualified.
    • The defendant knew of their licence disqualification but still went ahead to drive on a public street.

    The punishment for the crime under this section depends on whether a person is a first time offender or a repeat offender.

    For a first time offender, they may face:

    • A maximum fine of 40 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both
    • A maximum of three years extension in the period of disqualification

    On the other hand, a repeat offender may get:

    • A fine of 80 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
    • An extra five years extension in disqualification.

    Furthermore, Section 13 of the Vehicle Traffic Act 1999 (Tas) clarifies that the police have the right to arrest an individual suspected of driving while under disqualification without a warrant.

    Also, the police can impound a suspect's vehicle and move the vehicle to a place for safekeeping. For a person to get their vehicle, the individual will need to pay a certain fee which the court will determine after if the court finds them guilty.

    Additionally, a person can be guilty of an offence in this section if they cause another person under a licence disqualification to drive a motor vehicle on a public street.

    Possible Defences

    When faced with an allegation regarding driving without proper authorisation or a licence, the defendant can use some defences to counter the accusation. Some of these defences are:


    #1. The Accused Did Not Operate a Motor Vehicle on a Public Street

    The court can only convict a person for a crime regarding driving unauthorised or a valid licence if the individual drove a motor vehicle on a public street. If the accused did not drive on a public road, they could claim this defence.


    #2. Honest Mistake

    The defence of honest mistake is applicable when the defendant made an honest mistake of thinking that they still have a valid licence.


    #3. Having a Valid Interstate or International licence

    A person may not be guilty of an offence if they possess a valid interstate or international licence. An interstate or international licence is equivalent to having a Tasmanian licence. Nevertheless, a person will need to apply for a Tasmanian licence after staying in Tasmania for about three months.


    #4. Duress

    An accused could claim the defence of duress if they committed the crime of driving without authorisation due to a threat they received from someone else. However, this defence might not hold up in court if the defendant cannot prove the reasonableness of their actions.


    #5. Necessity

    The defence of necessity can only come into play if the defendant carried out the crime of driving without authorisation to stop a terrible event from taking place. Successfully using this defence demands that the defendant convinces the court that their action was an appropriate response.

    The court in Tasmania that hears driving unlicensed offences

    In Tasmania, the Magistrate court conducts most of the trials relating to driving without authorisation or licence.

    Bottom Line

    While other states in Australia primarily issue fine and imprisonment terms for the crime of driving unauthorised, in Tasmania, a person could have their car impounded. Consequently, this makes the penalty for driving unauthorised steep.

    Will a driving unlicensed offence in Tasmania show up on a criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a driving unlicensed offence in a Tasmanian 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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