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Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Driving Unlicensed Offences Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

Driving Unlicensed Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

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Most actions or privileges in Australia come with showing a licence. Under Australian laws, it is an offence for a person to operate or drive a vehicle without a valid licence. Technically, a person without a licence is not authorised to drive a vehicle or other similar machinery.

Circumstances regarding licensing while driving are regulated and contained in Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) of the WA legislation. Anyone driving without a licence will face a summary charge in a Local Court (Magistrates Court) unless included in a filed charge for other grievous offences.

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

Conditions that make an unlicensed Driving offence

The offence of driving without a licence includes any or all of the following actions within the WA jurisdiction and outside it (if it is relevant to the matter);

  • The driver already has their licence suspended or refused renewal by the relevant authority.
  • The person had their licence cancelled due to any form of legal order.
  • A court already imposed a form of penalty or disqualification on the licence.
  • The licence is subject to disqualification based on the number of demerit points or disqualification unit reaching maximum.
  • The person held a special licence at the moment and contravened certain conditions of the licence.

Driving while licence is disqualified or withdrawn

It is an offence described by section 49 of the Act if a person;

  • Operates a motor or other vehicle on a road while not authorised under the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA), Or
  • Employs, permits, induces a person to operate the vehicle

The penalty for such offences under this Act include;

  • 6 penalty units for first offences, and
  • 12 penalty units for subsequent convictions

The court may also issue sentencing under the Act that involves;

  • Up to 12 months imprisonment, or
  • Fines that should be more than 4 penalty units, but less than 30 penalty units
  • For rare and aggravating circumstances, the jury may disqualify the offender from holding another licence for a period between 9 months to 3 years, depending on the court's prerogative.

However, it can be a defence in court if the defendant can prove that;

  • The vehicle was driven following the regulations. Or
  • It was an act of necessity under section 49A of the Act.

Arresting an Unlicensed Driver who offends

The Act allows a Police officer to arrest an offender without a warrant if they;

  • Apply for a licence but were refused by the authority for the type they applied
  • They were disqualified from holding an Australian driver licence at the time. It is immaterial if the person ever held a licence of the type.
  • Who originally holds a similar kind of licence but ceases to possess such licence during the incident. It includes cases where it expired, surrendered or other reasons.
  • Relevant Australian laws have suspended Whose authority to drive
  • Who no longer has the authority to drive by specific Australian laws

Driving with a foreign Driver licence

If a person drives with a licence under a foreign authority, the Act requires them to;

  • Carry the official evidence of that document anytime they drive that vehicle, and
  • The document must be translated into English if it is not initially made in such. The translation must be by an approved source.

It is a crime for a driver to disobey this order while using a foreign licence. It is an offence that carries penalties up to;

  • 8 penalty units for first-time offenders, and
  • 16 penalty units for subsequent offences

Where section 49 does not apply;

Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) describes many actions prohibited in section 49, yet it does not apply to all offences. For example, a person is not guilty under this Act if they;

  • Hold a valid driver licence and fail to carry it
  • Uses an expired licence under the Act
  • Has never held a licence for any of these purpose
  • Has had their licence suspended due to unpaid fines

Other Penalties the Law permits for Driving unlicensed


Section 79A of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) allows the Police to impound a vehicle if they reasonably believe that the driver commits an offence worthy of impounding offences. The only exception is where it will be practically impossible to confiscate the vehicle.

The Act stipulates that the Police cannot confiscate a vehicle for more than 28 days. However, an extended period may be decided for a repeat offender, usually up to 3 months of impoundment.

Impoundment by Court Order

The court can also impose impounding sentencing for up to 3 months from the date the vehicle was surrendered (s 80 of the Act). The court has the power to give such sentencing, especially if the person is guilty of a previous offence within the past three years.

Under section 80C of the Act, the court can also impound a vehicle for up to 6 months if the person is guilty of a road Rage offence.

Cost of Impoundments

An impounded car must remain there for the stipulated period and require a fee for that period. The primary impoundment period of 28 days costs $900 to regain an already impounded vehicle.

The vehicle can not be returned until the payment is made in full.

Notice to surrender the vehicle for impoundment

Section 79BA of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) allows a Police officer to issue a notice of confiscation if they suspect the vehicle driver to commit an offence. It includes all sections under the section 79BA that insists the Police officer must;

  • Request under section 79(1) before impounding the vehicle if it was practicable to do so, and
  • It is required by the impounding provision to do so by the time the Police officer forms the necessary suspicion.

The surrender notice cannot be given after the expiry period of 28 days from the day of the offence.

Consequences of a surrender notice

Under section 79BB of the Act, some conditions follow the action of surrendering the vehicle. Subsection 1 allows;

  • A vehicle to only be impounded from the pre-stated period commencing at the point/date of surrendering the vehicle.
  • If the responsible person refuses to surrender the vehicle, and the Police officer takes possession of it, the surrender period can only commence when the officer takes possession.

Confiscation of vehicles by court orders for certain cases

A court may also issue a compulsory impounding of the vehicle if the offences are considered "impoundable". Section 80A of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) empowers the court to take these actions if it is satisfied with the evidence of any of these conditions;

  • ✔ The offence occurred in a school zone,
  • ✔ The driving offence happened in a confiscation zone that is not a school zone and resulted in;
  • Members of the public experiencing harassment, intimidation or reasonable fear,
  • Damage to property including Road, or
  • The person has a previous impounding offence within the past 5 years if committing the offence.
  • ✔ The person was previously convicted of an impounding offence in the five years before the offence occurred.
  • ✔ The incident induces the person operating the vehicle at speeds at or above 90 km/h

The court can issue penalties of extended impounding of such a vehicle if it is satisfied that any of these conditions occurred.

What is Vehicle impoundment?

For the sake of this purpose, a vehicle that is impounded is surrendered to the State through immediate Police enforcement, surrender notice or court order. The period of impoundment depends on the stipulation for the offences the person is guilty of

What is Confiscation?

The legal relevance of the term here means to surrender a property (vehicle) to the State, and within that period, be free from all;

  • ✔ Rights,
  • ✔ Claims,
  • ✔ Titles,
  • ✔ Possession of the item

For the matter of Confiscation, the State has the right to sell, dispose or re-assign the vehicle unless in the case of special legal orders.

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.

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The contents of this website do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice.

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