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  • Driving Whilst Suspended Offences and Penalties in Tasmania

    Several misconducts can result in a licence suspension or even disqualification from possessing a driving licence. When a person is under a licence suspension or disqualification, there are laws that they must abide by to avoid getting into further trouble with the authorities. Typically, these laws involve not operating a motor vehicle pending the time of suspension or disqualification.

    Failure to abide by these regulations can put an individual in a position where they could receive a fine or imprisonment sentence. The laws regarding driving while suspended/disqualified and other offences of driving unauthorised are evident in the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas).

    This article will discuss what the regulation says about driving unauthorised (Driving whilst suspended or disqualified), its penalties and possible defences.

    If an individual is convicted in an Tasmanian court for a driving whilst suspended offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national criminal background check in Tasmania.

    Driving Unauthorised

    When it comes to driving unauthorised, there is the aspect of driving while under suspension and driving after disqualification. These can be seen in the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas).

    Driving while Subject to a licence Suspension

    Section 9 of the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas) states that an individual must not operate a motor vehicle while their Australian or foreign visa is under suspension.

    A first time offender under this section may receive a maximum of 30 penalty units or 3 months imprisonment. While for a repeat offender, they may get a maximum of 60 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.

    Furthermore, Section 9(2) of the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas) establishes that if a person employs or permits another individual whose licence is under suspension to drive a motor they may be guilty of an offence. For an individual, this offence attracts a maximum of 30 penalty units or 3 months imprisonment.

    However, if the individual is a repeat offender they may face a maximum of 60 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.

    In the case of a corporate body committing the crime of allowing someone under licence suspension to operate a vehicle, the corporate body may receive a maximum fine of 150 penalty units. If the corporate body has committed a similar offence in the past, they may get a fine not exceeding 300 penalty units.

    Nevertheless, before a court can convict a person for the crime of driving while under suspension, the prosecution must be capable of establishing that:

    • The accused's licence is under suspension.
    • The accused knew of their licence suspension
    • The defendant drove on a public street without a legally justifiable reason.

    Driving whilst Disqualified

    Under Section 13 of the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas), it is an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle after an Australian or a foreign court has disqualified them from possessing a driving licence.

    A first time offender under this section may face a maximum of 40 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment or both. Also, the offender may receive further disqualification not exceeding 3 years.

    While, for a repeat offender, they may be liable to a maximum fine of 80 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment or both. Also, the repeat offender may receive further disqualification not exceeding 5 years.

    Furthermore, it is important to note that the police have the right to arrest or impound the vehicle of a suspect. This might require moving the vehicle to a secure location for safekeeping. Subsequently, if the court convicts the individual for driving under disqualification, they will have to pay a certain fee to repossess their vehicle.

    Additionally, based on Section 13(6) of the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas), a person can become guilty of an offence if they employ or permit another individual who is under a licence disqualification to drive on a public street.

    Committing this offence for the first time can attract a maximum of 40 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment. On the other hand, a second or subsequent offence comes with a fine not exceeding 80 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.

    However, if a corporate body allows a person under disqualification to drive, they may receive a fine not exceeding 200 penalty units. While for a subsequent offence, the fine will be a maximum of 400 penalty units.

    Nonetheless, for the court to find a person guilty for the crime of driving after a disqualification, the prosecution will need to convince the court that:

    • An Australian or a foreign court disqualified the accused from obtaining or possessing a driver's licence.
    • The accused knew of their disqualification.
    • The defendant operated a motor vehicle on the public street of Tasmania without a justifiable reason.

    Possible Defences to the Offence of Driving while under Suspension or Disqualification

    In a proceeding for the offence of driving under suspension or disqualification, the accused has the right to counter the accusation of a prosecution using several defences. When proven beyond all reasonable doubt, these defences could result in a reduction of sentence or the accused's acquittal.

    These defences are:


    • #1. The Defendant Was Not Aware of their Suspension or Disqualification
    • A defendant can claim to not have known of their licence suspension or their disqualification. If the defendant can prove the reasonableness of this claim, the court may not find them guilty for the crime of driving after a licence suspension or after a disqualification.

    • #2. The Accused Did Not Drive on a Public Street
    • For the accusation of driving under a licence suspension/disqualification to stand, the prosecution has to show that the accused drove on a public street. If the accused can successfully convince the court that they did not operate a motor vehicle on a public street the prosecution's accusation might fall through.

    • #3. Duress/Coercion
    • The defence of duress allows the accused to claim that they did not voluntarily commit a crime but was as a result of a threat they received. Based on the fact that someone else coerced the defendant into committing a crime, the court might decide to pardon the defendant.

    • #4. Necessity
    • The defence of necessity is available to a defendant who committed the crime of driving whilst suspended/disqualified to prevent a terrible occurrence.

    • #5. The Accused Has a Restricted licence
    • A person with a restricted licence may not be guilty of driving whilst suspended or after a disqualification. This is because a restricted licence gives a person under suspension or disqualification the chance to operate a motor vehicle based on an agreement to some conditions. An example of a restricted licence is an alcohol interlock licence.

    The Court that Handles Most of the Trials on Driving while under Suspension or Disqualification

    The Magistrates Court of Tasmania conducts most of the trials relating to driving under suspension/disqualification.

    Bottom Line

    The law clearly states the penalties for driving whilst suspended or disqualified. These penalties serve the purpose of discouraging people from committing the crime. However, if a person faces a charge of driving while suspended or disqualified there are some defences they may be eligible to use in countering the accusation.

    Will a driving whilst suspended offence in Queensland 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 result of their Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

    Individuals can obtain a criminal record check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 (Tas) - https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1999-070

    Tasmania Government Transport Services (Traffic Offences - Full List) - https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/licensing/demerits_and_offences/find_a_traffic_offence/lister_full

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