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Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Driving Whilst Suspended Offences Driving whilst Suspended Offences and Penalties in Western Australia

Driving whilst Suspended Offences and Penalties in Western Australia

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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.


To operate a particular class of vehicle, whether a truck or car, a person will need to possess a driver's licence. A driver's licence enables an individual to drive a motor vehicle on the streets of Western Australia without having an issue with the authorities.

However, there are different situations where a person's conduct can lead to their licence suspension or disqualification from obtaining or possessing a licence. In these circumstances, the individual will need to abide by the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) to ensure that they do not get into further trouble with the law.

The Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) contains the laws regarding driving under suspension, driving after disqualification, and driving unlicensed.

This article will discuss what the law says about driving without proper authorisation, the penalties, and possible defences.

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

What the Law Says Regarding Driving without Proper Authorisation

Section 49(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) states that it is an offence for any individual to operate a motor vehicle without authorisation or encourage anyone without authorisation to drive a motor vehicle.

This section covers the aspect of driving while under a licence suspension, driving after disqualification, and driving unlicensed.

The laws regarding these acts are strict and serve the purpose of curtailing the number of accidents resulting from unqualified drivers getting behind the wheels.

A first-time offender under Section 49(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) may receive 6 penalty units, while a repeat offender may get 12 penalty units.

However, several circumstances can aggravate the crime of driving without authorisation, whether it involves driving under a licence suspension, driving unlicensed, or driving after a disqualification.

These circumstances can result in a police officer arresting a person without a warrant.

These circumstances are present in Section 49(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA), and they are:

  • The individual who committed the crime of driving unauthorised applied for an Australian driving licence and was refused.
  • The person is under disqualification from obtaining or possessing an Australian driving licence.
  • The individual has never before possessed a driving licence.
  • The person once held an Australian driving licence but no longer does because of a licence suspension or due to the licence expiring.

If any of the circumstances mentioned earlier led to a person driving without authorisation, that individual could be liable to a maximum of 40 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.

While if the individual is a repeat offender, they may receive nothing more than 80 penalty units or 18 months imprisonment.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

Before a court can convict a person of any offence relating to driving without authorisation, the prosecution will need to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant does not have the authorisation to operate a motor vehicle. This lack of authorisation could result from a licence suspension or because they were disqualified from obtaining or possessing a licence.
  • Knowing that they do not have the authorisation to operate a motor vehicle, the defendant drove on the roads of Western Australia without any justifiable reason.

Possible Defences to the Charge of Driving Unauthorised

There are several defences available to the charge of driving without authorisation. If the defendant can successfully raise any of these defences in a legal proceeding, this might lead to acquittal or a sentence reduction.

Some of these defences are:

#1. The Accused Holds a Restricted licence

A restricted licence is one that allows a person to operate a motor vehicle under some conditions. For instance, a defendant who cannot possess a typical driving licence might be able to apply for an Ignition Interlock licence.

If the accused can show the court that they have such a licence, they may not be guilty of a crime.

#2. The Defendant Was Not Aware of the Suspension

A defendant can claim that they were unaware of their suspension. However, the success of this defence depends on the ability of the accused to convince the court.

#3. The Accused Possesses an Interstate or International licence

Having an interstate or international licence can substitute for a licence acquired in Western Australia. Based on this, if a defendant can present a valid interstate or international licence, the court may find it difficult to convict them for the crime of driving unauthorised.

Nonetheless, it is crucial to note that once a person resides in Western Australia for three months, they will need to apply for a licence in Western Australia.

#4. Necessity

The defence of necessity applies when the accused committed the crime of driving unauthorised to prevent a terrible event from taking place. An example is when the defendant drove a vehicle to get away from another person trying to hurt them.

However, for this defence to stand in a trial, it is up to the defendant to convince the court that driving unauthorised was a reasonable response.

#5. Duress

For a defendant to claim duress, that means they committed the crime of driving unauthorised due to a threat they received from another person and not from their free will. The threat could involve the use of violence or force.

Nevertheless, if a defendant raises this defence, the court will expect them to prove that they believed the threat to be genuine and that driving unauthorised was their only option.

#6. The Accused Did Not Operate a Motor Vehicle

A defendant can raise the defence that they did not drive a motor vehicle. This defence relies on the ability of the accused to provide evidence of not being the one that operated a motor vehicle. This evidence could be a witnesses' statement.

The Court that Handles the Cases on Driving without Authorisation

The Magistrate Court handles most of the driving without authorisation trials. However, if a person is not satisfied with the Magistrate court's ruling, they can appeal to the District court.

Bottom Line

If an individual is to drive a motor vehicle without authorisation, they must do this under a legally justifiable reason. Without a good reason, a person may have to pay fines or even face imprisonment. Nevertheless, employing the services of a legal practitioner can go a long way in ensuring that they get the best outcome possible.

Will a driving whilst suspended 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 check.

Individuals can obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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