Driving with a suspended, disqualified or cancelled licence is an offence under section 54 of the Road Transport Act (NSW).
If your driver’s licence has been suspended and you are caught behind the wheel, you will be charged with suspended driving.
Your licence can be suspended by Transport NSW due to an accumulation of demerit points, or the police can immediately suspend your licence because they suspect you have committed an offence.
The State Debt Recovery office can also suspend your licence for non-payment of fines. Driving while your licence is suspended for failure to pay fines is a separate offence.
Licence suspension due to demerit points
Demerit points are imposed as penalties for traffic offences. They last for three years, and if you obtain a certain number of demerit points, Transport for NSW can suspend your licence or refuse to renew it. Your demerit point limit depends on what type of licence you have:
- An unrestricted licence has a 13 demerit point limit.
- A professional licence has a 14 demerit point limit.
- A provisional P2 licence has a 7 demerit point limit.
- A provisional P1 or learners licence has a 4 demerit point limit.
Immediate licence suspension
Police can also suspend your licence under section 224 of the Road Transport Act, if you have been served with a penalty notice or charged with any of the following offences:
- A serious driving offence causing death or grievous bodily harm.
- Speeding in excess of 45 km/h over the speed limit.
- A drink driving offence.
- A driving under the influence (DUI) offence.
- A street racing offence.
- An aggravated burnout offence.
- Learner or Provisional licence holders driving in excess of 30 km/h over the speed limit.
- Learner licence holders driving without supervision.
If your driver’s licence has been disqualified and you are caught driving, you will be charged with disqualified driving.
Disqualification can only be imposed by a court. A court that convicts you of an offence against road transport legislation may order that you are disqualified from holding a driver licence for any period the court specifies. The only way to overcome cancellation is to re-apply for the licence when legally able to do so, i.e. after the disqualification period has ended.
Being disqualified from driving means you cannot drive a vehicle at all until the disqualification period has expired and a licence is reissued
If your driver’s licence has been disqualified and you are caught driving, you will be charged with cancelled driving.
Your licence can be cancelled for many of the same reasons that result in a suspended or disqualified licence. Transport for NSW and a court can cancel your licence for a number of different reasons which include when:
- Transport for NSW cancels your licence on medical grounds.
- Transport for NSW cancels your licence if you reach your demerit point limit.
- Transport for NSW cancels your licence for an alleged speeding, alcohol or drug related driving offence.
- When a court disqualifies a driver for an offence against road transport legislation the licence is also automatically cancelled.
- Your licence has been expired for over two years and is automatically cancelled.
Like disqualification, if your licence is cancelled, you cannot drive a vehicle until the cancellation period has expired and your licence is reissued.
Penalties for suspended, disqualified or cancelled driving offences in NSW
If you are charged with suspended, disqualified or cancelled driving, the potential penalties include:
|Penalty||First offence||Subsequent offence|
|Maximum term of imprisonment||6 months||12 months|
|Automatic disqualification||6 months||12 months|
|Minimum disqualification||3 months||6 months|
Consequences of conviction
If you are convicted of suspended, disqualified or cancelled driving, you will have this offence noted on your criminal record and have your licence disqualified.
The court can impose a new disqualification period which will commence once the existing disqualification period has concluded. The automatic disqualification period will apply unless the court makes a specific order for any length of time above the minimum period.
These consequences can be avoided if the court applies section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.
Traffic Offender Intervention Program
The court may give you a more lenient sentence if you participate in the Traffic Offender Intervention Program. This program covers traffic laws and rules, and the potential consequences of breaching the laws. When the course is finished, a certificate will be sent to the court and it can be considered in determining the sentence.