Unlicensed driving is an offence under Section 53 of the Road Transport Act 2013.
What is unlicensed driving?
Unlicensed driving occurs when a person drives a motor vehicle in NSW without a license. This can include a person who was driving:
- Without having held any licence in the past five years (section 53(3)).
- Without holding the appropriate licence (section 53(1)).
Driving without the appropriate licence under section 53(1) can refer to many different circumstances including where:
- The licence expired within the past five years.
- The driver holds a licence from another state or country.
- The driver holds a licence but drove a vehicle not permitted under the licence, such as a semi-trailer or a taxi.
“Unlicensed driving” can sometimes refer to driving with a suspended, disqualified, or cancelled licence.
If you are charged with unlicenced driving, you may receive penalty notice. The penalty notice will set out the fine owed and the demerit points incurred, which will depend on the exact circumstances of the offence and the type of licence you did or did not hold.
Paying the fine in the penalty notice means accepting that you committed the offence, however as this is not a criminal offence, it will not go on your criminal record.
If you believe that the penalty notice is incorrect you may choose to request a review of the fine or go to court and challenge the notice.
You will not receive a penalty notice if you this is your second offence for driving unlicenced under section 53(3).
What are the penalties for unlicensed driving in NSW?
If you are charged with unlicensed driving under section 53(1), the penalty notice fine ranges from between $500 to $1400 depending on the circumstances. If the matter goes to court the maximum penalty is $2,200. This maximum penalty applies regardless of whether it is your first or second offence. Your license will not be disqualified, and you cannot go to prison for this offence.
If you are charged with unlicensed driving under section 53(3), the maximum penalties are set out in the table below.
|Penalty||First offence||Subsequent offence|
|Penalty notice fine||$890||N/A|
|Maximum court-imposed fine||$2,200||$3,300|
|Maximum term of imprisonment||N/A||6 months|
|Automatic disqualification||N/A||12 months|
|Minimum disqualification||N/A||3 months|
Consequences of conviction
If you are convicted of unlicensed driving, you will have this noted on your criminal record and have your licence disqualified.
If your licence is disqualified, any licence you currently hold will be cancelled, and you will not be able to apply for a new licence until the end of the disqualification period.
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.