Individuals who have received a suspension or disqualification of their licence either from VicRoads (demerit points) or the Court (drink driving, dangerous driving, etc) will face this charge if they are found driving during a period of suspension or disqualification.
Section 30 of the Road Safety Act 1986 states that:
“A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway while the authorisation granted to him or her to do so is suspended or during a period of disqualification from obtaining such an authorisation imposed by a Court”
The elements of Driving Whilst Suspended
In order for an individual to be found guilty of Driving Whilst Suspended in Victoria, the following elements of the offence must be proven by the Prosecution, beyond reasonable doubt:
- The offender was driving a motor vehicle; and
- The offender’s authorisation to drive a motor vehicle was suspended.
Differences between Suspension and Disqualification
There is very little difference between the charge of Drive Whilst Suspended and Drive Whilst Disqualified.
The key difference between the two is that a licence suspension usually occurs as a result of an infringement notice (speeding that causes immediate suspension of licence), exceeding the demerit point limit or a suspension of less than 6 months from the Court.
A licence disqualification, in most circumstances, occurs when an individual receives a mandatory licence loss period of 6 months or more from the Court.
The Magistrate uses their discretion to assess the seriousness of the charge. Relevant factors include the nature of how the individual lost their licence, why they chose to drive and their prior traffic history.
Defences to Drive Whilst Suspended/Disqualified
In circumstances where an individual did not know that their licence was suspended, there may be a defence to the charge. This defence is called an “honest and reasonable mistake of fact”.
There is no mandatory loss of licence attached to pleading guilty to the charge of Drive Whilst Suspended/Disqualified.
The Court, however, has discretion in suspending the driver’s licence. A suspension of a driver’s licence occurs in the more serious cases, such as when an individual has been found guilty of driving whilst suspended multiple times, or when the driving whilst suspended charge is attached to other more serious offences.
The Court may also be more inclined to suspend one’s driver’s licence when they have a poor traffic record.
The most common sentences for individuals who pleaded guilty to Driving Whilst Suspended/Disqualified between 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2021 are:
- Fine – 68.3%
- Adjourned Undertaking – 17.6%
- Community Correction Order – 7.3%
- Imprisonment – 6.7%
- Other – 0.1%