Driving without a licence is a serious criminal charge. The consequences can include serious hefty fines and even imprisonment. Luckily, it is possible to take steps to try to avoid or at least lessen these penalties.
First Offence vs. Second Offence:
Your first time being charged with driving without a licence in New South Wales is somewhat less serious than subsequent offences. For the first offence, a fine is given. This fine is $2,200. There is no potential for any term of imprisonment. However, it is still a criminal offence. This means that even on the first time of being charged with unlicenced driving in New South Wales, you still have to appear in criminal Court before a Magistrate. You also can be arrested for unlicenced driving on the first offence. However, the second offence is significantly more serious. The fine amount increases to $3,300, and there is the potential for as much as 18 months of gaol time!
While the official penalties do not increase after the second offence, it is important to note that Magistrates tend to look more harshly on those who have repeatedly driven unlicenced. Additionally, if you have other types of offences on your record, this can potentially lead to a Magistrate delivering harsher penalties. However, they do not have any impact upon the potential for penalties that you could be given or the nature of the charges.
Differences Between Driving If You Never Had A Licence And Driving With A Suspended, Disqualified, Or Cancelled Licence:
If your licence has been taken away from you by a Court Order and you continue to drive in spite of that, the charges are more serious than if you never held a licence or your Driver’s Licence expired. If you drive with a suspended, disqualified, or cancelled licence, the first offence has the potential to result in imprisonment.
There are different ways that a licence can be suspended or cancelled. In some cases, this can come as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, a licence can also be suspended or cancelled because of a significant number of more minor traffic violations.
Driving With The Wrong Type Of Licence:
There are different types of licences that are given in New South Wales. If you drive a vehicle that you are not licenced to operate on a public road, it is considered unlicenced driving. Examples of this could include operating a motorcycle without a rider licence or driving a vehicle that requires a special licence due to it’s size.
There are multiple classes of licences for operation of large vehicles. Each of these licences will allow you to operate a different class of vehicle. If you operate something that is larger than what your licence allows you to operate, you can be charged with unlicenced driving.
Difficulty In Getting A Licence After Being Convicted:
In addition to fines and potential imprisonment, driving without a licence can make it impossible to get a valid licence. If you were never licenced as a driver or have an expired licence and it is your first offence, it is up to the Court at what point you can get a licence or get one that you had previously renewed. In some cases, there may not be a period of disqualification. If you are convicted of driving without a licence for a second time, it will be 3 years before you can get a licence or renew a licence that you previously had.
If you were driving with a suspended or cancelled licence, it is a 12-month disqualification for the first offence and 2 years for the second offence. In these cases, it is possible that the Courts could permanently disqualify you from holding a Driver’s Licence. If you were driving with a suspended or cancelled licence under the fines act of 1996, the potential periods of disqualification are different for the first offence. Rather than a 12-month minimum disqualification, the minimum disqualification is only three months.
There are other penalties that the courts could deliver as a result of driving without a licence. You may be ordered to perform community service, face home detention, be given a suspended sentence, or a good behaviour bond.
What Penalties Have Typically Been Given In Unlicenced Driving Cases In New South Wales?
The specific nature of the penalties has varied on a case by case basis, but some outcomes are much more likely. A fine is the most common penalty. From a total of around 8,700 cases of unlicenced driving, around 6,500 of these cases resulted in a fine. Imprisonment, including home detention, was fairly uncommon. In fact, only 45 cases resulted in imprisonment or home detention. A suspended sentence was somewhat more common, and this penalty was given in 79 cases of unlicenced driving in New South Wales. Community service was used in slightly over 100 cases of unlicenced driving.
Section 10 allows a court to dismiss charges without receiving a conviction. Section 10A, section 10 dismissal, and section 10 bond have been used a total of more than 1,450 times out of around 8,700 cases. This means that if you are facing unlicenced driving charges, it is possible that you could get your case dismissed through section 10 without it going on your record! It is especially likely if you seek skilled legal assistance for your case. If section 10 is used, it will not only keep the case off your criminal record, but you will be able to keep your driver’s licence!
The Importance Of Legal Representation:
It is essential that you have a competent attorney on your case for charges of unlicenced driving. Without representation, the penalties are likely to be much harsher. With adequate legal representation in the courtroom, you might be able to take advantage of some of the defences that have been used in cases of unlicenced driving in New South Wales.
Pleading Not Guilty To The Charge:
The first method of fighting the charge is to plead not guilty. In order for prosecutors to have you convicted of driving without a licence, they have to prove that you drove on a public road having never had a licence or with a licence that is invalid, suspended, or cancelled. If this cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not be convicted of driving without a licence. If it won’t be possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these two conditions of the charge were met, it is possible that the charges could be dropped without there even being any further proceedings.
Pleading Guilty To The Charge:
It may not always be possible to plead not guilty. Another course of action to take is to plead guilty early in the case. If you express remorse early in the case, it is possible that the judge will be less likely to deliver as penalties that are as harsh. This is especially true if you have a competent lawyer on your side. In some cases, it may even be possible to prevent the charge from going on your record.
Special Defences For Driving Without A Licence In New South Wales:
There are some special cases where a charge for driving without a licence may be dropped. Charges of driving without a licence can be dropped if you were driving to seek help for a medical emergency. If you had reason to believe that your licence was valid at the time, it is possible that this could be an adequate defence in some cases. Another defence that is less common is that you were forced into driving without a licence. If this can be shown, the charges can be dropped.