When the police believe you drove after your license was suspended or revoked, they might charge you with ‘drive while suspended’. Your license would have been suspended or revoked by the court, VicRoads, or Fines Victoria.
Suspension, cancellation or disqualification?
Your license will be suspended for a certain amount of time. At the end of that time, VicRoads will give you your license back.
You don’t automatically get your licence back if your licence is cancelled. You must apply to court or VicRoads for another licence after the cancellation period expires.
If you lose your license, you lose your right to drive as well. You can lose your right to drive even if you don’t have a license.
It’s important to note that if Fines Victoria suspends your license for not paying fines, the court will treat this less seriously than other driving while suspended or disqualified offenses.
Going to court
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, you might be guilty or not. Check the ‘Details of the Charge’ in your charge sheet for what the police wrote.
The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.
The prosecution has to prove two things:
- you were driving on a public road
- your licence was suspended or cancelled, or you were disqualified from driving.
What are my options if I have to go to court?
The prosecutor will read out the alleged facts during the court hearing. If you admit that you broke the law, you should plead guilty. If you are found guilty and punished, the magistrate will hand down a penalty.
Plead guilty to the charge, and the magistrate may lessen your sentence because you are cooperating.
Plead not guilty
The prosecutor must know that you intend to plead not guilty if you believe you did not break the law, or disagree with what is in the statement of alleged facts. You will be invited to a summary case conference before your case is heard. The magistrate will adjourn (put off) your case if you still want to plead not guilty after the conference.
During a contested hearing, you and the police give evidence before the magistrate makes a decision. You should have a defence. Not knowing you were breaking the law is not enough.
You should seek legal advice prior to the contested hearing if you intend to plead not guilty.
Your defence may be that you thought you could drive and made an honest and reasonable mistake. The magistrate will decide whether you made a reasonable error.
What if I did not know about the suspension?
Even if the magistrate decides that you are not responsible for the suspension and finds you not guilty, he or she can still suspend your license for the original suspension you did not know about.
Can I adjourn my hearing?
It is possible to request an adjournment of your case whenever you have a good reason to do so, such as if you want to hire a lawyer to represent you.
Getting an adjournment without going to court is possible when you are on a summons. When you arrive at court, go to the counter and say you want an adjournment.
What are the penalties if I am found guilty?
The magistrate may give you a fine. You can get a fine of up to 240 penalty units.
The maximum penalty for driving while suspended by Fines Victoria is a fine of 10 penalty units.
Let the magistrate know how much money you make, what you pay for, and if you support a family.
Fines Victoria will send you a Court fine collection statement if you don’t pay the fine right away. It will tell you how much you owe and when you have to pay.
You can ask Fines Victoria for a payment plan if you cannot afford to pay the fine in one payment.
A warrant can be issued for your arrest if you don’t pay the fine on time. Fines Victoria can increase the fine.
Losing your licence
The magistrate can extend your suspension.
You’ll get suspended because a magistrate thinks you weren’t serious about it.
The magistrate can also:
- cancel your licence or permit for a certain amount of time
- make a court order that stops you from applying for a licence or permit for a certain amount of time.
A magistrate can cancel your license for a certain amount of time, which means you can’t drive at all during that time. There are no exceptions to this rule.
It is an offence to drive while disqualified or suspended. There are very serious penalties if you drive when your licence is cancelled or suspended.
Instead of a fine, the magistrate can send you to jail. You can get up to two years.
Impounding or immobilising your vehicle
Your car might get seized (locked up) or immobilized (clamped or locked) if you’ve been caught driving while suspended or disqualified.
A magistrate can also impound or immobilize your car if you’ve committed another hoon-driving offense.
The magistrate can also choose to place you on a community corrections order.
What else might happen if I am found guilty?
You could get a driving conviction on your criminal record. It’ll show up on your VicRoads driving record, but it may also show up on your criminal record.
Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?
It’s okay. You can appeal to the County Court within 28 days if you don’t like the decision. Get legal advice first.