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Traffic Lawyers for Driving Whilst Disqualified, Suspended, Cancelled or Never Licensed

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Driving without a valid drivers’ licence is one of the most common traffic offences. Under the law, there are two different offences which fall into this category:

  • Drive while unlicensed/never licensed – s 53 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)
  • Drive while suspended, disqualified, cancelled or refused – s 54 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)

Driving without a valid licence can result in harsh penalties that affect your ability to work, travel and obtain a licence in the future.

However, with the help of Sydney’s traffic law experts, you can give yourself the best possible defence in your “drive while unlicensed, suspended, cancelled or disqualified” matter so that you can move on with your life and get your licence back sooner.

Our expert defence team is highly experienced in fighting and winning serious driving matters and can give you the advice and representation necessary to secure a positive outcome in your case.

Drive while unlicensed/never licensed - s 53 Road Transport Act 2013

Driving whilst unlicensed, or when you don’t have a licence, can give rise to onerous penalties that can have a negative impact on your life.

But when it comes to fighting the charges, the right legal team can make all the difference.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers® specialises in traffic matters – so you can trust our highly-respected expert lawyers to have the knowledge and skills to help you achieve the best outcome in your case.

Over many years, we have developed tried and tested methods to help you avoid harsh fines and lengthy disqualification periods.

Your Options

Pleading Not Guilty

If you disagree with what the police are alleging, you should consider pleading ‘not guilty’ and fighting the matter in court.

Before you can be found guilty of driving whilst unlicenced or never licenced, the prosecution must prove two ‘essential elements’ beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you drove a vehicle on a public road
  • That you did not hold a valid or appropriate licence at the time that you drove, OR that you have never held any type of driver’s licence.

If you therefore believe that the prosecution will not be able to prove these two elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you can plead ‘not guilty.’

Our highly experienced traffic advocates will then thoroughly examine all the evidence to find problems with the prosecution case. We are frequently able to have charges dropped by raising these issues early on.

As a criminal law firm that specialises in traffic matters, we have the knowledge and experience to effectively fight the charges.

Where the prosecution does not withdraw the charges, our exceptional traffic lawyers can help you share your side of the story in court, as well as any evidence that may help your case.

We can also advise you of any defences that you can raise to explain your actions, for example:

  • Where you were coerced or threatened into driving without a licence (duress)
  • Where you drove unlicenced to avoid serious injury or death – for example, driving someone to hospital in a medical emergency (necessity)
  • Where you honestly and reasonably mistakenly believed that you had a valid licence (honest and reasonable mistake of fact)

Remember, before entering a plea to any charges, you should always speak to an experienced traffic lawyer who you can trust to accurately advise you about your options and what to do next.

Pleading Guilty

The following penalties apply if you wish to plead guilty.

Offence Penalty if it’s your first major traffic offence in the past 5 years Penalty if it’s your second or later major traffic offence in the past 5 years
Drive while unlicensed  (never licensed) Fine of $2,200.
  • 12 months disqualification which can be reduced by the court to 3 months,
  • Maximum fine of $3,300, and
  • Maximum prison sentence of 6 months

However, it’s important to bear in mind that a good lawyer may be able persuade the court to impose ‘no conviction’ – which will mean there is no disqualification from driving, no fine and no other penalties.

Drive while suspended, cancelled or disqualified - s 54 Road Transport Act 2013

Driving while your licence is suspended, cancelled or disqualified is often treated seriously by the courts.

But you can count on the experts at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® to fight for you every step of the way and secure you the best outcome.

Your Options

Pleading Not Guilty

If you don’t agree with what the police are alleging, you can plead ‘not guilty’ and fight the matter in court.

Before you can be found guilty of an offence, the prosecution has to prove the ‘essential elements’ of that offence.

In the case of driving whilst suspended, cancelled or disqualified, the prosecution must prove:

  • That you drove a vehicle on a public road
  • At the time that you drove the vehicle, your licence had been suspended by the RMS or police, cancelled by the RMS, OR disqualified by the court.

If the prosecution is unable to prove both of these elements, you will be found ‘not guilty.’

In these situations, our expert traffic lawyers can help you fight the charges by highlighting problems with the prosecution case at an early stage and requesting that the charges be dropped.

Alternatively, if the matter proceeds to court, our Accredited Criminal Law Specialists will give you the strongest possible defence to the charges by effectively examining all witnesses and raising all relevant evidence in a persuasive manner.

Our lawyers can also help you identify whether you had a “reasonable excuse” for your actions – these are commonly known as defences. If accepted, they will result in a finding of “not guilty.”

Examples of defences for driving whilst suspended, cancelled or disqualified include:

  • Where someone coerced or threatened you to drive whilst suspended, cancelled or disqualified (duress)
  • Where you drove whilst suspended, cancelled or disqualified to avoid serious injury or danger (for example, driving someone to the hospital in a medical emergency) – this is known as necessity
  • Where you honestly but mistakenly believed that your licence was not suspended, cancelled or disqualified (reasonable mistake of fact)

If you want to plead ‘not guilty’ to driving whilst suspended, cancelled or disqualified, it’s important to seek advice from an experienced traffic lawyer, who will be able to accurately advise you of your options when fighting the charges.

Pleading Guilty

If you wish to plead guilty, the penalties for driving without a valid licence are as follows:

Offence Penalty where it’s your first major traffic offence in the past 5 years Penalty where it’s your second or more major traffic offence in the past 5 years
Drive while suspended, disqualified, cancelled or refused
  • 6 months disqualification which may be reduced by the court to 3 months,
  • Maximum fine of $3,300, and
  • Maximum prison sentence of 6 months
  • 12 months disqualification from driving which may be reduced by the court to 6 months,
  • Maximum fine of $5,500, and
  • Maximum prison sentence of 12 months
Drive while suspended or cancelled due to a fine default
  • 3 months disqualification which can be reduced by the court to 1 month, and
  • Maximum fine of $3,300
  • 12 months disqualification which may be reduced by the court to 3 months,
  • Maximum fine of $5,500, and
  • Maximum prison sentence of 6 months

It is important to be aware that the magistrate will have discretion to impose ‘no conviction’ – which will mean there is no disqualification, fine or other penalty.

A good lawyer will fight hard to achieve the best possible result in the circumstances, including a non-conviction where appropriate.

Can I apply to get my licence back early?

The law changed on 28 October 2017 to allow disqualified drivers to apply to the local court to remove their disqualifications and thereby get their licences back early.

Who can apply?

If you are a disqualified driver, you may apply for the removal of all disqualification periods where:

  1. Any of your existing disqualification periods relate to one or more of the following offences:
  • Drink driving (driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol),
  • DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs),
  • Drug driving (driving with an illicit substance in the bloodstream)
  • Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h or 45km/h,
  • Driving recklessly, furiously, in a manner or at a speed dangerous, or
  • Menacing driving


  • You have not been guilty of a driving offence in the past 4 years.


  1. Your remaining disqualification periods relate to a habitual offender declaration/s


You have not been guilty of a driving offence in the past 2 years.


  1. In any other case, you have not been guilty of a driving offence for the past 2 years.

Parking fines are not considered to be driving offences.

Is anyone ineligible to apply?

You will not be eligible to apply for the removal of your disqualifications if you’ve ever been guilty of one or more of the following offences:

  • Any Crimes Act offence which includes death, grievous bodily harm or wounding by the use of a motor vehicle,
  • Predatory driving,
  • Police pursuit (Skye’s law),
  • Negligent driving causing death or grievous bodily harm,
  • Intentional menacing driving, or
  • Failing to stop and assist after a collision.

How do I apply?

The application is filed in a NSW local court specifying that it is made under section 221B of the Road Transport Act 2013.

The application should be accompanied by an up-to-date driving record and particulars of any ‘pending proceedings’ for alleged driving offences.

A court date will be allocated at the time of filing.

What will the court look at?

On the court date, a magistrate will determine whether it is “appropriate” to remove all of your existing licence disqualifications.

In making that decision, the magistrate will need to take into account:

  • The safety of the public,
  • Your driving record, including any pending proceedings for driving offences,
  • Whether you drove or were in a position to drive during the offence free period (ie the applicable 2 or 4 years outlined above),
  • Your conduct after you were disqualified,
  • The nature of the offence/s which gave rise to your disqualification/s,
  • Any other relevant matters, including the availability of alternative forms of transport and the impact of the disqualification/s on:
  • your capacity to travel for employment, business, education or training purposes,
  • your ability to carry out carer or family responsibilities,
  • your health, and
  • your finances.

Persuading the court

The relevant information can be communicated to the magistrate through:

  • character references from your employer or prospective employer, your business partner/s or work colleague/s, and/or anyone you provide care for, which should explain your need for a driver licence,
  • a letter from you explaining your situation, including the hardship you experienced whilst disqualified and your need for a licence,
  • any relevant medical letters from your doctor/s, or the doctor/s of anyone you are caring for, explaining the need for a licence,
  • any relevant financial documents, and
  • verbal submissions from you (if you are self-represented) or your lawyer inside the courtroom.

What if my application fails?

If the local court rejects your application, you can make another after at least 12 months.

More Information

What’s the difference between driving whilst unlicensed, suspended, cancelled or disqualified?

The law can be hard to navigate and understand, especially when it comes to complex legal terminology.

However, we have put together some information to help you understand the difference between driving whilst unlicensed, suspended, cancelled and disqualified.

  • Driving whilst unlicensed refers to situations where your driver licence has expired in the last five years, or where you do not have the appropriate licence to drive a particular vehicle (for example, driving a heavy vehicle when you only have a car licence.
  • Driving whilst never licensed is where you drive a vehicle despite never having a driver licence, or where your licence expired more than five years before the offence.
  • Driving whilst suspended is where you drive while your licence has been suspended by the RMS or Police – for example, after you have accumulated demerit points, where you have been caught speeding by more than 30 kph, or where you have been charged with an offence such as mid or high range drink driving. You can also have your licence suspended if you fail to pay fines.
  • Driving whilst cancelled is where you drive while your licence has been taken away or confiscated by the RMS. This may be done because you have committed an offence. Before you can legally drive again, you will have to apply for a new licence.
  • Drive whilst disqualified is where you drive after the court has disqualified you from driving for a certain amount of time. You won’t be able to drive legally until the disqualification period ends. Usually this will occur if you have appeared in court charged with an offence such as drink driving or drive dangerously.

Each of these offences carries different penalties depending on what you have been charged with. If you are unsure about your charges, you can call us on (02) 9261 8881 and arrange a FREE conference to have our expert lawyers explain the charges to you.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.

Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD offices, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

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