Victoria Legal Aid

Driving an unregistered vehicle

Being charged with driving an unregistered vehicle means that the police believe that you were driving a car that is not registered with VicRoads.

Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case. Look at the ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate will refer to this in the courtroom.

Even though this offence is considered a minor traffic matter, you may still have to appear in court if police also charged you with other offences or if you choose to take the matter to court instead of paying the fine.

Going to court

If you have a court date in the future, you may be eligible to get help to prepare before going to court. You can request help onlineExternal Link .

If the matter goes to court, all the prosecution has to prove is that:

  • you drove a car that was not registered with VicRoads
  • you did not have a reasonable excuse for doing so.

They do not need to prove that you intended to commit an offence or that you knew what you were doing was against the law.

For information about pleading guilty or not guilty and how to prepare for the court hearing see Going to court for traffic offences, Going to court – pleading guilty and Going to court – pleading not guilty.

What are my options if I have to go to court?

Admit to the charges and ask for diversion

Getting diversion means your case is treated differently. Diversion is normally for less serious cases. You must agree to do certain things. These are called conditions. You do not get a criminal record.

To get diversion you must admit you broke the law. This includes everything in the statement of alleged facts. Tell the magistrate that you know you broke the law but you would like diversion. If the police have not recommended diversion for you, you can ask to adjourn (put off) the case to ask.

Plead guilty

If you agree that you broke the law, you should tell the court that you are pleading guilty. During the court hearing, the prosecutor will read out the statement of alleged facts. The magistrate will find you guilty and give you a penalty.

If you plead guilty the magistrate treats this as a sign that you are co-operating and may give you a less severe penalty.

For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading guilty.

Plead not guilty

If you believe that you did not break the law, or you disagree with what is in the statement of alleged facts, you must tell the prosecutor before your court date that you plan to plead not guilty. They will hold a summary case conference with you before your case is heard in court. If you still want to plead not guilty after the conference, tell the magistrate. The magistrate will adjourn your case for another day.

You will come back to court for a contested hearing. When you come back, the magistrate will listen to evidence from you and the police before making a decision. You should have a defence.

If you are pleading not guilty, get legal advice before the contested hearing.

For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading not guilty.

Possible defences

You may have a defence if you have a reasonable excuse for driving unregistered. For example, if there was an emergency. The magistrate will decide if your excuse is reasonable.

What is not a defence?

It is not a defence to say that the vehicle did not belong to you. The law says you must ensure that any vehicle that you drive is registered, even if you do not own it.

It is also not a defence to say that you could not afford to pay the registration fee.

It is not a defence to say you did not know you were breaking the law.

Can I adjourn my hearing?

You can ask the magistrate to adjourn (put off) your case if you have a good reason. For example, to get a lawyer.

If you have not adjourned your case before and you are on summons, you may be able to get an adjournment without going into the courtroom. You should discuss this with the court ahead of your court date.

What are the penalties if I am found guilty?


The magistrate can give you a fine of:

  • up to 25 penalty units if this is the first time you have been found guilty of driving an unregistered vehicle
  • up to 50 penalty units if you have been found guilty of driving unregistered before.

You should tell the magistrate about your income and things you have to pay for, and whether you support a family.

If you get a fine you can pay it straight away at court. If you do not pay the fine straight away, Fines VictoriaExternal Link will send you a Court fine collection statement. This will tell you how much you owe and when the fine is due.

You can ask Fines Victoria for a payment plan if you cannot afford to pay the fine in one payment.

If you do not pay the fine when it is due, Fines Victoria may increase the fine. The court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Losing your licence

The magistrate may cancel or suspend your licence for a certain amount of time. You should not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. For example, you cannot drive to work or to pick up your children.

There are no special licences that allow you to drive some of the time. There are very serious penalties if you drive when your licence is cancelled or suspendedExternal Link .

Usually, a magistrate will only suspend your licence if you committed other offences at the same time or if you have a bad driving record.

Other penalties

The magistrate may also place you on an undertaking to behave well for a certain amount of time. An undertaking is a promise to the court not to do certain things.

Criminal record

If you are found guilty what happens in court goes on your criminal record.
This includes:

  • the finding of guilt
  • a conviction if there is one
  • penalties.

For more information visit our page on Criminal records.

Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?

Yes. If you do not agree with the decision you can appeal to the County Court. You have 28 days to do this. Get legal advice before you decide. You could get a higher penalty.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 21 August 2022

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