The police may charge you with an offence of ‘drive while suspended’ if they believe you drove after your licence was suspended or cancelled. Your licence would have been suspended or cancelled by the court, police, VicRoads or Fines Victoria.
Suspension, cancellation or disqualification?
If your licence is suspended you cannot drive for a certain amount of time. At the end of this time VicRoads will give back your licence and you can drive again.
If your licence is cancelled your licence no longer exists. You do not automatically get your licence back. You must apply to court or to VicRoads for another licence when the cancelation time ends.
Normally when your licence is cancelled you will also be disqualified from driving. You can also be disqualified from driving even if you do not have a licence or permit.
Note: if Fines Victoria suspended your licence for not paying fines, the court will treat this less seriously than other offences of drive while suspended or disqualified.
Going to court
If you have a future court date, you may be eligible to get help to prepare before you go to court. You can request help .
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 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.
For information about how to prepare for the court hearing read Going to court for traffic offences.
What are my options if I have to go to court?
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 (put off) your case for another day.
You will come back to court for a contested hearing. When you come back the magistrate listens to evidence from you and the police before making a decision. You should have a defence. Saying that you did not know you were breaking the law is not a good enough 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.
You may have a defence if it was an honest and reasonable mistake that you thought you could drive. The magistrate will decide if they think you made a reasonable mistake.
What if I did not know about the suspension?
The magistrate can still suspend your licence even if they believe that you did not know about the suspension and find you not guilty. They can order you to serve the original licence suspension that you did not know about.
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. When you arrive at court, go to the counter and tell the staff 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 drive while suspended by Fines Victoria is a fine of 10 penalty units.
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 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 can extend the suspension period you are on now for longer.
Most magistrates will choose to do this because they think you have not taken your suspension seriously.
The magistrate can also:
- cancel your licence or permit for a certain amount of time
- make a court order that stops you applying for a licence or permit for a certain amount of time.
If the magistrate cancels 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.
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.
The magistrate can send you to jail instead of giving you a fine. You can get up to two years jail.
Impounding or immobilising your vehicle
The magistrate may impound (lock up) or immobilise (clamp or steering wheel lock) your vehicle if you have been caught driving while suspended or disqualified before.
The magistrate may also impound or immobilise your vehicle if you have committed another hoon driving offence within the last six years.
The magistrate can also choose to place you on a community corrections order.
What else might happen if I am found guilty?
What happens in court may go on your criminal record as a driving conviction. This will usually appear on your VicRoads driving record but it may also go on your criminal record.
Read Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.
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.
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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 22 August 2022