Victoria Legal Aid

Unlicensed driving

You may be charged with an offence of unlicensed driving if you drive a car without having a licence or permit that says you are allowed to drive, or if you drive using an interstate licence and you have been living in Victoria for longer than three months.

The police may charge you with unlicensed driving if they think that you drove a car without having a licence or permit that says you are allowed to drive.

You may be charged with unlicensed driving if:

  • you do not have a licence
  • your licence expired
  • you are using an intestate licence and you have lived in Victoria longer than three months
  • you are using an international licence and you have lived in Victoria for longer than six months.

This offence is different to driving if your licence has been suspended or cancelled.

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 ask for help onlineExternal Link .

The prosecution has to prove that that you were driving and did not have a valid licence.

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.

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?

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 (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.

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.

Possible penalties

The maximum penalties are different for driving when your licence has expired and driving when you have never had a licence.

Fines

The magistrate may give you a fine. You can get up to 10 penalty units if your licence has expired, or you drove on an interstate or international licence for longer than you are allowed.

You can be fined up to 60 penalty units if you have never had a valid licence.

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 make an order that stops you from applying for a licence again for a certain amount of time.

If this happens 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 suspended.

Jail

The magistrate may send you to jail instead of giving you a fine. You can get up to:

  • one month if your licence has expired
  • six months if you have never had a valid licence or you were on an international or interstate licence.

Impounding or immobilising your vehicle

The magistrate may also impound (lock up) or immobilise (clamp or steering wheel lock) your vehicle.

Other penalties

The magistrate may also:

What if I drive without an alcohol interlock?

The penalties are higher if your licence was cancelled for a drink-driving offence and you did not apply for a licence with an alcohol interlock when you got your licence back.

You could be fined up to 60 penalty units or sent to jail for up to six months. Also the magistrate could order that the vehicle is immobilised for up to 12 months.

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.

Could I get a penalty even if I am not guilty?

Yes. The magistrate can still suspend your licenceExternal Link 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 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.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 21 August 2022

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