What Happens If You Are Caught Driving While Suspended in Victoria?
Defences can be raised if you drove while you were suspended or disqualified
If your driver licence is suspended in Victoria, you should receive a licence suspension notice from VicRoads notifying you of the date on which the suspension begins. If you drive after your suspension takes effect, you are guilty of an offence. Potential penalties include a serious fine and the possibility of imprisonment. Fortunately, you may have a defence to the charge.
Licence suspensions and disqualifications
Driver licences can be suspended automatically for certain serious traffic offences, including some drink driving offences. The suspension generally remains in effect until you go to court. At that point, the judge will decide whether your licence should be cancelled.
Your licence can also be suspended because you accumulated too many demerit points. The length of that suspension will depend upon the number of points you accumulated with a 3 year period.
Finally, your licence might be suspended by the Sheriff if you failed to pay a traffic fine. That happens if you ignore an infringement notice and if you fail to pay a fine within 7 days after an infringement warrant is issued. Those suspensions can usually be cleared by paying the fine.
Courts can cancel licences and issue disqualification orders that prevent you from driving as a sanction for certain offences. If that happens, you need to apply for and be granted relicensing before you can drive legally.
Driving while suspended or disqualified
If you were disqualified by a court or suspended by VicRoads, section 30 of the Road Safety Act makes it an offence to drive on a highway while the suspension or disqualification is in effect. The potential penalty is:
- For a first offence, a fine of 30 penalty units and imprisonment of not more than 4 months. Most people, however, do not receive a sentence of imprisonment for a first offence.
- For a second or subsequent offence, a fine of 240 penalty units and imprisonment of not more than 2 years.
If your licence was suspended by the Sheriff for failing to pay the fine assessed in an infringement notice, you can be assessed a fine of 10 penalty units.
The current value of a penalty unit is $147.61.
If you were not driving on a public road or an area related to a public road, you have a defence. If you were not the driver of the vehicle, you have a defence.
You also have a defence if you had an honest and reasonable belief that you were entitled to drive. Failure to receive a suspension notice might provide an honest excuse if you have a reasonable explanation of your failure to receive the notice.
If the judge accepts your mistaken belief that you were not suspended, the judge can find you not guilty. If that happens, however, the judge will probably make you serve the full suspension without giving you credit for the time you were suspended but continued to drive.
If you want to know whether you have a good excuse for driving while suspended that might help you avoid a conviction, you should consult with a lawyer.