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Driving and licence offences 

Legal Information

If you drive a car (or other motor vehicle), there are laws to make sure that you drive properly and obey road rules. If you don't (for example you speed, go through a red light, cross double lines etc), this is a traffic offence. For this you could get booked on the spot, receive a fine notice in the mail, or you could have to go to court. Always read any notices about traffic offences or your licence very carefully. For any traffic offence, even the very minor ones, you could end up in court and you could lose your licence for a while even if you don't go to court. If you go to court and are convicted, the court will fine you and for some traffic offences you will always lose your licence for a period. You can also go to jail in serious cases.

What are some traffic offences?

Some traffic offences are more serious than others, for example:

  • dangerous driving (called dangerous operation of a motor vehicle). You can be charged with this even if you don't hurt anybody or damage anything, just speeding can be dangerous driving. You always have to drive taking into account the type of road, where it is etc.
  • where your driving kills someone. If you drive extremely carelessly or recklessly and you kill someone, you can be charged with manslaughter. Alternatively, you can be charged with dangerous driving causing death.
  • driving while your licence has been disqualified , this includes:
    • disqualification by a court, or
    • suspension because you got too many points, or
    • suspension by State Penalties Enforcement Register (SPER) because you haven't paid a fine from a ticket or court order.

Remember, driving while your licence is suspended/disqualified is an offence. You should always know if you've been disqualified by a court. But if your licence is suspended, from losing too many points or by SPER, sometimes you don't get a letter from the Department of Transport and Main Roads or SPER (perhaps you've moved and not changed your address with the department) and you don't know your licence has been suspended until you are pulled up for speeding or something else. If you're unsure about your licence, ask a lawyer for legal advice before you drive.

Some examples of less serious traffic offences are:

  • careless driving. If you drive without due care and attention you are breaking the law. Some examples are not indicating when you turn, crossing double lines.
  • unlicensed driving. You are breaking the law if you drive without a current licence of the correct type, including driving on a learner's permit without having a person with an open licence with you.

I've been booked for speeding. I can't lose my licence for that, can I?

Yes, you can.

For any traffic offence, as well as a fine, you also lose points (called demerit points). You lose one point for some offences, two points for others and so on.

If you lose too many points you will get a letter from the Department of Transport and Main Roads telling you that you can choose to:

  • have your licence suspended for several months, or
  • go on a good behaviour licence for a year (then you can only lose one point during that year or your licence will be suspended).

Although you can choose, if you want the good behaviour licence you must tell the Department of Transport and Main Roads you have chosen this by sending back the form in time. If you don't send back the form in time, your licence will be suspended.

If you were doing more than 40 kms over the speed limit, you will get a letter from the Department of Transport and Main Roads telling you that your licence will be suspended for six months, with no choice of a good behaviour licence or you could get a summons to go to court. You can apply to the court for a special hardship order to drive for limited purposes on the grounds of financial hardship depriving you of the means of earning your livelihood or because of some other severe and unusual hardship. If you have had your licence disqualified by a court in the last five years you are not eligible to apply for a special hardship order. In most cases, if your licence has been suspended by the the Department of Transport and Main Roads in the last five years you will not be able to apply for a special hardship order either. There are some exceptions though and you should get advice from a lawyer about whether the type of suspension of the licence you had prevents you from applying.

You can't lodge the application until the day the suspension starts or afterwards, but you must lodge it within 21 days of the date the suspension starts.

If you receive a Notice to Choose between a suspension period or a good behaviour driving period (see above) because of the allocation of the 8 demerit points for the high speed offence, you must respond to the Notice to Choose and elect good behaviour. If you do not do so, you will not be able to apply for a special hardship order for the 6 month suspension for driving more than 40km over the speed limit.

You should get legal advice and show the lawyer your traffic history. You can go to any Department of Transport and Main Roads customer service centre and fill in a form to get a copy of your traffic history. There is a fee for this.

If you get a fine and you don't pay the Department of Transport and Main Roads on time, the fine will go to SPER, and then if you don't pay SPER, your licence will be suspended until you pay the whole fine or make an arrangement to pay by instalments.

My licence has been suspended for speeding/too many points. Can I get a work licence or some other special licence?

If you accumulate too many points, the the Department of Transport and Main Roads will write to you giving you the choice of a licence suspension (usually 3 months) or a 12 month good behaviour driving period. If you choose the suspension or do not reply to this letter, then you have no appeal and cannot get any other licence during the suspension.

If you opt for a good behaviour driving period and lose two or more points during that time, in limited circumstances you can apply to a magistrates court for a special hardship order to enable you to drive for particular purposes only. The grounds for applying are:

  • that losing your licence will result in extreme hardship to you or your family by depriving you of the means of earning a living, or
  • that losing your licence will cause you or your family severe or unusual hardship

If you have had your licence disqualified by a court in the last five years you are not eligible to apply for a special hardship order. In most cases, if your licence has been suspended by the Department of Transport and Main Roads in the last five years you will not be able to apply for a special hardship order either. There are some exceptions though and you should get advice from a lawyer about whether the type of suspension of the licence you had prevents you from applying.

If you win your application your licence suspension ends from that date but you can only drive in accordance with the conditions in the special hardship order. It is likely that you will only be permitted to drive for work or for another limited purpose.

You can't lodge the application until the day the suspension starts or afterwards, but you must lodge it within 21 days of the date the suspension starts.

If the court refuses your application, that decision is final. There is no appeal.

You should get legal advice and show the lawyer your traffic history. You can go to any Department of Transport and Main Roads customer service centre and fill in a form to get a copy of your traffic history. There is a fee for this.

If you have questions about a special hardship order, ask a lawyer for legal advice. Legal Aid Queensland has a free guide, Are you going to lose your driver licence? to help you apply for a special hardship order.

I had a minor accident a while ago and my insurance fixed everything up, now I've got a summons to go to court. What's this about?

Often you've got a summons because the police say you've driven carelessly (without due care and attention). This is breaking the law and is one of the traffic offences mentioned above.

If the magistrate finds you guilty (whether you plead guilty or you defend the case and lose) of driving without due care and attention you will be fined and you will lose three points. You can also lose your licence for a period, it's up to the magistrate.

You might get a summons for some other offence. If you get a summons, ask a lawyer for legal advice so you know what it's about before you go to court.

I've had a minor accident but nobody was hurt. I don't have to stop, do I?

Yes, you do. And if anybody was hurt, and/or there was property damage of $2500 or more, you must also report the accident to the police. If you are unsure, it is always better to report the accident.

I have been involved in a traffic accident, what information do I have to tell the police?

You are required to provide information that will help identify a vehicle or person driving the vehicle including:

  • the owner
  • person in possession of the vehicle
  • person in whose name the vehicle is registered
  • the identity of anyone who can provide the above information.

The police can also request information relating to any vehicle, person, animal or property involved, or information relating to the cause and circumstances of the incident.

It is an offence not to provide this information to police or to provide false information.

I have to go to court for driving when I didn't have a licence and this isn't the first time. I won't go to jail will I?

You could. Were you able to get a licence and you just didn't, or were you disqualified by a court or was your licence suspended? If you're going to court for any sort of licence problem, ask a lawyer for legal advice. Before you ask for advice, it's a good idea to go and get a copy of your traffic history and bring this with you. You can go to the Department of Transport and Main Roads and pay a small fee and get this over the counter.

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      Do I need legal advice?

      You may need legal advice if you:

      • have been charged with a drink driving offence, especially your third or more charge within 5 years 
      • want to contest a drink driving charge
      • need to know your prospects of success in appealing a decision of a magistrate about the disqualification period
      • have more questions about applying for a work licence for drink driving.

      Important: before seeking legal advice you must have a copy of your traffic history to show the lawyer - this is available from a Department of Transport and Main Roads Transport Customer Service Centre by filling in a form and paying a fee. You should also apply for your QP9 before seeing a lawyer - contact your local police/police prosecutions office to find out how.

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      Where can I get legal advice

      Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on drink driving and work licences. Our Traffic Clinic provides specialist legal advice on complex matters.

      The services below may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

      Community legal centres may provide preliminary legal advice on drink driving matters - check with individual CLCs whether they will advise on your matter.

      Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

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      Who else can help?

      These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

      State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay SPER an amount each week/fortnight/month.

      Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for first and second time offenders who want to plead guilty to a traffic offence, including drink driving, unsafe driving, disqualified driving, suspended licence, appealing licence disqualifications (fees apply for this service).

      Under the Limit is an 11 week drink driving prevention and rehabilitation program that is offered through the magistrates courts in association with a probation order or on legal or self referral. A fee applies, contact the organisation for the exact amount.

      Department of Transport and Main Roads deals with complaints and enquiries concerning drivers licence, registration, traffic fines, etc.

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      Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 12 October 2011 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.



      Last modified: 27 March 2014 3:25PM
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      Driving and licence offences