The New South Wales government has recently announced driver licence disqualification reforms that will come into effect in October 2017
Put simply, the penalties for when you have your license disqualified are changing, to ensure better community protection and a reduction of repeat offending and unauthorised driving.
These proposed changes can be summarised as follows:
Police will have greater powers to impose on-the-spot vehicle sanctions to keep repeat offenders and dangerous drivers off our roads.
Certain disqualified drivers who have complied with their disqualification period for at least two years will be able to apply to the Local Court to have their disqualification lifted early.
No disqualified driver ever convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm will be eligible to have their disqualification periods lifted early.
Penalties for unauthorised driving will be more proportionate to other NSW driving offences.
There is a number of rationales for these changes. For instance, a disqualification period of 5 to 10 years does not necessarily deter unauthorised driving, and such lengthy periods without a licence may have a devastating impact on people in regional and remote rural areas, especially those without access to public transport, or whose employment requires a license.
It is hoped these reforms will reduce reoffending, by allowing people to return to lawful and regulated driving, while simultaneously providing stronger powers for police to protect the community from dangerous drivers. The reforms are expected to allow police to confiscate registration plates or cars owned by repeat offenders on the spot, where drivers have continued to drive whilst unauthorised. These reforms will enable police to impose a three month vehicle sanction where a disqualified driver is caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 km/h. Police will also be able to impose vehicle sanctions on the spot of six months to repeat offenders who have two or more existing convictions for certain driving offences within the previous five years. For instance, people who have been convicted for driving whilst unlicensed or disqualified, apply for a licence without mentioning the disqualification, or stating the name incorrectly on a driving application, may be subject to these harsher penalties. At present these amendments will only apply to a disqualified driver is also the registered operator of the vehicle.
A number of benefits come with these reforms. For instance, certain disqualified drivers may apply to the local Court to have their disqualification lifted early if they have complied with their disqualification period from a minimum of 2 to 4 years depending on the individual circumstances. However, if a person subject to a disqualification has ever been convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm, then they will not be eligible to lift their disqualification period. That all aside, the local Court will still need to consider community safety in determining whether to lift a disqualification period. If you have had your disqualification period lifted, you will still need to apply to the roads and Maritime services to complete the standard road safety knowledge test to get your license back.
The maximum penalties for unauthorised driving offences will also be revised, and more information on that issue will be available shortly. Minimum and automatic disqualification periods the plight unauthorised driving offences. For example if you are convicted of driving while your license is disqualified, cancelled or suspended, you will automatically be disqualified for six months under these new reforms. Whilst the court may vary that suspension. Depending on your circumstances, will be no less than the minimum disqualification period of three months. Those automatic disqualification and minimum periods will increase for each second and subsequent offence.
One of the biggest reforms is the abolition of the habitual traffic offender scheme. At present if you are convicted of three relevant serious driving offences within a five year period, you automatically declared a habitual traffic offender Accordingly you are banned from holding a driving licence for five years. That ban applies in addition to any other penalty received for the offence and runs consecutively, meaning you may be off the road for extremely lengthy periods.
If you have received a disqualification notice, or you have been subject to a sanction by police, for further information you should make an appointment with our office.
Blog author: Tim Cullenward