What Penalty Will I Get for Driving While Unlicensed?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Did you know that after drink driving and common assault, driving without a licence is the most common reason that people are sent to criminal court?

Over 12,000 people came before a court for driving without a licence between April 2013 and March 2014, according to the latest Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) study.

Males represented 79% of those who were guilty, and the offence was found to be most prevalent amongst 20-24 year-olds. One Victorian study found that disqualified drivers are more likely to be older than drivers who have been suspended – which makes sense because drivers are often suspended due to demerit points or speeding before their records snowball into more serious offences like driving whilst disqualified.

Just over half of all defendants had lawyers to represent them in court.

What is the difference between disqualified, suspended and cancelled?

While many people confuse the two, disqualification and suspension are two different things.

The difference is that suspension can be ordered by the police or RMS. It may happen on the spot due to speeding or through an accumulation of demerit points.

On the other hand, if your licence has been disqualified, this penalty has been imposed in court by a magistrate or judge.

In addition, if you have not paid off your fines in NSW, your licence could be suspended or cancelled by the RMS.

What are the penalties?

The penalties for unlicensed driving were changed on 28 October 2017 and can be summarised as follows:

Offence Penalty where it’s your first major traffic offence in the past 5 years Penalty where it’s your second or more major traffic offence in the past 5 years
Driving whilst suspended, disqualified, cancelled or refused – 6 months disqualification which may be reduced by the court to 3 months,

– Maximum fine of $3,300, and

– Maximum prison sentence of 6 months

– 12 months disqualification which may be reduced by the court to 6 months,

– Maximum fine of $5,500, and

– Maximum prison sentence of 12 months

Driving whilst suspended due to a fine default – 3 months disqualification which can be reduced by a court to 1 month, and

– Maximum fine of $3,300

– 12 months disqualification which can be reduced by a court to 3 months,

– Maximum fine of $5,500, and

– Maximum prison sentence of 6 months

Driving whilst unlicensed (never licensed) – Maximum fine of $2,200 – 12 months disqualification which can be reduced by a court to 3 months,

– Maximum fine of $3,300, and

– Maximum prison sentence of 6 months.


What are the most common penalties imposed?

Over three-quarters of those who were guilty of driving whilst disqualified or suspended received a further disqualification period, and almost half received a fine.

Roughly one quarter of those who were guilty managed to avoid a disqualification period, fine or criminal record by obtaining what is known as a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order. If a magistrate deals with your case under a non conviction order, you will avoid a criminal conviction, even if you plead guilty or are found guilty in court.

While a non conviction order can mean an outright dismissal without a good behaviour bond, as was the case for 6.8% of guilty defendants, it can also have a good behaviour bond attached.

Over 70% of those who escaped a conviction by getting a non conviction order also got a good behaviour bond, which equates to roughly 20% of all who were guilty. A non conviction order means that you won’t get a criminal record – as long as you don’t commit any further offences for the duration of the bond, which can be up to two years.

If you commit another offence while the bond is in place, you may be re-sentenced for the original offence face harsher penalties.

The penalties handed-down by the courts were generally more serious for those who were disqualified rather than suspended.

What should I do?

If you are facing charges for driving without a licence, make sure you speak to an experienced traffic lawyer right away.

They will have dealt with hundreds of cases similar to yours and will therefore know the best way to prepare and present your case in court, in order to get the best result.

Author Image

About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Traffic Defence Lawyers.


  1. Qi Cao

    My license have been suspended for 3 months due to lost of demerit points. And I have been caught by the police while I had driving during this suspension period. I really need to drive for my daily activities, and this are necessary and essential of my daily lives. Would I have the chance to keep to the original suspended date, without having a further suspension period?

    Please help me and thank you very much.
    Best regards,
    Qi Cao

  2. Neil

    I have been suspended for 3 months after accrewing an offence every six months traveling to AA meetings over the 3 year demerit point period and RMS told me I could of applied for a “12 month good behaviour licence” befor the suspension date, and if you get an offence in that time I am told you get a 2 year suspension?.

    I think I am better to cop the the 3 months suspension and not drive and get back my 10 demerit points after the suspension.

    I think I will fix my pushbike because apparently electric scooters need a drivers licence on the road.?

    Does anyone have any other surgestions like maybe put into a freaking coma or heavily sedated while my life, carrier, children’s activities, mortgage is on hold .

  3. Jack

    I have been suspended through Victoria for 6 weeks and was caught driving in nsw for driving whilst suspended ND m on parole. What can be the punishment.

  4. Stephen

    My licence was expired, out by two days. I was pulled over for a random breath test and fined because of the expiry. I had just forgot to renew it due to being so busy with work. Fined nearly $600.
    Any advice other than the obvious?
    Thank you

Leave a Comment