Traffic Law

Drive whilst suspended – Client keeps his licence

Charge: Drive whilst licence suspended pursuant to section 54(3) of the Road Transport Act 2013.

Penalties: The maximum penalties for this offence are a fine of $3,300 and a term of imprisonment for 18 months; an automatic disqualification period of 12 months (with no limit on the maximum period).

Case Summary: Our client had been suspended due to incurring too many demerit points due to the commission of several traffic offences. Unfortunately, he found himself in great difficulty on a particular occasion and decided to drive. He was pulled over by police and, when asked to display his licence, admitted that it was at the time suspended and was subsequently charged.

Our client needed his licence for work purposes and to assist elderly family members and also spend time with children. We advised him that although the Court would take into account his need for a licence, this did not place him in a special category of offender, as it was typical for most drivers to require their licence for work purposes and family commitments. However, in addition to the client's need for a licence, it appeared that he had been recently acting out of character and, according to family members, there was concern that his mental health may have been suffering. Our client agreed that he was not feeling himself for some time.

On our advice, our client instructed us to commission an expert to assess him for the purposes of providing a report to the Court and, where required, to assist our client with his mental health.

The report revealed that our client was suffering from mental health issues, which appeared to have gone undiagnosed and untreated for some time, and which affected all aspects of his life and significantly impaired his decision making in times of stress. The report indicated that our client's condition would improve now that there was a diagnosis and if our client continued with treatment.

At Court, upon having pleaded "guilty" to the charge, we tendered the medical report on our client's behalf, along with several references that spoke to our client's normally good character but importantly, to the changes that had been seen in our client over the period of time leading up to the offence, which supported the expert's findings. It was argued, on the available evidence, that our client's recent, poor driving record coincided with the downturn in his mental health. It was also strongly argued that an additional, minimum 12 months off the road would prove especially onerous on our client, as it would prove more difficult for him than the average offender to rely heavily on public transport and it also would impact on the progression of his mental health and treatment.  

Result: After carefully considering our detailed submissions, the Magistrate agreed to give our client another chance and to allow him to make improvements to his mental health and dismissed the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act. This meant that our client was not convicted and therefore, not disqualified from driving. 

The client was pleased with this result; it exceeded his expectations. It allowed him to continue his employment and to spend time with his children. Perhaps of most importance was that it gave him the incentive to seek medical assistance and improve his life without the burden of a licence disqualification and criminal conviction.

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