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Drive Whilst Suspended
You will be charged for drive whilst suspended if you are caught driving a motor vehicle during the time in which you have been suspended by the RTA.
However, just because you drove whilst your licence was suspended by the RTA, this doesn’t mean that you are automatically guilty of the offence!
If you were not aware that you were suspended by the RTA, you may be NOT guilty of the offence.
The law recognises this defence as an ‘honest and reasonable mistake of fact’. You must prove on the balance of probabilities that you were not aware of the suspension or disqualification. You may have changed addresses at the time the RTA sent you a letter advising of the suspension, or may for some other reason not received the letter. In these circumstances, if the court finds that your explanation was honest and reasonable, the charges will be dismissed. To find out more about the defence of honest and reasonable mistake, click here.
The maximum fine for drive whilst suspended is $3,300. The mandatory disqualification period for drive whilst suspended is 12 months, unless the matter is dealt with pursuant to Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act in which case you will not be disqualified from driving. To find out more about a section 10, click here.
If it is the case that you were suspended because you did not pay your fines, the mandatory disqualification period is 3 months. If this is the case, the courts will quite often deal with you by way of a section 10.
Generally, penalties that a court can impose for any criminal offence in NSW are:
- Section 10 – No conviction recorded
- Section 9 – Good behaviour bond
- Community service order
- Section 12 – Suspended sentence
- Intensive correction order
- Home detention
- Prison sentence
Case Study – Drive Whilst Licence Suspended – Honest and Reasonable Mistake of Fact – Didn’t Receive Notice from RTA
Our client was driving whilst his licence was suspended. The RTA suspended his licence following unpaid fines. He was adamant that he did not know that the RTA suspended him, and did not receive any letters from the RTA saying so. The case proceeded to hearing at the Downing Centre Local Court.
Our client instructed us that his registered home address was the same address the RTA had on their records, but he moved out of that home on several occasions following a troublesome period in his marriage.
He would often stay at his brother’s house, and wasn’t sure if all of his mail was kept by his wife. We obtained, as part of his defence, evidence of his mobile phone bills during the time which the RTA said that notices were posted out to him.
The phone bills showed phone calls being made to his wife’s mobile phone number late at night, and quite often in the early hours of the morning. These calls seemed to last for at least a half hour. The calls were also listed as being made from a cell tower close to his brother’s house.
Our client and his brother also gave evidence at the hearing, both with rock solid versions stating that our client lived at his brother’s house for at least a few weeks at the time the notices of suspension were sent out.
The Magistrate found on the balance of probabilities that our client did not receive the suspension notice from the RTA, and therefore did not know he was suspended. He had made an ‘honest and reasonable’ mistake.
Our client defaulted on the payment of a traffic fine which led the RTA to suspend his licence for a period of 3 months. During the 3 month period our client was caught driving in Croydon, Sydney and charged with driving whilst suspended.
Our client argued that he never received the letter from the RTA notifying him that his licence had been suspended. During the time the letter was said to be sent, our client had moved house and the letter was sent to his previous address.
Our client gave evidence at the hearing at Burwood Local Court of his move and called his housemate as a witness who also confirmed the time of the move.
Our solicitor tendered our client’s phone records showing numerous phone calls were made to the suburb which he had moved to at the time the letter was sent.
Her Honour Magistrate Barkell found our client not guilty due to an honest and reasonable mistake of fact because he was unaware his licence had been suspended.
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