Disqualified driving is an extremely serious traffic charge in Queensland. The Courts are particularly hard on these types of offences as to be charged with disqualified driving you must have already been disqualified by a court. Disqualified driving is the most common traffic offence that causes people to be sentenced to jail.
The charge is different to a simple unlicensed driving charge as there must be a previous disqualification by the courts still in place at the time the offence was committed.
The court will impose a further minimum disqualification of 2 years however there may be circumstances where there is a defence to a disqualified driving charge.
The vehicle was not driven on a road
The law requires that to be guilty of disqualified driving the person must be driving a vehicle on a road. If the vehicle is being driven on private property this may be a full defence to the charge.
You weren’t driving the vehicle
There are often occasions were someone has taken or borrowed your vehicle and either triggered a speed camera or more seriously has evaded the police. In those circumstances it is critical to get immediate legal advice as very short and strict time limits may apply to being able to nominate another person as the driver. If you fail to nominate the other driver within the time limits then you can be legally declared the driver, also if you pay a speeding ticket or infringement notice may deemed to be the driver.
You were driving for an emergency
The law allows an exception for driving in an emergency. This in the past only extended to driving emergency situations such a person to hospital where no other transport was available. The courts have recently however begun to accept that not all situations require a dire emergency. For example we were successful in having a disqualified driving charge withdrawn against our client in the circumstances where our client drove to a chemist to get Panadol because everyone in the house was sick and he was the only person who could drive.
The key question is not what a reasonable person would have done but what an ordinary person in the shoes of the accused could have done. Once the defence is raised the onus fall on the prosecution to prove an ordinary person would not have acted in the same way as the accused.
There are also other defences such as mental capacity which are not covered in this article.
If you have a defence then in most cases you will need to take the disqualified driving charge to trial to be found not guilty. There are however often occasions where it is possible to make submission to the Prosecution Service to drop the charge before it goes to trial. This is a very involved process and should never be undertaken without a lawyer.
If the matter goes to trial then the charge would be held before a Magistrate but not a jury. If the court finds a person not guilty then that is the end of the matter. If however after trial a person is found guilty then it is important to note the further disqualification period only starts from when the Magistrate makes his or her decision. The Magistrate will also impose a fine and depending on a number of factors including traffic history might impose a term of imprisonment which may or may not be partly or wholly suspended.
If you think you have a defence, want to engage us or just need further information then you can either;
This article is written by Belinda Smyth and provides general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice.