We are often contacted by Queensland drivers wondering what their options are when they receive notice that they have exceeded their allowable demerit points.
In Queensland all drivers start with zero points and if an offence is committed anywhere in Australia and that offence carries demerit points as part of the punishment then those demerit points are added to the drivers traffic record.
When do demerit points start from?
Demerit points apply from the date you commit an offence. They are recorded on your traffic history when any of the following has occurred:
- the fine has been paid or referred to the State Penalty Enforcement Registry (SPER)
- you plead guilty to the offence in court or are found guilty
- you have been issued with an order for an interstate offence
How long are the demerit points on my driver’s licence?
For open licence holders the demerit points will stay on your traffic history for 3 years.
What if I exceed my demerit points?
If you exceed your demerit points you will be sent a notice to choose by Queensland Transport and will have two choices either;
- Have your licence suspended for the requisite period (generally 3 months but it can be up to 5 months if you incur more than 20 demerit points); or
- Elect a good driving behaviour period
If you elect to have your licence suspended, you cannot later change your mind and you cannot apply for a special hardship licence for the next 5 years.
What if I failed to make a choice?
If you do not make a decision of whether to suspend your licence or elect a good driving behaviour period then Queensland Transport will assume you wanted your licence suspended and your licence will then be automatically suspended from the due date for the requisite period.
What if I elect a driving suspension or fail to make a choice by the due date and are caught driving?
If you are caught driving without a licence you will be charged with unlicensed driving and subject to a 6 month court disqualification. You cannot apply for a special hardship or work licence at this point.
Good driving behaviour period
If you elect a good driving behaviour period by the due date then for a year you are subject to the requirement of a good driving behaviour period. There are no restrictions on your driving however the key point is you cannot incur more than 1 demerit point during this period. If you incur 2 or more demerit points within the year (the time runs from the date of the offence not the date the charge is finalised or paid) then you breach the good driving behaviour period.
What if I breach the good driving behaviour period?
If you breach the good driving behaviour period then your licence will be suspended for 6 months (it can be longer depending on how many demerit points you incurred on the good driving behaviour period).
What if I breach the good driving behaviour period but still need to drive?
If you breach your good driving behaviour period and still need to drive then you might be able to apply for a special hardship licence (also known as a hardship licence or special hardship order) to allow you to drive for specific reasons during the licence suspension.
A special hardship licence is only available where you are on a 12 month good driving behaviour period and incur a further traffic offence or are caught driving more than 40 km/h over the speed limit.
You are not eligible to apply for a Special Hardship Order (“SHO”) if, within the last five years before making the application:
- you have previously made a SHO application,
- your Queensland driver licence was suspended, disqualified or cancelled
- you have obtained a work licence
You must prove to the court that losing your licence will cause severe and unusual hardship to you or your family (by depriving you of the means of earning your income or some other critical issue) and that you are a fit and proper person having regard to your traffic history.
You will receive a letter from QLD Transport advising of your suspension date. Please note unless you have lodged your application for a SHO before that date you will not be able to drive after your licence is suspended, until you have filed the documentation.
There is no longer a 21 day time limit from the date your licence is suspended to apply for a hardship licence however once your licence is suspended you cannot drive until you have lodged and filed the application and none of the days that elapsed from when your licence is suspended till the application is lodged with the court counts towards the period you will be on the special hardship licence. For example if you wait a month after your licence is suspended before applying for a special hardship licence and your special hardship will last 6 months then that one month does not reduce the 6 month period on the special hardship licence.
An application for a special hardship licence is heard in the Magistrates Court with jurisdiction closet to where you live and requires extensive affidavits of yourself and if employed from your employer.
If you are successful in obtaining a SHO your licence may restrict you to
- Drive to and from work using the shortest route possible
- Drive for purposes directly connected with your means of earning your income
- Drive for any special hardship grounds granted by the court e.g. driving a family member to receive chemo treatment. You should note that the court must be convinced that by not allowing you to drive for the specific reason sought that you will suffer severe and unusual hardship. As you can see this is a very difficult thing to show, it can’t be just that you will suffer hardship but that you will suffer severe and unusual hardship. Often clients want to retain the ability to drop children at school. Some Magistrates will simply deny this no matter what is said, while the ones that may grant it will need to be convinced there is no other method of the children getting to school except by being driven by the person applying for the special hardship licence.
Please note the court may impose other the following conditions on your licence including;
- Requiring you to complete a driving diary
- Limiting what hours or days you may drive
- Limiting who you may carry in the motor vehicle
- Limiting the class or type of vehicles you may drive
During the period of the SHO you can only drive as above. It is important for you to understand that you do not have a full licence during the period of the SHO. The SHO will apply for the period of your licence suspension, i.e. the period is usually 6 months.
The other critical aspect of a special hardship licence is you get zero demerit points which means even if you incur one demerit point your licence will then be suspended for 12 months.
Let us the example of a person found to have used a mobile phone (other than in a parked vehicle) In that case they will be fined $1,000 and incur 4 demerit points.
If they are an open licence holder with no demerit points then the addition of 4 demerit points to their traffic history won’t affect their licence. However what if they already had say 9 demerit points or if you were provisional licence holder then the addition of the 4 demerit points means they have exceeded their allowable amount of demerit points. If that case they be sent a notice to choose and given two choices either;
- Have their licence suspended for the requisite period (generally 3 months but it can be up to 5 months if you incur more than 20 demerit points); or
- Elect a good driving behaviour period
If they elect a suspension or don’t make any election by the due date then their licence is suspended.
If they elect a good driving behaviour period then for 12 months they must not commit an offence or offences that exceed 1 demerit point. If they do commit and offence while on a good driving behaviour period they might be able to apply for a special hardship licence.
How do I check how many demerit points I have?
You can check your demerit point balance using the demerit points online service provided by Queensland Transport.
What demerit points apply for different offences?
Queensland Transport has a list on their website of all the traffic offences and what demerit points apply. It can be accessed at www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/fines/demerit/points
In Queensland we do not have period where all offences have double demerit points applying e.g. at Christmas however certain offences if committed twice in a 1 year period may incur double demerit points for the second offence. These include;
- offences for speeding more than 20km/h over the speed limit
- mobile phone offences
- driver seatbelt offences
- motorcycle helmet offences
Can you help me get a Special Hardship Licence?
We absolutely can. Our firm has conducted thousands of successful special hardship applications. We have the knowledge and experience to give you the best chance of the court granting a special hardship licence. We have a have on our website a dedicated page to Special Hardship Licence’s
We can help with a special hardship application in any court in South East Queensland, from the Gold Coast up to Maryborough and out to Toowoomba.
We have offices at;
If you don’t live in South East Queensland we can still help draft the necessary affidavits.
How do I contact you or get more information?
We are open seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.
Telephone: 1300 925 255
Contact Form: www.drivinglaw.com.au/contact.html
Disclaimer: This article is for general information and is not legal advice. The law or the practice of the court may have changed since this article was published. Always obtain legal advice if you need to appear in court.
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