Clarity Law

Specialist Traffic Law Firm Queensland
Wednesday, 19 July 2023 12:33

Disqualification vs Suspension, what is the difference in Queensland?

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You may hear friends, family or the general public use the terms disqualified and suspended interchangeably when referring to their driver licence. For the most part, the underlying principle is the same – a person’s authority to drive a motor vehicle has been taken away from the person. This definition for everyday use is completely serviceable. However, there are some key differences which need to be understood as they are at law, two different concepts.

  1. Suspended. When a person’s licence has been suspended, that means that their authority to drive a vehicle has been temporarily withdrawn. This can occur for any number of reasons, most commonly:
    1. due to the non-payment of a debt owed to the State Penalty Enforcement Registry (SPER);
    2. due to the accumulation of demerit points (including, where you have elected a good driving behaviour period and accumulated an additional 2 points within the 12-month period);
    3. due to committing a High-Speed offence (travelling in excess of 40km/h over the speed limit);
    4. due to returning a positive roadside reading over the middle alcohol limit and above (or being charged Under the Influence of Drugs), also called a section 79B suspension; or
    5. a combination of any off the above.


The salient feature of a suspension, is that regardless of the duration of the suspension, provided your licence has not expired naturally during that time, your licence will return to a valid status at the end of the period.


  1. Disqualified. A disqualified licence, in contrast to a suspension is the ‘permanent’ (meaning the licence does not automatically come back at the end of the period of disqualification) withdrawal of a person’s authority to hold or obtain a driver licence. The only way in which a person can be disqualified, is by an order of the court. The most common ways in which this occurs:
    1. committing a drink or drug driving offence (we have written extensively on these subjects here);
    2. driving whilst unlicensed, including if you are suspended by SPER or because of demerit points;
    3. driving whilst unlicenced due to being suspended due to section 79B;
    4. driving whilst disqualified by Court order;
    5. committing a racing offence (including unauthorised speed trials);
    6. careless driving where the driver was unlicensed and/or caused grievous bodily harm or death;
    7. committing Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle offences;
    8. if the Court is satisfied that a persons offending included the use of a vehicle, the Court can disqualify a person from holding a licence; or
    9. a combination of the above.


The Court for certain offences must disqualify a person from holding or obtaining a licence. There are mandatory minimum for most offences and for some, the maximum period can be for life. (Note there are avenues in which a person can apply to have some or all of a disqualification over 2 years set aside). When multiple offences occur, the law can dictate that some disqualifications must be served cumulatively, meaning one after another.

When a disqualification ends, a person’s licence does not automatically return to a valid status. The licence is “dead and buried” for lack of a better term, in fact it is an offence to retain a driver licence that has been disqualified.

A person is required to re-attend the Department of Transport and Main Roads to re-apply for their driver licence. Provided it has not been for an excess of 5 years, your licence will return more or less to the status it was on disqualification.  

A licence can be disqualified and suspended at the same time, usually a suspension will run at the same time as a disqualification, from the date the disqualification is given.

For example, a person is suspended from driving for 3 months due to the accumulation of demerit points. During this period of time, they are caught and subsequently plea guilty to the offence of driving unlicenced whilst demerit point suspended. If on the day they plea guilty there is 2 months remaining on the suspension, the remaining 2 months will run at the same time as the new disqualification period of 6 months.


Suspension Disqualification

Temporary removal of authority to drive

‘Permanent’ removal of authority to hold or obtain a licence

Triggered by TMR, SPER or QPS

Triggered by the Courts on the finding or plea of Guilty for certain offences

Automatic return of licence at the end of the suspension period

Commences from the date of disqualification and is not backdated to the date of the offence


Licence does not automatically return at the end of the period.


The two concepts are importantly distinguished, as the consequences of driving whilst disqualified are dramatically increased over driving whilst suspended at law. In terms of administrative actions at the end of each, its important to note that if you are suspended your licence automatically returns whereas if you are disqualified you need to reapply for a licence.



This article is not designed to explain all the ways in which a person might find themselves disqualified or suspended but is here to be a simple guide as to the difference between the terms and why it is important. If you are charged with an offence that has arisen due to a suspension, or if you have committed a traffic offence and are likely to be disqualified then contacting a traffic lawyer to get advice is certainly advisable to assist you in understanding your rights, and assisting you in obtaining a better outcome in court.


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

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We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide information to assist you, if you want to engage us then great, if not then you at least have more information about your charge. You won’t be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a trafficg charge will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  

Last modified on Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:03
Jack Marshall

Jack is a former soldier and now a traffic lawyer with Clarity Law.  Jack appears in courts throughout South East Queensland.

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