Special hardship licences or hardship licences are an option the Queensland Magistrates courts have to allow a person to continue to drive even though their licence will be suspended by Queensland Transport. Though it is similar to a work licence it is actually a separate type of application.
A special hardship licence or special hardship order is a licence issued when you exceed 2 demerit points on a good driving behaviour period or have exceeded the speed limit by more than 40 km/h (high speed suspension). It is also known as a hardship licence, SHO, demerit point licence, good driving behaviour licence or special hardship order.
If you accumulate too many demerit points, Queensland Transport will write to you giving you the choice of a licence suspension (usually 3 months) or a 12 month good behaviour driving period where you have 1 demerit point for 12 months. If you choose the suspension or do not reply to this letter, then you have no appeal and cannot get a hardship licence.
If you opt for a good behaviour driving period and lose two or more demerit points during that period, in certain circumstances you can apply to a Magistrates Court for a special hardship order to enable you to drive for particular purposes only. The grounds for applying are:
- that losing your licence will result in extreme hardship to you or your family by depriving you of the means of earning a living; or
- that losing your licence will cause you or your family severe or unusual hardship
Where you have exceeded the speed limit by more than 40 km/h (high speed suspension) then once that offence is finalised (generally when the speeding ticket is paid) Queensland Transport will send a letter with a date your licence will be suspended for 6 months and it is at this point you may be apply for a special hardship licence.
Can I apply?
If you have had your licence disqualified by a court in the last five years you are not eligible to apply for a special hardship licence. In most cases, if your licence has been suspended by Queensland Transport in the last five years you will also not be able to apply for a special hardship licence unless that suspension related to an unpaid SPER debt. You must also hold an open or provisional Queensland drivers’ licence to apply for a hardship licence.
If you are granted a special hardship order you can only drive in accordance with the conditions in the special hardship order. Generally, the licence conditions will specify you may drive for work purposes and/or certain defined occasion’s e.g. taking someone to hospital on a regular basis to receive treatment or taking children to school where there is no public transport options at all.
A special hardship licence is only available where you have exceeded the demerit points on a good driver behaviour period or have exceeded 40 km/h. You cannot get a special hardship licence because;
- the court has already disqualified you but you need to drive
- you have been convicted of a drink driving offence and need a licence (see work licence application)
- you are on a learners licence but need to drive to work without someone else in the car to supervise
- you don’t have a licence or are on a learners licence but need to drive
Queensland Transport also lists the requirements for a special hardship licence on their website.
Where and when can I apply?
There is no time limit for applying for a special hardship licence. The application for the special hardship licence however must be undertaken in the Magistrate’s court nearest to where you live. Once you have filed your application and supporting documents you will be given a court date and you can drive as you like up until midnight before that Court date. You will need to contact your local court to check that it has jurisdiction to hear your application, just because the court is close to you doesn’t mean it necessarily is the correct court. The Government has a list of courthouses and their contact details.
What’s the difference between a special hardship order, restricted licence, demerit point licence or hardship licence?
Nothing, they are all terms used by people to describe the same thing. The terms restricted licence, demerit point licence, high speed licence or day lcicence are quite commonly used by the general public. In the court lawyers, the Queensland Transport prosecutor and the Magistrates generally use the terms special hardship order or “SHO”. People also quite often refer to the process as a "work licence application" however this is not correct as a work licence is only for drink or drug drivers.
Will I get a special hardship licence?
Special hardship licences have become more common as the amount of speed cameras and other police enforcement on Queensland roads have increased. The courts have recently begun cracking down on the issue of special hardship licences; it is no longer as easy to get a special hardship licence as it once was however with the use of proper material and submissions to the Court we can maximise your chance of getting a hardship licence and indeed our success rate is over 99%.
Any application for a special hardship licence will require detailed affidavits from yourself and if applicable, your employer, you cannot simply lodge letters from yourself or your employer. The court must be satisfied that you will lose your means of earning your income or there is some other issue that without a licence will cause you to suffer a severe or unusual hardship The hardship cannot be a mere inconvenience or difficulty, it must be a extreme, severe or unusual hardship. The court will need to be convinced no public or alternative transport is available to you.
The application is heard before a Magistrate who will decide whether you get the special hardship licence based on your affidavit material and what you say in the court.
What needs to be filed with the court?
You must file in court and serve on Queensland Transport the following;
- Your affidavit
- Your employer’s affidavit (if you are an employee)
- A special hardship application form
What needs to be in my affidavit?
Your affidavit is the key document the court will look at, if its wrong, if it doesn’t contain all the information necessary or if its poorly written then the court will not grant the application for a special hardship order.
The affidavit must contain enough information to convince the court you are a fit and proper person to be granted a hardship licence and the reasons if the application is not granted that you will suffer extreme hardship.
It is almost impossible for a non lawyer to get the affidavits right but your affidavit would have to contain at least the following:
Name, age, address, who you live with
Details of your employment or business like
How long you have work with your employer/business
What your work consists of
What driving you do for work
What days/hours you work
Why you need a hardship licence
What will happen without the licence
Why no other options such as taxis are appropriate
You and your family’s finances including:
If you are wanting to drive for non-work reasons full details of this and why the court should grant it
Remember it needs to be an affidavit, a statutory declaration or letter are not good enough. The affidavit must be signed by you before a lawyers or Justice of the Peace.
The biggest reason people fail in being granted a special hardship licence is their affidavit isn’t good enough.
What factors does the court look in deciding whether to grant the hardship licence?
In order to be granted a special hardship license the court must consider;
- If you are a fit and proper person to continue to drive, having regard to your traffic history and the safety of other road users and the public generally; and
- If the application is refused it would cause you;
- extreme hardship to you or your family by depriving you of your means of earning a living; or
- severe and unusual hardship to you or your family, other than by depriving you of your means of earning a living
In essence the court looks at you, your traffic history and your reasons for needing the hardship order. Remember the test is extreme hardship or severe and unusual hardship so things like dropping children at school or driving elderly relatives to medical appointments or shopping can be very hard to convince a Magistrate to grant.
What can I do to improve my chances of getting a hardship licence?
You need to have a properly drafted affidavit that covers everything the court needs to know. If this is done right you have a good chance of being granted the licence. Its impossible to stress how important the affidavit is this is why engaging an experienced traffic law firm is so important.
You should also complete a driving course such at Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (“QTOP”). This course is often the factor that sways a Magistrate into granting the application. We are proud to be a sponsor of QTOP.
Does my employer have to know about my application?
If you are not a contractor or self employed but are employed then your employer must sign an affidavit confirming you will be deprived of your income if the application isn’t granted, So yes if employed you employer will need to know about the application.
Will the court allow me to just drive as normal during a special hardship order
No, the court will specify when you can drive and for what purposes. The legislation does allow the court to allow you to drive for both work and certain personal reasons. It is generally hard to convince the court to allow you any personal driving under the order.
I’m self employed or own the business can I apply for a hardship licence?
Yes, you can.
What will happen in court?
You should arrive at court no less than 30 minutes before your court time. You should have filed and served all your material well prior to your court date.
Find out which court you are in and wait outside that court.
Eventually a Queensland Transport Prosecutor should arrive you should then go and speak to them and confirm who you are and that you are applying for a special hardship licence. Please make sure they have all your affidavits.
They will indicate whether or not they oppose the application and if they do why. If they do oppose the application you should ask if there is any course or other things you can do so they will not object.
The court will start when the Magistrate enters, please stand whenever the depositions clerk calls ‘all rise’ and then wait for the Magistrate to sit down before sitting yourself.
Wait for your matter to be called and then approach the table where the Prosecutor is. You will stand to the far left of the table. Remain standing while the Magistrate asks what you are doing. Tell the Magistrate that you are applying for a special hardship licence.Please address the Magistrate as “Your Honour”. The Magistrate will then ask you to sit.
The Prosecutor will tell the court their position on the application
Once the Prosecutor finishes the Magistrate will read the affidavits and then ask you questions and give you a chance to explain why the application should be granted.
The court may restrict the hours and circumstances in which you can drive. Generally unless there is a very good reason the court will not grant you a 24 hr / 7 day licence. The court can only grant you a special hardship licence for the licence classes you already hold.
The court will be looking to impose one or more of the following conditions;
- Restricting the days and hours you can drive
- Restricting whether you can carry passengers
- Requiring you to complete a logbook
- Requiring you to wear your work uniform when driving
If the hardship licence is granted what happens next?
If you are granted the licence then before you can drive again then you need to go to Queensland Transport and have your licence re-issued as a special hardship Licence. Also unless you are returning to work or driving for work purposes from Queensland Transport then you would need a lift home as your Licence would not cover for the trip between Queensland Transport and your home but it would cover you to drive from Queensland Transport back to work.
You must also comply with the requirements of any court order in relation to your licence, this may be the requirement to complete a logbook or similar. Also throughout the period of the special hardship Licence you must keep a copy of the court order in any motor vehicle you drive.
What happens if the court doesn’t grant the hardship licence?
The courts have recently decided that you cannot appeal against a decision not to grant a special hardship licence. This may change as the appeal courts look at other cases and therefore you will need to get legal advice on this. Its just better to do the application correctly so the Magistrate doesn’t refuse it.
How many demerit points do I have on a hardship licence?
None. If you incur demerit points on a special hardship licence then you will lose your driver’s licence for double the period of the initial suspension.
Can I vary the hardship licence after it is granted?
Yes if your circumstances change you can apply to the court to vary your current order.
What happens if I’m caught driving outside the terms of the hardship licence?
You will lose your special hardship licence for what ever time is left on it plus you will be disqualified for another 3 months. You will also need to attend the court and likely be fined as well.
What happens when the hardship licence ends?
When the SHO period has ended, you may return to Queensland Transport to have your licence reissued (at no charge) without the ‘X3’ condition code. We have received conflicting advice from Queensland Transport in regards to what happens to your demerit points incurred before the SHO was granted and that are still “on your record”, our understanding is that you will have no demerit points after the SHO finishes but you should check this when getting your licence back after the SHO finishes. If there is a high speed offence then the 8 demerit points remain for 3 years,
Do I really need a lawyer?
Should you engage a traffic lawyer to represent you? In a word yes. Although you are free to represent yourself we have found that unrepresented people are often not granted the application because their paperwork is defective or does not adequately cover all the requirements of the legislation. Remember you get one shot at this, you cannot reapply if you are refused. Our experience is that less than 50% of unrepresented people are granted a special hardship licence.
Common problems we have seen with people acting for themselves in seeking a special hardship order include;
- Failing to have the court grant the licence for all hours you work
- Failing to have the court grant the licence for all days you work
- Failing to take into account the time you have to leave for work in the morning or return after work
- Failing to have the licence issued for all the vehicle types you need to drive
- Failing to have the order allow you to carry passengers
- Failing to specify other occasions when you may be able to drive
- Failing to address before the court a bad traffic history
- Lodging a letter from an employer rather than an affidavit
Remember if you are unsuccessful with your special hardship licence then you will not be able to drive at all for a minimum of 6 months.
Why engage Clarity Law and not another law firm?
We are Queensland’s leading traffic and driving law firm. We undertake special hardship applications every week throughout South East Queensland. We know the Magistrates and what it takes to be successful in an application. No other law firm in Queensland would have likely undertaken more special hardship applications than Clarity Law. We have made over 1,000 successful special hardship licence applications and no firm can match our experience level. We know what driving courses or workshops the Magistrate will want to see you attend and know how to put a person’s traffic history in the best light. We have acted for doctors, lawyers, tradies, students, business owners, professionals, nurses, school teachers in fact we have probably acted for every profession or trade in Queensland.
What courts do you appear in?
We appear in every Court in South East Queensland. Just some of the Court we appear in are;
- Beenleigh Magistrates Court
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Caloundra Magistrates Court
- Caboolture Magistrates Court
- Gympie Magistrates Court
- Holland park Magistrates Court
- Ipswich Magistrates Court
- Maroochydore Magistrates Court
- Noosa Magistrates Court
- Pine Rivers Magistrates Court
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Toowoomba Magistrates Court
- Wynnum Magistrates Court
For a full list of courts we appear in click here.
What do you charge?
We charge a fixed fee of $1,800 for all the work to get a special hardship including;
- Drafting all the necessary affidavits
- Advising you of any courses or workshops that will help your application
- Addressing any concerns that Queensland Transport may have with your application
- Keeping you informed as to what will happen with the application process
- Appearing with you at the court to argue for the special hardship licence to be granted
Will I need to come into the office to see you?
We have offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Strathpine, Loganholme and Ipswich but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office. We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.
If I contacted you what would occur?
If you contact us then Steven Brough the firm’s founder or our office manager Belinda Smyth will take the call or receive the email. They have 40 years legal experience between them, we can provide immediate legal assistance and answer any questions you have. We will discuss your case, provide guidance and send a quote by email with additional relevant information about your charge, all at no cost.
If you want to engage us then it’s easy, there is a form you can complete and email back or complete online. If you don’t want to engage us or want to engage another firm that’s fine, you won’t be hassled and at worst you will just have more information about your special hardship licence application. Once engaged one of our lawyers will go through your matter and contact you to discuss what the best way forward is to achieve the best results. Every one of our lawyers are very experienced with thousands of courts appearances between them.
How do I get more help or engage you to act for me?
We have been operating since 2010 and undertaken over 1,000 successful special hardship licence applications throughout South East Queensland.
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
- Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
- Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm
- Visit our main website page
We cover all courts in South East Queensland from the Gold Coast to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast and out to Toowoomba. We have 6 offices in South East Queensland to assist people. 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 special hardships. You will not be chased or hounded to engage us. Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, failing to get a special hardship licence or one that is too restrictive will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.
Need more information?
We have a range of articles on Special Hardship Orders on our blog. Some of the most recent have included:
This article general information only and not legal advice and is written subject to our disclaimer that can be read by clicking here