Driving Unlicensed

It is an offence in Victoria to drive or otherwise operate a motor vehicle without a valid licence.[1] Known as ‘Driving Unlicensed’, the offence means that you have driven a vehicle without a valid licence or are exempt from holding a licence.

You may be charged with driving unlicensed if you are alleged to have:

  1. Driven a motor vehicle without a valid licence, as issued by a State authority (e.g. VicRoads);
  2. Driven a motor vehicle with an expired licence;
  3. Driven a motor vehicle, but have had your existing licence disqualified, suspended or cancelled.[2]

You can also be charged with driving unlicensed if you hold a valid interstate licence and have lived or resided in Victoria for more than three months but have failed to convert your licence to a Victorian licence.

Elements of the offence

Driving Unlicensed is a strict liability offence, meaning that the Police only need to establish that you drove a motor vehicle unlicensed, not that you also had the intention to commit the offence. This means that the Police need only establish that you:

  1. Drove;
  2. A motor vehicle on a road or highway; and
  3. You did not hold a valid licence.[3]

‘Motor Vehicle’ means a vehicle intended to be driven on a road or road-related area (footpath or nature strip),[4] built to be propelled by motor.[5] The definition excludes a train and motorised wheelchair that is not capable of speeds of more than 10kph.[6] ‘Drove’ means to be in control of a vehicle, which can include steering whilst being towed by another vehicle.[7]

Possible Penalties for Driving Unlicensed

The maximum penalty, if you are found guilty of driving unlicensed, is a period of imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine.[8]

If you held a valid licence in another state before the commission of the offence, the maximum penalty is a period of imprisonment of up to 1 month or a fine.[9]

If you would have had an order for an alcohol interlock device order (as made by a Court) attached to your licence, but drove whilst unlicensed, the maximum penalty is a period of imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine.[10]

If you are found guilty, a judge will take a range of circumstances into account when making any sentencing determination, including whether this is your first or subsequent traffic offence.

Defences Available

If you have been charged with driving unlicensed, you have defences available to you. Firstly, you can argue that you held an honest and reasonable belief that you held a valid licence when you were alleged to have driven unlicensed. Secondly, if you did not actually ‘drive’ a vehicle and were not in control of the vehicle at the time, you will have a defence to your charge.

It will also be a defence if you did not operate a ‘motor vehicle’ including if you drove a motorised wheelchair, rather than a motor vehicle. You will also have the defence of sudden and extraordinary emergency available to you.

You may also have a defence of reasonable mistake or a factual dispute relating to the charge.

We suggest that you should contact an experienced legal practitioner as soon as possible if you are to be interviewed in relation to these offences so that you can be provided with appropriate advice based on the circumstances relevant to your matter.

[1] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18(1)(a).
[2] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18.
[3] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18(1)(a).
[4] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3(1).
[5] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3(1).
[6] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3(1)(a)(b).
[7] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) ss 3, 3AB.
[8] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18(1A).
[9] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18(2)
[10] Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 18(3).

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