Two women, each driving her own car on separate roads were each apprehended by the Queensland police and issued an infringement notice for speeding. Their licenses were disqualified and during the period of disqualification they were both caught speeding again. This time, they were driving without a license.
At the Magistrate’s Court, both pleaded guilty. One was sentenced to a further one-year license disqualification and to pay a good behaviour bond. The other was sentenced to license disqualification for six months only. Both appealed this common point of law and their appeal was decided together: was the license disqualification for one year an excessive penalty?
The Magistrate sentenced both the women to license disqualification under section 78 (1) and (3) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act. Under this statute, driving without a license is prohibited. When a license has been suspended because of demerit points and the driver still operates a motor vehicle, she will be guilty of driving without a license. In the same way, if the motorist’s driver’s license had already been suspended because of demerit points, then she would also be considered driving without a licence if she operates a motor vehicle during the period of her suspension.
In one motorist’s case, she drove her car over the speed limit while her licence was suspended because of a previous speeding violation. In the other case, the motorist from another state drove on Queensland roads even when her driver’s license was suspended due to demerit points in her state of residency. In both these cases, the Magistrate correctly convicted them and sentenced them to license disqualification. The Magistrate did not impose penalty points or imprisonment and simply imposed the penalty of licence disqualification.
The maximum sentence for driving without a license is 40 penalty units or 1 year imprisonment. The Magistrate considered that both pleaded guilty and so both the motorists were expecting to be absolutely discharged especially since neither was sentenced to penalty points or imprisonment.
Both these motorists appealed the sentence of licence disqualification imposed by the Magistrate. Both of them assert that since there was no other penalty imposed upon them, the license disqualification (of 1 year for one motorist and 6 months for the other motorist) was improper and excessive.
The question of law that both motorists raised on appeal was whether or not the Magistrate was bound to penalise them with disqualification if she did not penalise them with a fine or imprisonment.
On appeal, the District Court ruled that absolute discharge of the motorists was not warranted even if they pleaded guilty. Speeding is a serious traffic violation and speeding while driving without a licence is an even more serious traffic violation.
A driver’s disqualification may not be ordered by the Magistrate if the accused is discharged and there is no other penalty imposed. Here, although the Magistrate did not impose the maximum penalty of imprisonment or fine, the motorists still pleaded guilty – they could not be discharged absolutely. Thus, the penalty of licence disqualification was proper.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.