The impact of COVID-19 on your driver’s licence

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Doogue + GeorgeThe article The impact of COVID-19 on your driver’s licence is written by Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.

Doogue + George are experts in criminal law and have been involved in thousands of criminal matters and defended clients in hundreds of jury trials and thousands of other criminal cases. Our experienced lawyers have unparalleled experience in criminal law.

DrivingThere isn’t anything which hasn’t already been said to describe the wide-reaching impact the COVID-19 (‘coronavirus’) pandemic is having on people. It is interesting to see the anomalous affect coronavirus is having on people begin to emerge, which was not contemplated when state-wide restrictions were imposed. One such example is people who have been charged with a driving offence and have been served with a section 51(1A) notice by Police immediately suspending their driver’s licence pending their Court date.

What is a section 51(1A) notice?

The Police have the power to issue you with a notice under section 51(1A) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (‘the Road Safety Act’) immediately suspending your driver’s licence until your matter is heard by a Magistrate if you have been charged with certain driving offences. These offences include:

  • Exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit (a reading of 0.10% or more for a full licence holder),
  • Exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit (a reading of 0.07% or more for a learner or probationary licence holder),
  • Exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit and has been found guilty of a drink driving or drug driving offence in the previous 10 years, or
  • Drug driving.

The Road Safety Act prescribes the mandatory minimum disqualification period a Magistrate must impose for drink driving, drug driving, refusal and speeding offences. The Magistrate does not have discretion to disqualify your driver’s licence for less than the prescribed minimum, but they do have discretion to disqualify your driver’s licence for longer than the minimum. A Magistrate may exercise this discretion if there are aggravating features to your wrong-doing.

Court’s Response to Coronavirus

The Magistrates’ Court has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by triaging matters and prioritising in-custody matters and adjourning non-custody matters to a date towards the end of the year.

The problem this causes people with pending driving matters is it delays the finalisation of their matter. This causes stress for a lot of people, especially those who rely on their driver’s licence for work and have not dealt with the Courts before. Understandably, some people need to plan their employment around the disqualification period and fear that the Magistrate may further interfere with their driver’s licence once their matter eventually returns to Court. It is important to note that there are no exceptions that a Magistrate can put in place (such as for work purposes or hospital visits) so that you can continue to drive.

Since we are in a state of lock-down with restrictions on our movement and employment, it is worthwhile considering trying to have your matter listed before a Magistrate before the restrictions are lifted so you can serve your time off the road when you cannot drive anyway.

If you or someone you know falls into this category, please feel free to call our office on 9670 5111 to speak with one of our experienced lawyers to discuss your options. We have successfully listed driving matters before a Magistrate during this time.

Also, feel free to give us a call to discuss some things you can do before your Court date to get the best possible outcome.
Date Published: 29 May 2020

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