Police have suspended my licence, what can I do?
You’ve received a notice from Police that your licence is going to be suspended immediately. What are your options?
If you are in this position, you may be able to lodge an appeal against your suspension and have it heard in the Local Court.
Why have they suspended me?
If you have been charged with certain serious driving offences, police have the power to immediately suspend and confiscate your licence.
Police can suspend your licence and give you a notice to attend Court if you are charged with one of the following offences:
- Driving under the influence of drugs;
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, or with a certain level of alcohol in your system;
- Serious driving offences that cause death or grievous bodily harm; and
- Learner drivers driving unaccompanied.
Police can suspend your licence and give you an on the spot fine, by way of a penalty notice, if you are charged with one of the following offences (as a first offence):
- Driving with a low range concentration of alcohol, if you are a full licence driver;
- A ‘novice range’ drink driving offence if you hold a learner or provisional licence;
- A ‘special range’ drink driving offence if you hold a special category licence, for example as a taxi or bus driver;
- If you are charged with driving with an illicit drug present in your system; or
- If you are caught speeding over 30km/h above the speed limit.
If you have received a suspension by police, this suspension will usually continue until your charge is heard by a Court or if a suspension period is specified, until you have served the suspension. Any time spent off the road can be taken into account if you are convicted and suspended/disqualified in Court.
How do I appeal a police suspension?
You do have the right to appeal a licence suspension imposed by police at a Local Court. If you choose to appeal, you must file your appeal within 28 days of receiving your notice of suspension. You can file your appeal in one of two ways:
- By lodging the appeal online at onlineregistry.lawlink.nsw.gov.au; or
- In person at any NSW Local Court.
There is a filing fee payable to the court for lodging the appeal. As at October 2020, the fee is $98.
Going to court:
Once you have lodged your appeal, you will get a Court date. This date is when you will attend Court and your appeal will be heard by a Magistrate.
If you agree you committed the offence specified on the penalty notice, you can still appeal the suspension imposed by police.
However, the Magistrate cannot allow your appeal unless you demonstrate that there are “exceptional circumstances” that justify doing so. This must be something extraordinary, that distinguishes your case from an ordinary case. This may be satisfied by one single factor or a combination of factors.
Courts have held that alone, inconvenience, loss of employment and difficulty accessing public transport are not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of exceptional circumstances. Further, the Magistrate cannot consider the circumstances in which the offence was committed.
The law that applies to Police licence suspensions is different to that which applies to Transport for NSW suspensions (formerly the RMS). It is important to note who has issued the suspension notice. For example, if you drove 30km/h over the speed limit and were issued a Police suspension notice (as opposed to getting a letter from Transport for NSW), you would need to show exceptional circumstances (see our article on 14 October).
What can happen at court?
After hearing your case, the Magistrate may:
- Allow your appeal: if the court allows your appeal, you will be able to start driving immediately;
- Vary the period of suspension: the court has the discretion to vary the period of suspension as they see fit; or
- Dismiss your appeal: this means you will have to continue to serve the original suspension.
It can be a difficult process to appeal a Police licence suspension and once your matter is heard in the Local Court, there is no further right of appeal if you are not happy with the result. Accordingly, it is best to get legal advice that is specific to your circumstances before you lodge an appeal.