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JUNE 2016

Avoiding Disqualifications

Where a limited or “work” licence may not be sufficient.

In the Autumn edition of our Law Report, we looked at how people who have been disqualified from driving can, in certain circumstances, apply to the District Court for issue of a limited or “work” licence. In this article, we will set out some other options that may be available if you find yourself facing a period of disqualification from the Court and need to keep driving.

Community work in lieu of disqualification

If you have previously been ordered to be disqualified from driving, the Court can in some cases order that you serve a community-based sentence such as community work instead of imposing a further period of disqualification.

This is commonly known as a “section 94” application pursuant to Section 94 of the Land Transport Act. While the power is primarily intended to help those people (who have built up large periods of disqualification) break free from the endless cycle of offending, it can in fact apply to anyone who has at least one previous Court-ordered disqualification, no matter how long ago. In either case, the Court must be satisfied that it is appropriate in the circumstances to extend the benefit of this provision to the applicant.

A number of eligibility restrictions apply, and careful consideration must be given in each individual case as to whether it is appropriate to advance the application. While “section 94” applications are not granted on a routine basis, they can in certain circumstances provide a useful avenue for people who have previously been disqualified to continue driving, provided that it is safe and in the public interest for them to do so.

Special reasons to avoid disqualification

Certain traffic offences carry with them a mandatory minimum period of disqualification. For example, a first time contravention of the breath alcohol limit carries a mandatory minimum disqualification of 6 months.
The law recognises that in some situations, there can be special reasons in relation to an offence which do not amount to a defence to the charge, but nonetheless mean that the mandatory disqualification should not be imposed.

The range of matters that have been found to constitute “special reasons” is diverse, but classic examples include:

  • a sudden emergency that could not reasonably be dealt with other than by the person driving; or
  • for alcohol-related driving, where a person unknowingly consumes a stronger than expected drink and is subsequently found to be over the breath or blood alcohol limit.

If special reasons are found to be established, then the Court has the discretion to either impose a reduced period of disqualification or no disqualification at all.

How can we help?

We are able to advise you if either of these provisions are applicable to your case. While the final decision as to whether such applications are granted always rests with the Judge, we are able to expertly prepare supporting affidavits and legal submissions for the Court to ensure that you have the best prospect of success.