Let’s be honest, a lot of people forget to pay their fines. Whether it’s a parking ticket, speeding ticket/traffic infringement etc. People forget.
You get a notice that your fine has been referred to SPER. It doesn’t seem like a big thing at the time, it’s a little fine, “she’ll be right”. SPER send you a letter with a nice little administrative fee attached to your current fine and date for payment. Generally, you get a bit (a lot) annoyed at this point as your fine has gone up significantly.
However, you forget again. You are distracted because, well, life can get hectic. SPER send you another notice (they are good like that). This one states your licence will be suspended on a date they nominate within the letter. You forget to pay again.
Next thing you know, you are then driving on the road, minding your own business when you get pulled over or stopped for a random breath test or licence/rego check. The police run a check – BINGO your licence is suspended due to an unpaid SPER debt. You are issued with an infringement notice and summons to appear in Court. What!! you say. Court! You only forgot to pay the fine, why do you need to go to Court?
This is the part that people don’t understand. When your licence is suspended by SPER you cannot legally drive. If you are caught driving unlicensed (SPER suspended) the charge will be for unlicensed driving. It is not simply a matter of paying the SPER amount. You are required to appear in Court and will be issued with a summons to appear.
Prior to Court, you may need to seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer. There may be a defence available to you, including but not limited to duress, necessity or insanity. However, again, you will need to see a criminal lawyer to see if your circumstances meet the criteria for a defence.
Moved house so you didn’t get the SPER notices? That old chestnut is a big reason people try to defend the charge, however, it is not a defence. The law provides that if you hold a driver’s licence, you are required to notify Transport and Main Roads of a change to your address within 14 days. Penalties may apply if you fail to do so. So, unless all the notices went out within those 14 days (which is unlikely given they send so many) you are out of luck! Also, be careful if you use this chestnut as an excuse as you may attract a penalty for failure to update your address
Fine and court appearance
If you do not have a defence, the biggest shock to people who have been charged with unlicensed driving is the mandatory MINIMUM 1-month loss of licence. Yes, you read that correctly. Driving while having a licence suspended by SPER carries a mandatory minimum of 1-month loss of licence and the licence suspension can be up to six months! The maximum fine under this charge is currently $4400.00 or imprisoned for up to 1 year.
The law provides that you cannot apply for a work licence during this time. In limited circumstances, the Court may agree to hear submissions for a hardship application. Again, you should see a criminal lawyer as these are very difficult to achieve.
After your licence suspension
After you have done your “time” you will need to apply to get your licence back. If you contact the Queensland Department of Main Roads unless you have been warned you may be in for a shock!
If you were disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver licence by a Court and you have now served the period of disqualification, despite the fact that you were on an open licence, you will be issued with a probationary licence. A probationary licence means;
- hold the probationary licence for at least 1 year;
- carry your licence always when driving
- have a zero blood alcohol concentration when driving.
If at the time you committed the offence that resulted in the disqualification you were under 25, you will also be subject to a late night driving restriction.
SPER has a wide range of powers, if you don’t pay an enforcement order, while this article has been focused on licence suspension, actions against you can include;
- direct your employer or financial institution to deduct funds from your pay or bank account
- register an interest over your property
- immobilise your vehicle
- seize and sell your property
- If you dispute the enforcement order/infringement notice and the associated fine, you need to contact the relevant agency or court that issued the fine. SPER cannot make the decision to waive a fine issued by an agency or an order issued by a court. SPER is an agent, they are enforcing, not reviewing the circumstances of your matter;
- Pay the fine, or contact SPER to discuss payment arrangements https://www.sper.qld.gov.au/payment-options/paying-by-instalments.php;
- Diarise people! Life is busy, but unfortunately, this is not an excuse. Put it in your diary and as a reminder in your phone to remind you to pay!
- Keep your address up to date with the Department of Main Roads at all times;
- If you believe that your licence may be suspended by SPER, don’t drive and contact them immediately; and
- If you believe that you have a defence, get legal advice early!
the information contained within this article is for infomration purposes. You should seek legal advice specific to your circumstances, where you have a SPER fine.