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Difference between licence suspension and cancellation in relation to demerits

Information about the difference between a licence cancellation, suspension and disqualification.

The court always has discretion to suspend or cancel all driver licences or permits that the driver has if that driver is found guilty or convicted of an offence under the Road Safety Act 1986 or of any offence that is connected with driving a vehicle.

See s. 28—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Licence suspension

A licence suspension will usually be imposed when:

  • someone pays a fine for an excessive speed offence (mandatory suspension)
  • a driver has lost all of their available demerit points
  • police have issued a notice of immediate suspension pending a court hearing for a drink or drug driving offence
  • Director of Fines Victoria directs VicRoads to do this if the person has defaulted on fine payment
  • a person is found guilty of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle, or
  • a magistrate uses their discretion to suspend a licence for a driving related offence.

When someone’s licence is suspended, they are prohibited from driving for a particular period of time. After this time has passed, that person's licence is again valid and can be used.

If the suspension arises from a loss of demerit points or for an excessive speed offence, VicRoads will notify driver that their licence is suspended until a particular date. The driver will be asked to return their licence to VicRoads for the duration of the suspension period. The licence will be returned to the driver when the suspension period ends.

See ss. 24, 28, 42, 89D—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 89—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Fine for not handing in a licence

A driver can be fined if they do not return their licence (currently 3 penalty units or 1 penalty unit if issued as in infringement), however this is rarely imposed.

See r. 83—Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s 85N Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Multiple suspensions

A suspension for loss of all available demerit points will be imposed in addition to a suspension period that has been imposed by a court. The suspensions will need to be served cumulatively, that is one after the other. This means that when the court suspension period ends, the driver will then have to serve the suspension period of the loss of demerit points.

See s. 44—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Immediate suspension

Where a licence suspension happens because a person has been served with an 'immediate suspension notice', the licence will be returned if the driver is found not guilty of the offence.

If a person is found guilty of the offence that led to the immediate licence suspension, their licence will be cancelled.

Any suspension period already served will be counted as part of any cancellation period imposed by a court.

See s. 85P—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and What is immediate licence suspension?

Licence cancellation

If a licence is cancelled it ceases to exist. If someone’s licence is cancelled, they are not allowed to apply for another licence for a specific period. After this period of disqualification has expired, the person must re-apply for their licence or permit if they want to drive again.

There may be extra things that a person must do if they want to re-apply for their licence.

For example, if a licence is cancelled for a drink or drug driving offence, the driver must attend a Behaviour Change Program and may also be required to complete an assessment for drug or alcohol problems.

If a driver licence is cancelled, the driver usually has to apply to VicRoads for their licence to be re-issued. All people who have their licence cancelled for a drink driving offence can only be re-issued with a licence that is subject to an alcohol interlock device being fitted to person's car. All licences are cancelled for offences that happen after 29 April 2018.

From 1 December 2019 a driver will not be issued with a licence until they can demonstrate that they have had an interlock device fitted to their vehicle.

See ss. 28B, 31KA, 50AAA—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Removing an interlock device.

Disqualified or cancelled?

Usually both will apply. If the driver has a licence or permit when they are caught drink driving their licence will be cancelled and they will be disqualified from driving for the period ordered.

If the driver is not licensed there will be no need to cancel their licence, but they will be disqualified from driving. They will also be prohibited from applying for a licence and from driving until they serve the disqualification period.

If a court disqualifies a person from driving but does not expressly cancel their licence or permit, any licence or permit they have is cancelled nonetheless.

See s. 28(4)—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Appeals

A driver may lodge an appeal in the County Court if their licence is disqualified, cancelled, suspended or varied by an order of a Magistrates or Children's Court.

See s. 29—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)

  • s. 24—VicRoads power to cancel or suspend licences
  • s. 35—demerit points procedure
  • s. 28(1)(a)—sets down mandatory minimum periods for loss of licence for excessive speed offences
  • s. 28—court has discretion to suspend or cancel a driver licence if a person is found guilty or convicted of an offence
  • s. 28(4)—if court disqualifies a driver but does not expressly cancel any licence or permit, these are still cancelled
  • s. 28B—disqualified person must not apply for licence or permit
  • s. 29—appeal against a disqualification, cancellation, suspension or variation of a licence or permit
  • s. 31KA—administrative scheme for imposing an alcohol interlock condition
  • s. 42—suspension of driver licence or learner permit for accrual of demerit points
  • s. 50—court power to cancel driver licence where driver found guilty of drink-driving offence
  • s. 50 (1A)—circumstances where person must have licence cancelled for drink-driving offence
  • s. 50(1B)—refusal and driving under influence offences list the mandatory licence cancellation period
  • s. 50AAA—direction to impose an interlock condition
  • s. 85—immediate suspension of driver licence in certain circumstances
  • s. 89A—effect of drink-driving infringements, drug driving infringements and excessive speed infringements
  • s. 89D—suspension of licence or permit for excessive speed infringement or drug driving infringement

See Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)

  • s. 89—sanctions that may be imposed on a fine defaulter

See Fines Reform Act 12014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Road Safety (Driver) Regulations 2019 (Vic)

  • r. 83—offence and penalty for failing to return a licence or permit if licence suspended or cancelled

See Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019 (Vic).

Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic)

  • item 106—Schedule 7—(fines that can be dealt with as traffic infringements)

See Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic).

Updated