Demerit Points and Loss of Licence: How does it all work?
Many people we talk to seem to misunderstand how the demerit points process works. They seem to think that you are given demerit points and that you lose them as you commit offences.
In fact, it works the other way around. You start off with no demerit points and if you commit driving/traffic offences, demerit points get added to your driving record each time.
If you hold a full driver’s licence (not a learner’s permit or a probationary or provisional licence) and you get 12 or more demerit points against your driving records within any 3 year period, up to and including the date of the most recent offence for which you were given demerit points, you are then at risk of being disqualified from driving for a period of time – your licence will be cancelled BUT there are things you can do about that as explained below.
(NOTE: If you hold a learner’s permit or a provision licence, you will face disqualification from driving once you incur 4 or more demerit points and for a probationary licence, it is 2 or more points)
You will get a warning: Once you have incurred half or more of the number of demerit points that will make you liable for licence disqualification, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will send you a written notice (posted to your last known address) warning you of this.
If you have incurred enough demerit points within a 3 year period to make you liable to disqualification from driving, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will post you a notice telling you that as of a certain date, you will be disqualified from driving for a certain period of time.
**The following information in this post applies to a holder of a FULL driver’s licence only – different conditions apply to other types of licence holders (eg learners permits, probationary or provisional licences).
How long will you be disqualified from driving?
If you incur 12 or more demerit points within any 3 year period, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will disqualify you from driving for:
- 3 months – if you have incurred 12 to 15 demerit points within 3 years
- 4 months – if you have incurred 16 to 19 demerit points within 3 years
- 5 months – if you have incurred 20 or more demerit points within 3 years.
What can you do if your driver’s licence if important to you?
First and foremost CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING!
It works like this: If you receive an expiation notice (on-the-spot fine notice), informing that you have committed a driving offence which will incur demerit points AS SOON AS YOU PAY THE FINE required by that expiation notice YOU WILL INCUR THOSE DEMERIT POINTS against your driving record.
There is no way to then have the number of points you get for that offence reduced and there is no right to appeal against the licence disqualification.
By paying the fine, you lose the opportunity to go to Court and ask the Court to reduce the number of demerit points you incur for that offence. If the points you will incur by paying this fine will take you to 12 or more within 3 years, a reduction to the number of points you are given for that last offence may be enough to prevent you reaching 12 points.
How can you get a reduction to the points you are given for an offence?
The circumstances in which the court will reduce the number of points you get are quite limited and they don’t do it very often, but it may be worth your while getting legal advice before paying the fine to see if your circumstances might qualify you for a reduction in points for the offence. (See later in this post for “When might the demerit points be reduced by the Court?”)
If there is no likelihood of you getting the number of points for that offence reduced then once you pay the fine, if the points you get for that offence take you to 12 or more points within a 3 year period, it will only be a matter of time before you get a notice from the Registrar telling you that your licence will be disqualified as of a certain date.
There is still a “Good Behaviour” option open to you though which will allow you to continue to drive.
The notice from the Registrar will inform you of this option which works like this.
You can elect to continue to drive but with a condition on your licence that you must be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months. That 12 months begins on the day on which your licence disqualification would have commenced if you hadn’t taken this good behaviour option.
During that 12 months on which you are driving with the good behaviour condition on your licence, if you incur 2 or more demerit points during that 12 months you will then be disqualified from driving for double the period you would otherwise have been disqualified.
It is worth noting that of the 286 or so driving/traffic offences which have demerit points attached to them, only 6 of them incur 1 point. The rest of them give you 2 or more points for each offence.
When might the demerit points be reduced by the Court?
A Magistrate does have the power to reduce the number of demerit points (providing you haven’t already paid the fine and you elect to take the matter to court instead) BUT he or she must be satisfied by evidence given on oath that:
- The offence is trifling; or
- Any other proper cause exists.
“Trifling” means of slight importance or insignificant. So it won’t apply to just the normal circumstances in which that type of offending usually occurs. It is only very limited circumstances in which the court will find that the offending was trifling.
“Any other proper cause” does not include the fact that you will lose your job if you lose your licence. The cause must be one that is associated with the circumstances of the offending, not the circumstances of the person who offended.
To be a “proper cause” it must be something relating to the offending that makes the offending something less than the more serious, or even the typical circumstances of such offending.
So really the circumstances of the offending would need to be special in that although they are not trifling circumstances, they are sufficiently different to the usual circumstances of that type of offending as to warrant a merciful reduction in points.
Notwithstanding the seemingly bleak prospects of making out a case for the reduction of points, it has been my experience that Magistrates do regularly reduce demerit points if the circumstances of the offending person permit.
Taking into account all of the above, if your employment is dependent upon you having a driver’s licence and you are not confident that you could drive without incurring any more than 1 demerit point for 12 months, then it might be worth trying for a reduction of the points you get for that final offence.
Remember though: Don’t pay the fine if you are thinking of doing this. See a lawyer first before the date for paying the fine falls due.
CAUTION: This article contains general information of public interest only and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon as, legal advice specific to the reader’s personal circumstances. Should you have a legal matter, please seek professional advice before acting or relying on this content.