By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
The next time you duck out for a quick mercy dash to the shops, you may want to think twice about grabbing just your car keys and some cash before stepping into your vehicle.
It turns out that if you get pulled over by the police and you fail to produce your driver licence upon request while on the road, you’re actually breaking the law and could even be hit with an on-the-spot fine.
Driving without Carrying your Licence in NSW: What Happens if you get Caught?
The NSW Roads and Maritime Services has a clear standpoint on carrying your licence while driving a motor vehicle.
Put simply, you should think of your driver licence as a “contract”, or an agreement between you as a driver and the rest of society.
The Roads and Maritime Services and the NSW Police administer this contract on behalf of the people of NSW.
In NSW, a driver of a motor vehicle is not allowed to drive the vehicle without a driver licence on him/her at the time. This carries a maximum penalty of $2,200 fine if a court is to deal with the matter. This is outlined in rule 300-5 Road Rules 2014 (NSW).
However, as driving without having a driver licence on you at the time is a penalty notice offence, police will issue an on-the-spot fine of $114. No demerit points are attached to this offence.
A motorist who is issued with this can either pay the fine, in which case it puts an end to the case without attending court, or he/she may court-elect the penalty notice.
Upon court electing it, he/she will be required to attend court and either enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to the offence, in-front of a Magistrate.
If guilty to the offence, the Magistrate is given the power to impose a maximum penalty of $2,200. Alternatively, the Magistrate can also impose a non-conviction sentencing penalty if convinced.
A non-conviction sentence includes a section 10 dismissal or a Conditional Release Order without conviction. If after pleading ‘not guilty’, the court returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict, he/she will be acquitted putting an end to the case.
Click here for an outline on how you can prepare and appear yourself in court without a lawyer.
The Law on International or Interstate Visiting Drivers in NSW
If you are visiting NSW and wish to drive in NSW, you will be required to obtain and hold a current NSW driver licence if you fall in any one of the following circumstances:
- Where you hold an Australian driver licence (or NZ driver licence) issued from another state or territory, and you’ve resided in NSW for a continuous period of over 3 months (except if you hold a valid driver identification document issued by the Department of Defence of the Commonwealth); or
- Where you are from a foreign country (other than NZ) and you hold a permanent visa while having resided in NSW for at least a continuous period of 3 months since the visa was granted; or
- Where you are a visiting driver visiting NSW from a foreign country (other than NZ) and you are also an Australian citizen who has resided in NSW for at least a continuous period of 3 months.
Otherwise, if you fall in any of the above categories, but you have not resided in NSW for a continuous period of at least 3 months yet, you may continue driving in NSW with your interstate or current foreign driver licence or international driving permit under section 96 Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2017 (NSW).
When are You Required to Produce Your Driver Licence to Police?
Provided a police officer is executing his/her duty as a police officer under the road transport laws, in other words- provided the officer is not doing something illegal or outside the ambit of his/her police powers, you as a motorist will be required to produce your driver licence if requested.
In addition, the police officer can also require you to disclose:
- Your name; and
- Your home address.
In facts, failure to comply with this will cause a motorist to face a maximum penalty of up to $2,200 fine if dealt with in court under section 175 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).
However, as this is also a penalty notice offence it allows police to issue a fine of $114 on-the-spot. It does not carry demerit points but can be court-elected if disputing it.
Smartphone Simplicity: The Digital Driver Licence Scheme
That said, in the coming months, remembering to carry your driver licence is set to become a whole lot more convenient with the NSW Roads and Maritime Services introducing the Digital Driver Licence scheme.
The Digital Driver Licence is the electronic version of the NSW Driver Licence available through the Service NSW app.
In late 2018, the Digital Driver Licence was rolled out in a trial in in selected suburbs in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Albury, and the greater Dubbo area – the idea of which was to introduce a more convenient way of carrying and displaying your driver licence using your smartphone.
During the trial, businesses which verified identities or proof of age (licence checkers) as well as driver licence holders in the selected trial areas were invited to test the functionality of the digital licence.
Participants in the trial had the opportunity to make an important contribution to the development of the Digital Driver Licence by providing feedback on the effectiveness of the Digital Driver Licence.
Digital Driver Licence Scheme to Roll Out Across NSW in Late 2019 after Successful Trial
Given the success of the trial in NSW, the Digital Driver Licence technology is now set to roll out state-wide in late 2019.
In June 2019, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced the move in the NSW Budget, allowing people to use their smartphones as a kind of virtual wallet.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello labelled the trial a “success”.
“Smartphones have become de facto wallets and we’re using cutting edge technology so that drivers can use a digital licence in everyday scenarios,” Minister Dominello said.
The digital licences will be hosted on smartphones via the Service NSW app, accessible by a pin.
“It will provide additional levels of security and protection against identity fraud, compared to the plastic driver licence,” the Minister said.
The NSW government informs the technology can also be used as a proof of identification and age, outside of just driving.
They also expect businesses to accept the licences in places like bars, banks, hotels and tobacco retailers. They will also be permitted for use when interacting with police.
The Conditions of the Digital Driver Licence
Once the Digital Driver Licence is launched across the state, it will become legal for use around NSW, but there are conditions that holders need to know about.
It also may take some time before all organisations are ready to accept the Digital Driver Licence.
Until then, Service NSW recommends to always carry your plastic card if you know you’re going to need your driver licence in order to avoid inconvenience and particularly if you plan to travel interstate.
Further to this, it is advised to ensure your phone screen is not cracked and your phone is charged.
Additionally, remember to not use your mobile phone while driving or riding.
If you get pulled over by the police, it is advised to not pick up your phone until the officer requests to see your driver licence. Significant penalties apply for using a mobile phone illegally.
In case you are wondering, a police officer will not be allowed to seize the phone or other device that is used to display a digital driver licence to a police officer where that person is otherwise required to hand over his/her driver licence.
Driving Unlicensed Penalties in NSW
There are also heavy penalties for driving unlicensed or driving in circumstances you have not held a driver licence in Australia over the last 5-years under section 53 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).
Driving without a driver licence carries a maximum penalty of $2,200 fine.
Driving without having held a licence for over the last 5-years carries a maximum penalty of $2,200. If this is your second or subsequent offence of this in the previous 5-years, the maximum penalty is $3,300 fine and/or 6-months imprisonment in addition to a 1-year automatic licence disqualification (or minimum of 3-months at the Court’s discretion).
Contact our traffic lawyers based in Sydney, Parramatta and six other locations across NSW if you wish to discuss this further. Our friendly staff offer fixed fees and are available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.