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Criminal & traffic law

Losing your licence: Suspensions and disqualifications


Land Transport Act 1998, ss 5(2), 30(3), 82

There are a number of situations in which the courts or the police can take away your licence for a time, either through a suspension or a disqualification, or both.

Suspensions and disqualifications are related penalties and sometimes overlap:

  • a “suspension” is something that happens to your licence – the licence becomes temporarily invalid, so you can’t use it to drive
  • “disqualification” is something that happens to you, not your licence. It means that, whether or not you have a current licence, you’re not allowed to have or obtain a driver’s licence for the period of the disqualification. If you do have a current licence, the effect of the disqualification is also to suspend that licence.

Sometimes a driving offence will have disqualification as an optional or automatic penalty (for example, driving under the influence of drink or drugs), and this will happen whether or not you have a current licence. Some other penalty provisions specify that either your licence will be suspended or, if you don’t have a current licence, you’ll be disqualified.

When can I get a suspension or disqualification?

You can receive a suspension or disqualification in the following situations:

  • Disqualification as a court penalty – A judge can disqualify you as an additional penalty after convicting you for one of various driving offences. For some other offences, disqualification is automatic, not optional.
  • Demerit points for bad driving record – Your licence can be suspended for three months for a record of bad driving over two years – or, if you don’t have a licence, you can be disqualified for three months.
  • Roadside suspensions – The police can suspend your licence on the spot for 28 days in some cases of repeated or serious drink-driving or speeding.
  • Driver licence stop orders for unpaid fines – If you have unpaid fines for traffic offences the Ministry of Justice can issue one of these stop orders, which suspend your licence (or disqualify you if you don’t have a current licence) until you pay the fines or come to an arrangement with the courts for repayment.

Those measures are explained in the following sections.

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Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres/

For Community Law’s guide to applying for a limited licence and template application forms: communitylaw.org.nz/resources/legal-letters

Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi’s site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

Website: www.nzta.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 699 000
Email: info@nzta.govt.nz

Search your question on Waka Kotahi’s resources section: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources

New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police’s “frequently asked questions” section provides helpful information, particularly the “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/advice-and-services/faqs

New Zealand Government

The New Zealand government website sets out more information about driving fines and penalties, including how to pay for infringement notices.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/transport/driving-fines-and-penalties

Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics, including private parking tickets and the towing and clamping of cars.

Website: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/help-product-service/cars/parking-clamping-towing

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