Losing your licence: Suspensions and disqualifications
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.