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Criminal & traffic law

Losing your licence: Suspensions and disqualifications

Disqualification from driving

What does it mean to be disqualified from driving?

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

If you’re disqualified from driving this means you’re not entitled to hold or obtain a driver’s licence, and your current licence is suspended for the disqualification period. You must hand in your current licence either to the local court, to the police, or to an NZ Transport Agency office.

A disqualification order can specify that it applies only to a particular class of licence, rather than to all classes.

When will I be disqualified from driving?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 80

If you’ve been convicted of a traffic offence that “relates to road safety”, the judge has a general power to disqualify you.

As well as that general disqualification power, disqualification is an optional penalty for many driving offences, while for a number of more serious offences the judge has to disqualify you automatically.

You may also be disqualified in some other situations – for example if you don’t have a current licence and you’ve accumulated too many demerit points or have a driver licence stop order made against you (see below).

Note: When disqualification is an automatic penalty for a particular offence, the judge can still decide to not disqualify you if there are special reasons relating to the offence. In some cases, the judge can order a community-based sentence (like community work) instead of disqualifying you (see “Losing your licence: Suspensions and disqualifications” in this chapter).

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 81, 94

Penalties for driving while disqualified

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 5(1)(c), 32

On your first or second conviction for driving while disqualified, you can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500. You’ll also get an additional disqualification for at least six months.

On your third or later conviction you can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $6,000, and you’ll get an additional disqualification for at least one year.

How do I get my licence back after I’ve been disqualified?

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 5, 82A, 83

Even when your disqualification period has ended, you still have to get your licence back before you can drive again. What you’ll have to do to get your licence back will depend on how long you were disqualified for:

  • up to a year – After disqualification of up to a year, you’ll have to apply to the NZ Transport Agency for a replacement licence (called “reinstating” your licence).
  • more than a year – If you were disqualified for more than a year, or for two or more periods one after another that add up to more than a year, you’ll have to re-qualify for your licence by sitting the theory and practical driving tests again.

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 92, 93

Note: If you’re convicted of any driving offence, the judge can order you to do a driving improvement course or to pass a driving test. This can be in addition to any other penalties that apply to that offence.

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Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Applying for a limited licence” (guide)

This Plain English guide, plus template application forms and affidavits, will help you apply for a limited licence. It’s available on the Community Law website – www.communitylaw.org.nz

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)


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

The NZTA site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

You can read and download fact sheets and other publications from their site, or you can order hard copies by contacting them, including their fact-sheet on Legal mobile phone use while driving.


NZ Police

Frequently Asked Questions


The “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section of this webpage have Frequently Asked Questions about traffic fines, speeding, demerit points and where you can pay your fines.

Consumer protection

“Parking, towing and clamping”


This Consumer Protection webpage has information about the law covering tow trucks and wheel-clamping on public and private property, and about unreasonable fees in private car parks.

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