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Communtity Law Manual | Driving & traffic law | Limited licences: Authorised driving during a suspension or disqualification

Losing your licence: Suspensions and disqualifications

Limited licences: Authorised driving during a suspension or disqualification

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 103–105

What is a limited licence?

If you’ve been suspended or disqualified from driving, you may be able to get a limited licence – sometimes called a “work licence” – giving you a restricted right to drive. You’ll have to convince a judge that you or someone else (such as a family member or your boss) will suffer significant hardship if you can’t drive.

Who can apply for a limited licence?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 103

You can apply for a limited licence if:

  • you’re disqualified by a judge from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence, or
  • your licence has been suspended after you’ve accumulated too many demerit points.

You can’t apply for a limited licence if:

  • you’ve been disqualified indefinitely because of repeat drink/drug driving (see “Drink/drug driving / Repeated or serious drink/drug driving: Heavier penalties” in this chapter), or
  • you’re specifically disqualified from driving a transport service vehicle (buses and taxis for example) and you want the limited licence to drive one of those vehicles, or
  • you’re been disqualified because you drove while disqualified or for breaching the terms of a limited licence, or
  • within five years you committed two offences, in two separate incidents, out of the following set of driving offences, and you’re now disqualified for the second of those offences:
    • reckless or dangerous driving; careless or inconsiderate driving causing injury or death; or failing to stop after an accident
    • drink/drug driving offences, such as being over the alcohol limits or driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
    • applying for or holding a driver’s licence while disqualified, or
  • you’re under the alcohol interlock programme (see “Drink/drug driving / Repeated or serious drink/drug driving: Heavier penalties” in this chapter), or
  • a driver licence stop order is in force against you (see above, “Driver licence stop orders for unpaid fines”).

What are the grounds for getting a limited licence?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 105

The judge can authorise you to get a limited licence if your disqualification or suspension will cause either:

  • “extreme hardship” to you, which could relate to your work or some other issue, or
  • “undue hardship” to some other person, such as a family member or your boss.

The judge must also be satisfied that granting you the licence wouldn’t be a risk to public safety.

It will be difficult to prove “extreme hardship”. If for example losing your licence could mean you’ll lose your job or won’t be able to keep your business going, the judge might consider this to be extreme hardship.

“Undue” hardship is a lower standard and therefore easier to prove. However, it won’t be enough simply that your boss or family will be inconvenienced by you losing your licence. You’ll need to show something more than normal hardship – for example, that your disabled partner or parent relies on you to drive them to the doctor. That other person will have to provide a sworn statement as evidence (see below, “How do I apply for a limited licence?”).

In some cases, the judge won’t be able to make the order until 28 days after the disqualification was ordered (see below, “No limited licence order for 28 days in some cases”).

How do I apply for a limited licence?

You have to apply in writing to the District Court. Your application should set out:

  • the reasons why you need a limited licence
  • the particular vehicle you want to drive
  • when and where you want to drive
  • a draft court order, with all the necessary details entered.

Your application documents should also include an affidavit (a sworn statement) from you stating reasons to support your claim of hardship. You may also need affidavits from other relevant people – for example, if you’re arguing that your boss or a family member will suffer undue hardship. In that case an ordinary letter from the other person won’t be enough. The other person may also need to come to the court to answer questions.

Note: The Community Law website has a detailed guide, “Applying for a limited licence”.

What happens next if the judge authorises a limited licence?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 105; Land Transport (Driver Licensing and Driver Testing Fees) Regulations 1999, Schedule, Part 7

If you’re successful, the judge will authorise you to obtain a limited licence by applying to the NZ Transport Agency through an approved driver licensing agency (such as the AA or VTNZ). However, the judge can specify that you’ll have to wait for a certain period before applying to the NZTA for the licence.

There’s a $39.30 application fee, on top of any fee you paid when you applied to the District Court.

The NZTA will take up to four days to process your licence application. You can’t drive until the limited licence has been issued to you. If the NZTA grants you the licence, they’ll issue you a temporary licence that you can use until a photographic licence is ready.

The limited licence will state the conditions you’ll have to follow, including:

  • the purpose for which the licence is issued
  • the particular vehicle or type of vehicle you’re allowed to drive
  • the days and times when you’re allowed to drive.

No limited licence order for 28 days in some cases

Land Transport Act 1998, s 104

If your disqualification was for one of a number of specific offences a judge can’t make a limited licence order until 28 days after the disqualification was ordered. These offences are:

  • offences involving driving hours or logbooks (that is, for truck drivers and other commercial drivers)
  • reckless or dangerous driving; careless or inconsiderate driving causing injury or death; or failing to stop after an accident
  • drink/drug driving offences, such as being over the alcohol limits or driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
  • applying for or holding a driver’s licence while disqualified
  • carrying an insecure load.

In other cases the judge can make the limited licence order straight away.

If the court refuses my application for a limited licence, can I apply again?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 105

If the judge turns down your application for a limited licence order, you’ll have to wait at least three months before you can apply again, unless you have new relevant evidence that wasn’t available when you applied the first time.

What if I’m convicted of a disqualification offence while on a limited licence?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 105

If you’re disqualified after committing a new driving offence while on a limited licence, the limited licence is revoked (that is, cancelled) and the original order of disqualification is brought back into force for the rest of its term.

The original disqualification runs at the same time (“concurrently”) as the second disqualification – that is, they’re not added together – unless the judge who ordered the second disqualification specifies that they’re to be added together.

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