14 / 4 / 2023

Restricted Licence Applications in the ACT

A restricted licence is form of driver licence in the ACT that allows someone convicted of a drink driving offence and disqualified from driving to nonetheless continue driving for a specific purpose and at particular times. It is sometimes referred to as a “workers licence” as it usually allows someone to drive for the purposes of getting to and from work and driving during work hours. There are, however, a range of other relevant purposes which can include an offender driving to provide care or supervision for a family member or to attend to health appointments.

Applications for a restricted licence are generally heard immediately after sentencing for a drink driving offence before the same Magistrate dealing with sentencing. If an offender receives a No Conviction Order pursuant to section 17 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 (ACT) then there would not be any licence disqualification and no restricted licence application would be necessary. The application must be made with an approved form and an affidavit from the driver, including any supporting evidence such as a reference from an employer about work duties. The applications must be served on the Australian Federal Police and Road Transport Authority with reasonable notice. 3 weeks is usually sufficient.

Restricted licences are only eligible for first-time drink driving offenders. Drivers are a “repeat offender” if at any time in the past, no matter how long ago, were found guilty or convicted of any drink or drug driving offence in Australia. The offence is also only eligible if the reading is no more than 0.05 above a driver’s legal limit apply. For example, an adult fully licensed driver with the legal limit of 0.05 is not eligible to apply for a probationary licence if the reading is 0.10 or higher. They are also not available for drug driving offences.

If the drink driving offence meets the eligibility criteria, an offender must also establish that there are exceptional circumstances justifying the issues of the licence. Under section 47 of the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2000 the main question is whether the offender would suffer or incur any inconvenience or loss (actual or potential), including any health concerns for them or a dependant, that would be unreasonable if a restricted licence were not issued. The Court is also required to take account of any work undertaken or rehabilitation since the offence, including completing an alcohol and driving course, and whether it would be unreasonable for the offender to use alternative means of transport such as public transport.

Theoretically a restricted licence application can be made for any other driving offence for any disqualification period that is set for longer than the automatic disqualification period for an offence, but this is very rare and such applications in these circumstances are almost unheard of.

The idea of obtaining a restricted licence to maintain employment is attractive but the unfortunate reality is the circumstances in which they can be issued are quite narrow. In many cases, although this is certainly not available in all circumstances, a more realistic solution is to have a voluntary alcohol ignition interlock device installed. Voluntary interlocks are available for any drink driving offence that has a reading of less than 0.15 and is not a third drink driving offence within the last 5 years. The interlock device must be fitted to the vehicle and complied with for the entirety of the disqualification period or 6 months, whichever is the longer period.

If wishing to apply for a restricted licence, the above criteria can require a lot of work to meet so it is crucial to engage a criminal defence lawyer experienced in these applications.

Adrian McKenna, Partner