A special hardship order is available to people that hold a provisional or open licence and have had their licence suspended by the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
It is an order made by a Magistrates Court that allows you to drive during the suspension of your licence, but only under certain conditions.
The two most common reasons to apply for a special hardship order are either for gaining two or more points whilst subject to a good driving behaviour period or being fined for driving more than 40km per hour over the speed limit.
You are not automatically eligible if the either of the above applies. There are instances when you are not eligible to apply, such as having a suspension or disqualification of your licence in the previous five years. If in the last five years your licence was suspended as a result of a SPER debt, then you are eligible to apply for a special hardship order. This is the only type of suspension that is an exception.
You may apply for a special hardship order at any time during the suspension of your licence, but your licence must be suspended first. For example, if you are due to pay a fine which results in losing demerit points and being suspended from driving, then you must pay the fine and wait to receive a letter in the mail with your suspension date. We recommend having your special hardship order application and supporting material ready to file before the suspension date, as you will be able to drive in the period of time between the suspension and your court date once the application is filed. Your application cannot be filed before the suspension commences.
When you file your application in the Magistrates Court nearest to your residential address, you will receive a court date. You must serve the application and your supporting material on the Department of Transport and Main Roads and obtain a permit to drive until the court date. You must not drive to court to file your application or from the court to the Department of Transport and Main Roads, otherwise you are driving unlicensed, which is a criminal offence and carries penalties, including possible disqualification of your licence by the court.
At your court date, the magistrate will consider whether:
- You will experience extreme financial hardship without a licence or you and your family will experience severe hardship if you do not hold a licence, and
- You are a fit and proper person.
If you can satisfy both of the above, then you will be granted a special hardship order.
Experiencing extreme financial hardship as a result of losing your licence means that you will lose your job or be demoted and receive a significant pay reduction, which affects your ability to pay your expenses and/or support your family. You will need to obtain an affidavit from your employer detailing how losing your licence will affect you (i.e. you will lose your job). Your employer will need to be available for the court date in the event they are required for cross-examination. You will also need to do an affidavit detailing how you would experience hardship if you lost your licence. The hardship that you suffer must be extreme, not a mere inconvenience, and alternate transport (such as public transport) cannot be available to you.
In order to satisfy the court that you are a fit and proper person, you must show the court that you have regard for other road users’ safety. This is done by way of an affidavit and is usually more difficult to satisfy. The court will want to be satisfied that you have the knowledge and ability to drive safely. The court will look to your traffic history and make an assessment on whether you have a history of having regard to other road users and their safety. For example, if you have a history of driving dangerously or without due care, the court may conclude that you do not have regard to other road users’ safety and the public in general.
By way of another example, if you have numerous speeding offences in recent months, it may also be more difficult to obtain a special hardship order as the court may also interpret your pattern of speeding as a disregard for other road users’ safety. You could complete a road safety course in matters like these, to show the court that you are knowledgeable on road safety.
If you are granted a special hardship order, there will be conditions that you must abide by and you must have a copy of the order with you at all times when driving. The order will state:
- The class of vehicle you are allowed to drive,
- The purpose for which you are allowed to drive for, and
- The times that you are allowed to drive between.
The court is able to insert any additional conditions that are reasonable and appropriate based on your circumstances.
It is very important that you do not breach any of the conditions of your special hardship order, because if you do, you will be brought before the court and face a potentially significant fine and a further three month suspension of your licence. If you have lost your licence as a result of a drink or drug driving charge, then you are not eligible for a special hardship order.
We are available to meet with you at any of our local offices (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland and Jimboomba) or by telephone or video-conference.
This article is for your information and interest only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and it does not constitute and must not be relied on as legal advice. You must seek specific advice tailored to your circumstances.