Suspensions and Disqualifications

This page explains about suspensions and disqualifications.

The demerit points system

Mandatory 28-day suspension in some cases

Disqualification from driving

Limited licences 

The Demerit Points System 

What are demerit points?

The demerit points system allows your driver’s licence to be suspended because of an accumulated record of poor driving.

Whenever you commit certain driving offences, you receive a number of demerit points for the offence, in addition to any other penalty that goes with the offence. If you get 100 demerit points within two years, your licence is suspended for three months.

Demerit points take effect from the date the offence was committed.

What offences attract demerit points?

Demerit points are given for some traffic offences and for all speeding infringements, except those recorded by a speed camera.

Various amounts of demerit points are allocated to the different offences, for example:

  • exceeding the speed limit by 10 km/h = 10
  • failing to give way = 20
  • careless or inconsiderate use of a vehicle = 35
  • driving with excessive breath- or blood-alcohol levels if you’re under 20 = 50.

The road code (on the NZ Transport Agency website) provides a more detailed list.

Warning notice at 50 points

When you’ve accumulated 50 or more demerit points in all, the NZ Transport Agency will send you a letter notifying you of this, and explaining that you’ll lose your licence if you get a total of 100 points within two years.

If your offences are close together there may not be time for this warning notice before you reach 100 points. The fact that you don’t get the warning won’t make your suspension invalid.

How demerit points can be cleared from your record

Demerit points will be cleared from your record if:

  • your licence is suspended because of accumulated demerit points
  • you don’t commit any offences attracting demerit points for two years, or
  • you’re disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for six months or more.

Getting your licence back after a demerit points suspension

If your licence has been suspended because of too many demerit points, you won't simply be able to start driving again at the end of the suspension period. Instead you'll have to apply to a New Zealand Transport Agency licensing agent to have your licence reinstated; this will include paying a fee. Until it's reinstated, you don't have to have a valid licence.

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Mandatory 28-Day Suspension in Some Cases

When do these suspensions happen?

Police officers must immediately suspend your licence for 28 days in the following situations:

  • repeat drink-driving offences – if an evidential breath test or blood test has shown that you’ve been driving with excess breath- or blood-alcohol levels, and you’ve also been convicted in the last four years of driving over the limit or of a related offence, such as refusing a blood test
  • being significantly over the drink-driving limits – if an evidential breath test or blood test shows that you were driving with
    • a breath-alcohol level of more than 650 micrograms per litre of breath, or
    • a blood-alcohol level of more than 130 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood
  • refusing a blood test – if you failed or refused to have a blood test when required to do so
  • speeding – if you exceeded the permanent sign-posted speed limit by more than 40 km/h, or any other speed limit by more than 50 km/h where the speed was detected by a means other than a speed camera.

Suspension notices

When the Police suspend your licence in those situations, they must give you a written notice telling you this and explaining your right to appeal the suspension.

Appealing a 28-day suspension

You can appeal a 28-day suspension of your licence by writing to the NZ Transport Agency.

You must put your appeal in the form of a statutory declaration. A statutory declaration is a formal document that you sign in front of a lawyer, a justice of the peace or some other authorised person. There is a special format for statutory declarations, which is set out in Schedule 1 of the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 (Legislation New Zealand website).

You can appeal on any of these grounds:

  • that you weren’t the driver at the time of the incident, or
  • the police officer didn’t have reasonable grounds to suspend your licence, or
  • the police officer didn’t give you the proper notice.

The NZ Transport Agency must make a decision within five working days. If they reject your appeal, you can appeal to the District Court.

Suspensions can be extended in some cases

The Police can apply to a District Court to have the suspension period extended for up to another 28 days. The Police must explain in their application why they think the extension is necessary. They must also notify you before they apply for the extension.

If the District Court extends your suspension you can appeal to the Hight Court.

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Disqualification from Driving  

When will a driver be disqualified from driving?

You can be disqualified for a number of driving offences.

  • General power to disqualify for road safety offences – the courts have a general power to disqualify you from driving if they’re satisfied that the offence you’ve been convicted of relates to road safety.
  • Discretion in some cases – as well as that general power, for many driving offences the courts have a discretion to disqualify you if they think it’s appropriate
  • Automatic in some cases – disqualification for a period is also an automatic penalty for a number of more serious offences like drink driving.

No disqualification if special reasons

When an offence carries an automatic disqualification period, the courts can decide not to disqualify you if there are special reasons.

The special reasons must relate to the facts that make up the offence, rather than relating specifically to you, the offender.

Court can impose community-based sentence instead of disqualifying

If you’ve previously been disqualified and you’ve now been convicted of an offence carrying an automatic disqualification period, the Court has a discretion to order a community-based sentence instead of disqualifying you. There are two possible sentences here: community work and supervision.

However, a community-based sentence isn’t available to you if:

  • you’re not entitled to apply for or hold a limited licence, unless this is because you were disqualified for a conviction of driving
    • while disqualified, or
    • contrary to a limited licence
  • you’ve been convicted of a drink-driving offence in a taxi, bus or other transport service vehicle, or
  • you’ve been disqualified indefinitely for repeated drink-driving offences.

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

This depends on how long you’ve been disqualified for.

  • Disqualification for up to a year – you'll have to apply to a New Zealand Transport Agency licensing agent to have your licence reinstated; this will include paying a fee. Until it's reinstated you don't have a valid licence.
  • Disqualification for more than a year – if you’ve been disqualified for more than a year, or for two or more periods totalling more than a year, you’ll have to sit the theory and practical driving tests again to requalify for your licence.

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Limited Licences  

What is a limited licence?

A limited licence, sometimes called a work licence, can be granted to people who have otherwise been disqualified or suspended from driving if this would cause hardship to them or someone else. Limited licences are granted with specific conditions, such as when and where you can drive.

It’s best that you talk to a lawyer if you’re considering applying for a limited licence. They’ll be able to advise you about your chances of success, and can help you apply.

Who can apply for a limited licence?

You can apply for a limited licence if:

  • you’re disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence by a court order, or
  • your licence has been suspended because of accumulated demerit points.

Who can’t apply for a limited licence?

You can’t apply for a limited licence if:

  • you’re disqualified because of repeat offending involving alcohol or drugs, or
  • you’re disqualified from driving a bus, taxi or some other transport-service vehicle and you want a limited licence to drive that kind of vehicle, or
  • you’re disqualified because you were convicted of driving while disqualified or for breaking the conditions of a limited licence, or
  • you have an alcohol interlock licence, or you've been given an alcohol interlock disqualification but haven't yet obtained an alcohol interlock licence, or
  • you’re disqualified because of one of the following kinds of offences, and it’s the second time in five years that you’ve been convicted of any of those kinds of offences:
    • reckless or dangerous driving
    • careless or inconsiderate driving causing injury or death
    • failing to stop after an accident
    • driving offences involving alcohol or drugs
    • applying for or obtaining a driver’s licence while disqualified.

What are the grounds for granting a limited licence?

The court can grant you a limited licence if it’s satisfied that:

  • the disqualification or suspension is causing you extreme hardship, or causing undue hardship to some other person, and
  • granting you the licence wouldn’t threaten public safety.

How do I apply for a limited licence?

You apply in writing to the District Court. You must include the application fee.

Your application should say:

  • why you need a limited licence
  • the particular vehicle you want to drive, and
  • when and where you want to drive.

You’ll need to include an affidavit (a sworn written statement) from you supporting your claim and, if you’re claiming hardship to another person, an affidavit from that other person. Often this will be an employer. If another person does provide an affidavit, they’ll usually need to be available to answer questions in court when the court is dealing with your application.

What happens if I’m granted a limited licence?

If the court permits you to get a limited licence, you’ll need to go to the Automobile Association or another approved driver licensing agency to have the licence issued. There is a fee for this.

You must not drive until the driver licensing agency has issued your limited licence to you.

What will a limited licence say?

The licence will set out strict conditions dealing with:

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

No limited licence for 28 days in some cases

If your disqualification was for one of the following offences, the court can’t grant you a limited licence until 28 days after the date when you were disqualified:

  • offences involving driving hours or logbooks
  • reckless or dangerous driving
  • careless or inconsiderate driving causing injury or death
  • failing to stop after an accident
  • offences involving alcohol or drugs.

Can I apply again if my application is rejected?

If the court refuses to grant you a limited licence, you must wait at least three months before you can apply again, unless you have new relevant evidence that wasn’t available the first time you applied.

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

In this case your limited licence is cancelled. The original disqualification order comes back into effect for the rest of the term for which it was originally ordered.

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(Updated: November 2012)