For many people, losing their license can put them at serious risk of losing their jobs and being unable to support themselves and their families.
If losing your license would result in the loss of your job or in you suffering serious hardship it is very important to get advice on whether you would be successful in applying for a Special Hardship Order.
What is a Special Hardship Order?
A Special Hardship Order is an order made by the court that will allow you to drive under special conditions despite your normal license being suspended because:
- you have committed a “high speed offence” (driving more than 40km/h over the limit); and/or
- you have lost your good behaviour license as a result of accumulating too many demerit points.
Am I eligible for a special hardship order?
In order to be eligible for a Special Hardship License all of the below points must apply to your circumstances:
- you hold a current provisional or open Queensland driver license; and
- this license has not been suspended or cancelled for any other reason in the last 5 years; and
- you do not have any convictions for dangerous driving offences in the last 5 years.
What will the court look at when deciding whether I should be granted a special hardship order?
If you do meet the basic eligibility criteria you will be required to satisfy the court that:
- you are a “fit and proper person”; and
- if you are got granted the Special Hardship Order you or your family will suffer “severe financial hardship” as a result of you being deprived of your means of earning a living or suffer some other severe and unusual hardship.
In order to satisfy the court of the above you are required to provide Affidavit evidence from both yourself and your employer. If you engage a solicitor they will assist you by preparing these documents on your behalf.
The courts are required to assess these applications based on strict criteria set out in the legislation. It is crucial to place all of the appropriate information before the court to ensure you meet these criteria. Each person’s has unique circumstances and history and so courts decide matters on a case-by-case basis.
You will not meet these tests if:
- your employer is not willing to provide evidence, in Affidavit form (a letter is not accepted) that you will be unable to work if you lose your license.
- you do not have current employment and are looking for a job;
- you need the license to pick up your children from school; or
Engaging a solicitor at an early stage will assist you to understand:
- whether the court will accept you as a “fit and proper person” to hold a Special Hardship Order;
- whether you would be successful in satisfying the court that you would suffer the necessary “severe financial hardship”; and
- putting the most relevant, persuasive submissions to the magistrate both in your court documents and in oral submissions on the day of court.
What do I need to do to apply for a special hardship order?
You must apply for a Special Hardship Order within 21 days of your license being suspended.
This will involve preparing the application and an accompanying affidavit from both yourself and your employer (unless you are self-employed) that explains why you should be granted this special license. These documents must then be filed in the relevant magistrate court registry.
After the documents have been filed you will be required to serve them on the Queensland Transport Prosecution Unit as soon as practicable but at least 7 days prior to your court hearing (you will be given a court date when you file your documents with the court). After the documents have been received your suspension will be lifted until the day before your scheduled court hearing.
On the day of court you will be required to attend the magistrate’s court and (either yourself or a lawyer on your behalf) will make oral submissions about why a Special Hardship Order should be made. If the Department of Transport are opposing the order they will argue against you being issued with the license.
After the magistrate has read your documents and considered your oral submissions they will decide whether or not you are given the order. This decision is final and there is no right to appeal if you are unsuccessful.
What kind of conditions will be placed on my license if I am successful in getting a special hardship order?
The court can impose a wide range of conditions on your license depending on your circumstances. Some of these might include:
- restricting the days of the week and/or times that you can drive;
- preventing you from carrying passengers;
- requiring you to keep a log book of all your driving; or
- requiring you to wear a work uniform when driving.
What happens if I breach a condition of my special hardship order?
There are serious consequences for breaching the conditions of a Special Hardship Order.
Where you are found to have breached a condition of your order your original suspension period will be re-activated (if you would have still been suspended at the time of the breach had you not had the special license). You will be disqualified for an additional 3 month period on top of the original suspension period you have left to serve.
If the original suspension period has finished then your license will be disqualified for 3 months. You may also be issued with a substantial fine for breaching the order.
Another serious consequence of breaching a Special Hardship Order is that courts will not be willing to grant you special licenses in the future.
Do I need a lawyer to apply for a special hardship order?
The laws and processes relating to Special Hardship Orders are complex and technical and many people in the past have experienced difficulty in in successfully obtaining the order without legal assistance.
It is recommended that you seek legal advice before attempting to apply to ensure you have addressed the necessary criteria and met all time limit requirements.
Lawyers can assist you by:
- drafting persuasive, professional court documents designed to maximise your chances of obtaining this order;
- liaising with the Department of Transport to attempt negotiations to ensure they do not contest your application for the order; and
- attend court with you to make submissions to the Magistrate on your behalf as to why you ought to be given a Special Hardship License.
If you know there will be serious consequences if you are unsuccessful in obtaining a Special Hardship License we always recommend seeking legal assistance with this process.
The solicitors at Potts Lawyers are traffic law experts with years of experience in helping clients to successfully obtain Special Hardship Orders.