MOST of us are heavily reliant on being able to drive, but as some of us find out the hard way getting behind the wheel is a privilege which can easily be taken away for all manner of misbehaviour.
If you accumulate over 100 demerit points over a two-year period, the New Zealand Transport Agency must suspend your licence for a period of three calendar months.
The court can also disqualify you from driving for a range of offences, including drink-driving. When someone is convicted for driving with excess breath alcohol, the court must make an order disqualifying that person from driving for at least six months.
Driving suspensions and disqualifications can have far-reaching effects on a person's day-to day life. Significant is the impact of having no alternative means of getting to and from a place of employment, with job loss a result.
Fortunately, the Land Transport Act recognises and can alleviate the hardship caused by a loss of licence.
Limited licences, sometimes called work licences, are a special type of licence that enables a person to drive despite a suspension or disqualification. Such licences permit the holder to drive within certain restrictions to avoid extreme hardship to the driver or undue hardship to another person.
Mere inconvenience is not enough.
Extreme hardship may be established if an individual would lose their employment and main source of income. Undue hardship usually means serious financial hardship.
Examples of limitations usually imposed include the location you are able to drive within, the time of day and night you are able to drive, and the particular vehicle to be driven.
Applications for limited licences are made to the district court and typically involve the person seeking the licence explaining the consequences of hardship to the court.
An appearance is needed in court where, if the threshold is met, an order authorising the applicant to obtain a limited licence is generally made.
If the disqualification relates to a drink-driving offence, or other serious road safety offence, then an order for a limited licence cannot take effect before a period of 28 days has expired since the disqualification was imposed. This, however, does not prevent the application being made in the meantime.
There are some situations where a limited licence cannot be made by the court despite hardship — examples include repeat drink-drivers, or those who have previously breached the terms of a limited licence.
If a disqualification is going to have significant consequences, it could be well worthwhile seeking legal advice about eligibility to apply for a limited licence.
Ollie Crosse is a solicitor at Treadwell Gordon