Disqualification, Suspension & Cancellation – the Differences Explained


Understanding the difference between a disqualified licence, a suspended licence and a cancelled licence can be mind boggling. We have tried to de-mystify this for you below.

Licence Suspension.

The police, the Courts and the Road and Maritime Services (RMS) all have power to suspend your driver’s licences in NSW.

Police Suspension:

The police will usually automatically suspend your licence if you commit any of the following offences:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by 45km/h or more
  • Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 km/h while on a Learner Permit or Provision Licence
  • High range and Mid range PCA offences
  • Any driving offence causing death or grievous bodily harm
  • Street or Drag racing or other ‘hoon’ offences

The police may suspend your licence either at the time of the offence or anytime up to 48 hours after the offence has been committed. The police suspension usually stays in place until the matter is dealt with by Court.

RMS Suspension:

The RMS will suspend your licence when sufficient demerit points accumulate on your drivers licence or they may apply for a suspension following the payment of a penalty notice for a camera-detected speeding fine, if suspension is applicable in that matter.

There are no internal appeal avenues available for an RMS suspension however an appeal may be lodged at the local Court within 28 days of receiving the suspension notice.

Drive While Suspended – Outcomes:

You cannot drive whilst suspended. Driving whilst suspended is an offence. The maximum penalties are listed below:

Drive Whilst Suspended Fine Imprisonment Disqualification 
First Offence   $3300 18mnth 12mnths

Second Offence within 5 years




2 years


2 years

Once the period of suspension is complete the suspended driver will be allowed to drive again and does not need to obtain a new licence from the RMS.


Disqualification periods are ordered by the Courts. Usually disqualification periods occur automatically as a result of a recording of a conviction.

A plea of guilty in Court to a driving offence which carries a disqualification period may also result in an order disqualifying you from holding a licence.

Some of the offences which the Courts disqualify drivers for are:

  • All Drink Driving offences
  • Driving while under the influence of a drug or intoxicating liquor
  • Drive whilst suspended, disqualified or cancelled
  • Driving recklessly, furiously or in a manner dangerous
  • Exceeding speed limit by over 30km/h or speeding over 45km/h
  • Failure to stop and render assistance
  • A habitual traffic offender declaration

A driver cannot drive whilst disqualified. Driving whilst disqualified carries the maximum penalties that are:

Drive Whilst Disqualified Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
First Offence   $3300  18mnth 12mnths

Second Offence within 5 years




2 years


2 years

Once you have completed your disqualification period, you must attend the RMS to obtain a new licence.

If you previously held a NSW Learner’s Permit or a Provisional Licence then the probationary periods for these licences restart, having been dormant during the time of the disqualification.

Any driver who has been disqualified for over 12 months must take the Driver’s Knowledge touch screen test. Any driver who has been disqualified for over 2 years must retake both the Driver’s Knowledge touch screen test as well as the practical Driver Test.

Once these tests have been successfully completed the driver returns to the licence grade they held before the suspension. The offender is liable to pay all costs of the tests as well as the costs of the licences.



Cancellation occurs if a licence has lapsed for over 2 years. It can occur if the police confiscate your licence or if  you surrender your licence.

If your licence is cancelled, you cannot drive. If you drive while your licence is cancelled, the maximum penalties are:

Drive Whilst Cancelled Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
First Offence   $3300 18mnth 12mnths

Second Offence within 5 years




2 years


2 years