Driving Whilst Disqualified


This offence is contrary to section 103 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is a summary only offence which means that it can only be tried by the Magistrates although if linked with more serious offences it may be committed to Crown Court under section 40 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This means the offence will appear on the indictment along with the other more serious matters since they arise out of the same set of circumstances. There is an overall time limit of 3 years to bring proceedings for this offence with the caveat that proceedings must be initiated within 6 months from the date the prosecutor acquired sufficient evidence to prosecute..  

Driving Whilst Disqualified

What does it mean?

A person who is disqualified by a court from holding or obtaining a driving licence is prohibited from driving any motor vehicle on a road for the period of disqualification imposed by the court. Any driving licence held by the individual is revoked from the day of disqualification and it will be necessary to apply for the return of the licence from the Drivers Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) shortly before the end of the disqualification period. Sometimes a person is not only disqualified for a certain period of time but until an extended driving test is passed. If subject to this requirement to take a test of competence then the individual may drive once the actual disqualification is at an end but only if supervised and displaying “L” plates on the vehicle. 

The Legal Definition of Driving

Besides the ordinary meaning of driving the courts have held that if a person is using the vehicle’s controls to move and direct the vehicle to a substantial degree then that person is driving the vehicle .There is much case law arising from arguments over whether a person was driving or not. For example, a person who steers his car sitting in the driver’s seat whilst another person is pushing it has been held to be driving. However, a person who both pushes and steers his car whilst walking next to the car has been held not to be driving. |In another example, a person stationary in a car on a verge was held to be driving because the wheels were spinning and the handbrake was being used.

The Legal Definition of a Motor Vehicle

This means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on the road. Mechanically propelled means that it has some type of engine which causes the vehicle to move. Intended or adapted for use depends on what the reasonable person (the reasonable person test) would conclude. It matters not what the actual user or manufacturer intended or adapted the vehicle for.

The Legal Definition of a Road

A road for the purposes of this offence is one to which the public have access. It includes footpaths, bridleways and bridges.

Burden of Proof

The prosecution must prove that the person was driving and that he was disqualified beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution does not have to prove the person’s knowledge of either the disqualification or that he was on a road. An individual can be disqualified in his absence by the court but lack of knowledge does not provide a defence. A statutory declaration can be made to the court to the effect that he did not know of the proceedings leading to his disqualification and requesting that the conviction and sentence be set aside .However, even if the court allows this to happen the fact that the individual is no longer disqualified does not have retrospective effect. In other words, the disqualification remains valid up to the date that the conviction and sentence is set aside.


The maximum penalty is a level 5 fine (£5000) and 6 months imprisonment. The court may disqualify for any period of time and impose an extended driving test. The driving licence must be endorsed with penalty points. If no disqualification is imposed then the court will impose 6 penalty points.  Since this offence blatantly flouts a court order it is always regarded seriously by the courts although further aggravating and mitigating factors will be taken into account. For example if the individual has a string of previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified then imprisonment is the inevitable result. If the individual was disqualified in his absence and provides a genuine reason why he did no know of the ban then the court are likely to treat the offender more leniently.