Driving tests

What’s the difference between driver licence suspension and disqualification?

A suspension happens to your licence – the licence becomes temporarily invalid, therefore you can’t use it to drive.

A disqualification happens to the driver – the driver becomes unable to drive or hold a licence, whether they have a current licence or not.

Both will happen for a period of time that are most commonly 28 days, or 3, 6 or 12 months.

How does a licence disqualification happen?

Court penalties: if you are convicted of a specific driving offence, a judge may order a disqualification. Sometimes, disqualification is mandatory.

Demerit points: for exceeding the maximum number of demerit points within a 2-year period, your licence could be suspended for three months, or if you don’t have a licence, you could be disqualified for three months. The current maximum is 100 demerit points. Once you have served your suspension or disqualification, your demerit points are wiped from your record.

Police: if you are pulled over for a specific offence, e.g. street racing or burnouts, your licence may be automatically suspended for 28 days.

Ministry of Justice: if you have unpaid traffic fines, your licence could be suspended until you pay the fines or make an arrangement with the court for a payment plan.

You’ve been disqualified from driving

Why would you be disqualified?

Disqualification is often in response to a traffic conviction relating to road safety such as excessive speeding, dangerous driving and so on.

What happens when you are disqualified?

If you’ve been disqualified, you are not permitted to obtain or hold a driver licence, and your current licence is suspended for the disqualification period. You will have to hand in your current licence to the police, NZTA or the local court. A disqualification could only apply to a specific class of vehicle.

A judge may choose not to disqualify you if it would cause undue hardship. In this case, you might be allowed a limited licence whereby you can drive within a strict set of parameters. You may have to do community work instead.

How do you get your licence back after you’ve been disqualified from driving?

Once your disqualification period has ended, you have to get your licence back. If you were disqualified for up to a year, you have to apply to NZTA for a replacement licence. This is called ‘reinstating’ your licence.

If you were disqualified for over a year in total, this means you have lost your licence and you will need to start the process of getting a licence from scratch. This means starting with the Road Code theory test, then doing a practical test.

Your licence has been suspended for 28 days

Roadside suspensions for 28 days are for serious alcohol and speed offences. You must immediately give your licence to the police officer and your car may be impounded. You will get a 28-day suspension for:

Serious speeding: if you’re over 40km/h over the permanent speed limit or 50km/h over a temporary speed limit (unless you’re caught by a speed camera)

Repeat drink driving: you’ve been caught with a breath alcohol level of 400mcg or a blood alcohol level of 80mg, and you’ve already been convicted of drink driving in the previous four years.

Serious drink driving: you’ve been caught with a breath alcohol level greater than 650mcg or a blood alcohol level of more than 130mg.

Blood tests: you’ve refused an evidential blood test, or you’ve failed one.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses.

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