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You have been disqualified from holding a driver’s licence – What can you do?

If you have been disqualified or suspended from driving, you may be eligible to apply for a Limited Licence, or what is commonly known as a "wok licence". A Limited Licence allows you to drive for a limited purpose such as driving to and from work, during limited times and days. A court may award a Limited Licence if it is satisfied that not granting it would cause you extreme hardship or cause another person undue hardship.

Man handing over keys

The legislation relating to Limited Licence applications is covered in sections 103 to 105 of the Land Transport Act 1998 (“the Act”).  If a court is satisfied that the applicant fulfils the legal criteria under the Act, the court may grant an order authorising the applicant to obtain a Limited Licence.

Who can apply and what is the legal criteria?

Applications are made to the District Court and must be given to the nearest Police Prosecution Unit (“the Police”) prior to the application being heard in court.  Applicants are required to make a court appearance and can do so on their own or with a lawyer.

If you have been disqualified or suspended from driving, there are legal criteria that you must satisfy to obtain a Limited Licence.  A court will grant an order authorising a Limited Licence only if it is satisfied that it would result in “extreme” hardship to you or it would cause “undue” hardship to another person if you were unable to drive.

A straightforward example of extreme hardship would be the loss of employment due to the need to drive on the job, and an example of undue hardship to another person could be a family member that is reliant on the applicant transporting them.  The term hardship does not mean ‘an inconvenience’.  Where it may be annoying to wake up slightly earlier to catch a bus to get to work or it may mean not being able to take your child to a sports game on a weekend, that would be merely inconvenient and would not satisfy the threshold of hardship.

Further, the grant of a Limited Licence must not be contrary to the interests of public safety. Therefore, even if the applicant can provide evidence that they will suffer extreme hardship, or cause undue hardship to another person, a court may decline an application if it deems that granting the application would be contrary to public safety.

Who cannot apply?

There are certain offences and convictions that may preclude a person from being eligible to apply for a Limited Licence.  Section 103 of the Act sets out who may not apply.  This includes drivers who have been:

  • disqualified for excessively high blood/breath alcohol levels (see section 65 of the Act);
  • indefinitely disqualified because of repeated drug or alcohol offences;
  • disqualified from driving while operating a passenger transport vehicle (goods service, passenger service or vehicle recovery service)

Further, if you have been previously convicted for any of the following offences and within 5 years you are disqualified again for any of the same offences:

  • convicted for reckless, dangerous or careless driving causing injury or death; or
  • Any driving offence involving alcohol or drugs; or
  • holding or applying for a driver licence while disqualified from doing so.

The application process

There is a two stage process in applying for a Limited Licence. The application and the required supporting documentation must be provided to the Police before the application is heard before the court.  The following documents must be drafted and filed with the Police (and amended if requested by the police) and then filed with the District Court:

  • Application for Order Authorising the Issue of a Limited Licence;
  • Affidavit of Applicant in Support of Application for a Limited Licence;
  • Affidavit of Person in Support of Application for a Limited Licence (if another person is in support); and
  • Draft Order Authorising the Issue of a Limited Licence.

The Police may oppose the application or decide that amendments are required, such as requiring further limitations on where and when the applicant can drive.  The District Court Judge is the overriding decision maker, so a Judge may elect to deny an application even though the Police may have not opposed the initial application.  However, on rare occasions, a Judge may be persuaded to grant an order despite opposition from the Police.

28 Day Stand-down Period

There is a stand-down period of 28 days where a driver is disqualified for offences with a mandatory sentence of 6 months or more.  The stand-down period is for 28 days from the date the driver was disqualified.  There is no stand-down period for suspension due to excess demerit points.  An applicant can draft and file an application at any time before the stand- down period ends.  The stand-down period only prevents the court from hearing the application within the 28 days.

What are the “limits” of the Limited Licence?

As the name suggests, a Limited Licence holder will have limitations on when and where he or she can drive.  An order will not necessarily grant you the ability to drive as freely as you once did prior to disqualification.  Although often referred to as a work licence, a court order will likely limit the driving allowed while at work, and may require the Limited Licence holder and their employer to make concessions.

When applying for a Limited Licence, an applicant will propose what limitations should be imposed, and it will be at the discretion of the court whether to accept or impose further limitations.  The order will specify:

  • The purpose the Limited Licence is required for. I.e. the driver’s occupation and job description;
  • What times of the day and week a driver is allowed to drive;
  • What vehicle(s) the driver may drive; and
  • The areas in which the driver is permitted to drive.

What does it cost?

Costs of applying will vary depending on whether you were disqualified due to a criminal offence under the Act or whether you were suspended from driving due to excess demerit points.  The application cost does not include the issuing fee of the Limited Licence available at a VTNZ or Automobile Association branch, this is a further cost.  The following fees apply:

  • Criminal offence – $150.00 court filing fee; or
  • Demerit Points –  $200.00 court filing fee (plus a further $50.00 for sealing the order); and
  • Issuing of Limited Licence – $39.30

It is important to note that once your disqualification ends and you no longer require your Limited Licence, you will need to apply to have your licence reinstated.  This also has a cost of $66.40.

Once the order is granted

Strict adherence to the limits imposed under the Limited Licence are required.  A log book is required and the order must be carried with the driver at all times while in the vehicle.

If your application is declined, then you have a mandatory stand down period of 3 months before reapplying.  Therefore it is important to get it right first time.  At Harkness Henry, for a set fee, we can have someone help you through the entire process which includes drafting the necessary documentation, an appearance and filing fees.


This article is current as at the date of publication and is only intended to provide general comments about the law. Harkness Henry accepts no responsibility for reliance by any person or organisation on the content of the article. Please contact the author of the article if you require specific advice about how the law applies to you.

For further information

Sarah Rawcliffe - Harkness Henry Partner

Sarah Rawcliffe

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