Special hardship orders are court orders that give drivers an opportunity to apply for a restricted licence allowing them to continue driving even when their licence will be suspended. For many people, they are the difference between keeping and losing their jobs. For others, a special hardship order means that a person can continue caring for their families by, for example, driving sick family members to and from medical appointments. They are therefore extremely valuable if granted.
However, a special hardship order is not automatically granted to applicants. To receive such an order, an applicant needs to meet a number of different preconditions and must also satisfy the presiding magistrate that they are suitable for a special hardship licence. If they are unable to meet the criteria, their application will be refused and they will face a mandatory licence suspension.
In this article, we look at several factors that must be considered before an application for a special hardship order will be granted.
Special Hardship Order Preconditions
A person can only apply for a special hardship order if they meet certain conditions. If they do not meet these conditions, their application will be refused even without any consideration of the person’s genuine need for the licence. These are just some of the preconditions:
- Your licence must be suspended for a relevant reason. For example, special hardship orders are not available for disqualifications for drink driving (although a restricted work licence may be available in this situation). The most common reasons why a person can apply for a special hardship order is when they have accumulated too many demerit points while on a good driving behaviour period and/or if they have committed a high-speed driving offence.
- Applicants must hold either an Open or Provisional Queensland driver’s licence. Holders of Learners licences and non-Queensland licences cannot apply for a special hardship licence.
- Their licence can’t have been suspended or disqualified in the 5 year period before making the application. However, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule as not all suspensions are included in this condition. You should seek legal advice if you think that your licence has been suspended or disqualified in the last five years.
- The application needs to be made in the correct jurisdiction (court). If you lodge your application in the incorrect court, the magistrate may refuse to hear the application and will reject it.
- The application must be lodged within the correct timeframe. If the strict timeframes are not complied with, the application can be refused as it was not lodged on time.
Fit and Proper Person Test
If the applicant meets all the preconditions, they will still need to convince the magistrate that they are a ‘fit and proper person’. This is not a clearly defined test and is decided on each individual case. To put it simply, the magistrate needs to decide whether the applicant deserves to hold a driver’s licence based on factors such as the seriousness and length of their traffic history; their employment history; their criminal history (if any) and so on.
For most applicants, they will have either committed a high-speed offence or they have a lengthy traffic history. Magistrates can therefore be quite reluctant to grant these applicants unless the application is prepared as persuasively as possible.
Severe Hardship Test
Applicants also need to prove that they will suffer some form of severe hardship if their application is refused. Most commonly, the potential hardship is financial – if a person loses their licence, they will lose their job and their only source of income. However applications can also be made on the grounds of severe and unusual hardship, and this is a form of hardship which is non-financial. Examples of this could be driving children to and from school or driving sick family members to medical appointments.
It is important to understand that special hardship orders are not granted just for convenience. The applicant needs to be able to demonstrate that there are no other suitable transport methods available. A person who lives just a few minutes walk away from their workplace therefore may not be successful whereas a carpenter who needs to drive all day for work might be. Again, this test is decided on a case-by-case basis.
As can be seen, special hardship order applications are not straightforward. There are a number of conditions that need to be met and tests that need to be satisfied before a magistrate will consider granting the application. Furthermore, you cannot re-apply if your application is refused, meaning that you only have one chance. It is therefore important that you are armed with all the knowledge necessary to ensure that your application is granted. As expert traffic lawyers, we have represented hundreds of clients for special hardship order applications with outstanding results. If you need to apply for a special hardship order, do not hesitate to call us now to discuss your options.