What is suspension from driving?
Suspension is a stand-down period from driving. Your licence will be taken by the Police or you must send it to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). There are two main types of suspension:
1. Demerit suspension
If you collect 100 or more demerit points over a two-year period, you will be suspended from driving for three months. The suspension period starts as soon as you receive the demerit suspension notice from the NZTA, the Police or an NZTA authorised agent.
2. Roadside licence suspension
If you are caught committing a serious driving offence which puts lives at risk, the Police can give you a 28-day roadside licence suspension. This means that the Police will take your drivers licence from you on the spot, and you cannot drive for 28 days. You might have to pay for your car to be removed from the roadside, as you won't be allowed to drive it home.
The Police can do this if you:
- go over a permanent speed limit by more than 40 km/h (not including speed camera offences)
- go over any other speed limit by more than 50 km/h (not including speed camera offences)
- drive with more than 650 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath but have no relevant convictions
- drive with more than 130 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood but have no relevant convictions
- fail or refuse to take a blood test for excess blood alcohol, or refuse to supply a blood sample
- are caught drink-driving and have been convicted of a similar offence within the previous four years
- drive with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood and have relevant convictions within the last four years
The Police can apply to the court to extend the 28 day suspension period up to three times.
After suspension you will go to court, and if you’re found guilty, you may not be allowed to drive for a longer period of time. This is called disqualification.
Back to top
What actions would disqualify me from driving?
If you are convicted of a driving offence, the court may disqualify you from driving for a period of time.
You can be disqualified from driving for a number of reasons:
- drink-driving offences in which you are over the legal limit
- going 40km/h or more over the speed limit
- reckless or dangerous driving
- careless or inconsiderate driving causing injury or death
- failing to stop after an accident
- driving with blood or breath alcohol over the legal limit
- driving under the influence of drugs. These can be illegal drugs like ‘P’ or prescription drugs, so if you are given medication, you should check with your doctor that you will be alright to drive.
- refusing to remain at a breath testing station
- refusing an evidential blood test
- failing to adequately secure a load in or on your vehicle
- unauthorised displays of speed or drag racing
- driving while disqualified from driving or breaking the terms of a limited licence
- applying for a licence while disqualified
For many of these offences, it is up to the court to decide whether or not you should be disqualified from driving, and for how long. Repeat offences could result in you being disqualified from driving indefinitely.
For more advice, please see your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or your local community law centre.
Back to top
What is an alcohol interlock disqualification?
Certain driving offences
(e.g. repeated drink driving offences) will result in a three-month alcohol interlock disqualification. What this means is that you cannot apply for a limited licence, and after your disqualification has ended you are not allowed to drive until you have obtained an alcohol interlock licence. This type of driving licence only allows you to drive vehicles which have an alcohol interlock device installed.
An alcohol interlock is a device which tests your breath for alcohol and prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected. After you’ve started the vehicle, you have to provide breath samples at random intervals while you are using it. The device records all of your readings; every month you have to take the vehicle to the installer for servicing and to download the readings (if you don’t, the device will prevent your vehicle from being started).
After you’ve had your alcohol interlock licence for at least 12 months, you can apply to NZTA to leave this process.
If you get the approval, your next step is to apply for a zero alcohol licence. Once you have this, you can have the interlock device removed from your vehicle, but will be under a zero alcohol limit for three years (i.e. if you have just one drink and then drive you could be charged with drink driving and disqualified).
After three years on a zero alcohol licence you can apply for a normal driving licence.
More information about this is on the NZTA website
Back to top
Can I appeal my disqualification or suspension?
You can appeal against a 28-day roadside suspension. The only grounds for appeal are
- you were not the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offence, or
- the police officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe the offence was committed, or
- the police officer did not give you a notice that met the requirements.
To support your appeal, you will need to complete a DL21 Statutory Declaration – the form is available from your local NZTA office. (A Statutory Declaration is a statement of fact that is signed by you in front of a witness such as a Justice of the Peace or Court Registrar.)
Send this, along with any supporting documentation and a copy of the suspension notice, to the Transport Registry Centre (the Palmerston North office of the NZTA).
If your appeal is successful, your licence will be sent back to you. If not, you can make a further appeal to a district court. If you would like to know more about this, please see the NZTA factsheet on the suspension driving licences, and if you need help, visit your local CAB.
If you have been disqualified from driving, you would have to appeal in court.
Back to top
I was charged with drink-driving. What happens now?
If you are charged with drink-driving, you will have to attend a court hearing where it will be decided whether you are guilty and what penalties you will have to pay.
Depending on your age, how much over the limit you were, and whether it is your first, second or third (or more) offence, the penalty is likely include disqualification from driving for 6 months or more, plus one or more of the following:
- prison term
- a fine, which is calculated at approximately $1 for every unit of breath alcohol or $5 for every unit of blood alcohol
- liability for court costs
- community work
- car confiscation
If you have been charged with drink-driving and need legal help, your local CAB can help you locate your local community law centre or some lawyers in your area.
Also see our section on the courts.
Back to top
What support is there for me if I’ve been drink driving?
Drink driving can be a difficult thing to talk about. Sometimes friends and family can help, but if this doesn’t feel right, there are several organisations you can turn to for help.
You could try calling the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, visit your local CAB for suggestions, or use Alcohol Drug Association New Zealand's Addictions Treatment Directory to find out where to go for confidential advice and support.
Check our information about help for addiction.
Back to top
I have had my licence suspended because I had so many demerits. How can I get an exemption so I can still drive for my work?
You can apply for a limited licence if your disqualification or suspension will cause you, or another person, extreme hardship. However, there are many instances in which your application will probably be rejected. These include:
- you are serving a 28 day licence suspension for speeding or drink-driving
- you are indefinitely disqualified for repeat alcohol or drug driving offences
- you are disqualified for driving while disqualified or suspended
If you are subject to a 28 day stand down period and your application is successful, your limited licence will not be issued before the end of the stand down period.
More information about this is on our Limited Licences web page.
Back to top
How do I get my licence back after a suspension?
If you were given a 28 day roadside licence suspension
(see What is suspension from driving?)
, and the Police handed your licence over to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), then the NZTA will return your licence to you - unless the suspension period was extended by the court, your licence expired or you were disqualified from driving during the suspension period.
If the Police didn't hand your licence over to the NZTA, you'll have to apply for a replacement. You'll need to show evidence of identification and of your address, and pay a replacement fee of about $40.
If your licence was suspended other than 28 day roadside suspension, or disqualified, see the next question.
Back to top
How can I get my licence back after I’ve been disqualified?
At the end of your disqualification or suspension period (other than the 28 day roadside suspension), you can apply to have your licence reinstated.
To apply for a reinstatement of your licence you'll need to visit an NZTA driver licensing agent and:
You won't be allowed to drive again until your licence is reinstated. Doing so could result in you being fined and your car impounded.
If you have been disqualified for more than a year, you will also have to re-sit the appropriate tests to regain the licence class or classes you held before being disqualified.
If you were indefinitely disqualified after convictions for repeat driving offences involving drug or alcohol, you'll need to also prove that you've dealt with your drug or alcohol problem. You’ll find a list of approved assessment centres on the NZTA website.
There's information about this in the NZ Transport Agency factsheet Driving offences and penalties.