Being disqualified from driving
Driving offences in Ireland are set out in the Road Traffic Acts 1961 - 2018.
Penalties on conviction for a driving offence vary and are determined principally by the severity of the offence and the number of offences you have committed in the past. They can include monetary fines, endorsement of your driving licence with penalty points, disqualification from driving and, in the most severe cases, imprisonment.
This document outlines the rules governing the disqualification of driving licence holders in Ireland. It includes information on:
- The operation of disqualification orders
- The various types of disqualification orders; and
- How to apply for the restoration of your licence after being disqualified
The disqualification of drivers and the enforcement of the various provisions is a shared responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS), the Courts Service and An Garda Síochána.
Operation of disqualification orders
In general, there are 2 ways you can be disqualified from driving. Either:
- You get too many penalty points (endorsements) on your licence or learner permit within a set period of time; or
- You are convicted of a driving offence for which the penalty imposed requires you to be disqualified from driving
Disqualification through penalty points
A penalty point is essentially a formal reprimand by the Gardaí endorsed on your driving licence record that shows you are guilty of a specific driving offence. Penalty points are recorded on your driving licence when:
- You are convicted in court of a driving offence that attracts penalty points; or
- You pay a fixed charge notice that was issued to you for an offence that also carries penalty points
If you get 12 penalty points in any 3 year period you are automatically disqualified from driving for 6 months.
Similarly, learner permit drivers and new drivers who are within two years of receiving their first full licence are disqualified if they get 7 penalty points.
If you exceed your penalty point threshold, you will receive a letter from either the Courts Service or the RSA indicating the date on which your period of disqualification will begin and requesting that you surrender your licence within 14 days of that date (for more see, ‘Surrendering your licence’ below).
Disqualification through conviction
Not all driving offences resulting in an automatic disqualification require you to attend court. In most cases, a Garda will issue you with a fixed charge notice setting out the fine payable and you have the option of paying the fixed charge and accepting the associated period of disqualification or allowing the matter to proceed to court.
For example, if you hold a valid licence or learner permit at the time of committing a drink driving offence and your alcohol level is below a certain limit, you may be issued with a fixed charge. If you pay the fine stated on the notice within 28 days, the disqualification order associated with the offence will be imposed but you will not have to go to court.
However, the Gardaí do have the power to arrest you for some offences, such as drink driving or dangerous driving, and a small number of very serious offences result in automatic summons to court without the option of paying a fixed charge.
You can find out more about how criminal trials work in our dedicated document. You can also read detailed information about criminal legal aid and access free legal advice from Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) across the country.
Surrendering your licence
Depending on the type of disqualification order made by the court (for more, see 'Types of disqualification orders'), you will be required to surrender your licence to the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) within 10 or 14 days of the order commencing.
Upon receiving your licence, the NDLS updates your driver record to reflect the fact that your licence has been received. If it is not received, no amendment is made. Upon being disqualified from driving, your record will also be updated on the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF). The NDLS retain your driving licence until the expiration of your period of disqualification, or until the removal of your disqualification order, and return it to you.
It is an offence not to surrender your licence, which carries a maximum fine of €1,000 on first conviction and up to €2,000 on a second or further conviction.
The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to €5,000 and/or a prison term of 6 months.
Making an appeal
If you are convicted of a driving offence and disqualified from driving, you generally have 14 days to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court.
To initiate an appeal, you should lodge a notice of appeal together with a statutory declaration of service with the District Court Clerk in the court area where the decision to disqualify you was made. If you decide to appeal the conviction, your disqualification will be suspended pending the outcome of your appeal.
Types of disqualification orders
There are 3 types of driver disqualification orders in Ireland. Which order you receive depends on the nature of the offence which led to your disqualification.
1. Consequential disqualification
Consequential disqualification arises as a matter of course if you are convicted of an offence for which the law mandates automatic disqualification. The court does not have discretion in relation to convictions in this category.
For example, penalties on conviction for dangerous driving causing death are the same as penalties for manslaughter and also carry a mandatory disqualification from driving for a minimum of 4 years. Similarly, since October 2011, all convictions in the District Court for drink driving offences carry a mandatory disqualification from driving for a minimum of 6 months.
If a consequential disqualification order is made by a court, the driver generally has 10 days to surrender their licence. If, however, the disqualification follows from having too many penalty points, the driver has 14 days to surrender their licence.
2. Ancillary Disqualification
An ancillary disqualification is within the discretion of the court to apply and can be imposed as a penalty for any offence under the under the Road Traffic Act 1961 which does not mandate consequential disqualification. The court will decide how long the disqualification order will last based on the severity of the offence and the perceived likelihood of the perpetrator re-offending.
For example, if you are convicted of driving without due care and attention, the law does not require that you be disqualified from driving (a consequential disqualification). But if you have a record of driving offences, the court may determine it proportional to impose an ancillary disqualification order.
If an ancillary disqualification order is made by a court, the driver generally has 10 days to surrender their licence.
3. Special Disqualification
The District Court has the discretion to disqualify a driver as a consequence of an application made to it by a member of An Garda Síochána submitting that a person is unfit to driver a motor vehicle by reason of:
- Physical disease;
- Physical or mental disability; or
Special disqualification orders occur infrequently, with only a handful of such cases being taken each year. If a special disqualification order is made by a court, the driver generally has 14 days to surrender their licence or make an appeal to the Circuit Court.
What happens if I commit a driving offence abroad?
Penalty points and endorsements on driving licences received in other countries (including EU/EEA member states) do not transfer between states. This means that if you got penalty points abroad or already have endorsements on your driving licence before coming to Ireland, these penalty points or endorsements will not transfer over to an Irish driving licence.
If, however, you have been disqualified from driving in another country and this was in addition to a prison sentence for driving offences it may not be possible for you to exchange your full foreign driving licence for a full driving licence here in Ireland.
The situation is different between Ireland and the UK (including Northern Ireland) for driving disqualifications for specified offences. This is provided for by Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 2016, which came into operation from 1 August 2017.
Under this agreement between Ireland and the UK, if you hold an Irish licence and you are disqualified from driving for committing a serious offence in the UK, you may also be disqualified from driving in Ireland.
The District Court can make an order to disqualify you from driving in Ireland for the offence that was committed in the UK. The same rules apply if you are driving in Ireland on an UK licence, although the UK authorities can disqualify you without taking separate court action.
How to apply for the restoration of your licence
If you have been disqualified from driving, you can apply for your driving licence to be restored.
You make the application to the District Court where the order to disqualify you was made. An application costs €55. You must be more than halfway through your disqualification period before you can make an application.
Your driving licence will not be restored if:
- The disqualification is for 2 years or less
- You have been given another disqualification in the past 10 years
The court can reduce the period of disqualification to two-thirds of the original period of disqualification or to 2 years, whichever is the greater.
When a court is considering an application for the restoration of a driving licence it will look at the nature of the offence, the character of the applicant and the conduct of the applicant after conviction.
You can get further information and the forms you need from the District Court clerk.