Habitual Traffic Offenders


Marrickville Legal Centre is helping Habitual Traffic Offenders (HTO) to get their licence back.

Our Centre has specialised in helping people regain independence after having been disqualified from driving for many years.

Before 28 October 2017, where a person was convicted of three or more serious driving offences in the previous five-year period, the person was declared a Habitual Traffic Offender.  What this meant is that, in addition to the penalty the person received for the driving offence, an additional penalty of five years disqualification from driving was added.

Where the person was convicted of another serious traffic offence in the five-year period, the court would add a further five-year disqualification period. Under this scheme, repeat offenders could incur driving disqualification periods of 20 years or more.


Case study 1

John had a poor driving record.  When he was younger he committed a number of driving offences which resulted in the court declaring John to be HTO. In 2016 he was disqualified from driving until 2030. In 2020 John was charged with driving while disqualified. He pled guilty. The Centre represented John at court. He was convicted and placed on an Intensive Correction Order (ICO) for 18 months which is a term of imprisonment which can be served in the community.


HTO scheme unfair

NSW Parliament recognised the HTO scheme was unfair. It existed in no other state in Australia. The lengthy disqualification periods in some cases were considered “crushing”. Imposing such lengthy driving disqualification periods might actually create more problems, including:

  • Increasing the risk of reoffending;
  • Serious negative social impacts, for example, restricting a person’s ability to work;
  • A sentence out of proportion with the original offence; and
  • Imposing significant burden on the criminal justice system.

In response to these concerns, Parliament abolished the scheme from 28 October 2017. However, while there could be no new HTO declarations from that date, existing HTO declarations continued. Fortunately, avenues exist for a person to have their existing HTO declaration quashed.


Removing a HTO declaration

To remove a HTO declaration it is necessary to lodge an application in the Local Court.  It is a complex area of law to have an HTO quashed – the process is anything but simple.

A number of steps are required to have the HTO quashed.

These steps include:

  1. Obtain the required letter from service NSW stating that the HTO declaration can be quashed; and
  2. Obtain an updated traffic record from Service NSW.

Our Centre also advises that a person should:

  1. Complete the Traffic Offenders Program;
  2. Write an apology letter;
  3. Obtain character references; and
  4. Obtain evidence of why a licence is needed – for example for caring or employment responsibilities.

Preparing this legal documentation can take a person up to a few months to cover all bases, even with the support of a lawyer. Marrickville Legal Centre can help guide clients through these steps.

Finally, once all these steps have been taken, our Centre may help clients to complete the court form to submit all their documents and if necessary represent the person in court. Should the court quash the HTO declaration, the person may apply for a driver’s licence with Service NSW.


Case study 2

Maggie was disqualified from driving until 2024 as she was declared a HTO.  Maggie lived in the Blue Mountains and it was difficult for her to get to work.  She contacted our Centre and we assisted her to obtain the necessary documents to apply to the local court to have the HTO declaration quashed. Once Maggie had completed the Traffic Offenders Program, obtained character references and written an apology letter we submitted the relevant application form to the court.  Maggie’s application was successful and the HTO declaration was quashed, allowing her to apply for her driver’s licence.


Although the HTO program ended in 2017, its legacy remains an important justice issue for those people who are still under the scheme as it perpetuates disadvantage by keeping people in the criminal justice system.  Helping members of the community to regain their independence is critical to self-determination.

Do you need legal advice for a traffic matter? We can help. Talk to a traffic solicitor from our General Legal Service or Youth Legal Service NSW for people aged 25 and under.