Ask LH: Can I Be Fined For Driving In A Car Park Without A Licence?

Ask LH: Can I Be Fined For Driving In A Car Park Without A Licence?

Hey Lifehacker, On a recent visit to a hotel with a mate, I decided to shift his car as a prank. I started his car and moved it six spaces over in the same car park. As I pulled in, a police car pulled up behind me, checked my licence and issued a fine as it was expired. Is this really an offence given I never left the car park? Might I be able to challenge the fine on that basis? Thanks, Parking Prankster

Car park picture from Shutterstock

Dear PP,

If you really were shifting your mate’s car as a prank, that’s some pretty awful luck right there. If you were driving it for real and made up this excuse on the spot, I dip my hat to your inventive thinking. Either way, the bad news is that you’re going to have to wear the fine.

Attempting to contest this infringement in in court will almost certainly end badly for you. Even if the magistrate decides to take your word at face value, you were still breaking the law — no ifs or buts.

As we’ve noted in the past, road rules still apply on private roads and road related areas, which includes car parks. It is illegal to drive without a licence in a car park, even if it was only for a few metres. The police were perfectly right to book you.

Our advice is to suck it up and remember to renew your licence in future. You can pick up some general licence renewal tips here.


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  • So, he got randomly pulled over, in a car park, after committing no driving offense? Yeah, right.

    • Im thinking the cops were in the carpark and saw him pull out of the current space and then move it to another car space, hence why they then would of gone and pulled him over

  • A licence isn’t so much about being on the road as it is a certification that you are fit to operate a particular type of vehicle (which happens to also include knowing the road rules). So it doesn’t matter where the car is or what you were doing – the fact remains: you were wielding a piece of heavy machinery without a valid licence.

    But being caught was rotten luck. You’d think cops would have better things to do. But why hadn’t you renewed your licence anyway?

    • You can legally wield a lot of things on private property, it’s just that the road rules apply to public access private property, like car parks.

      I’ve never been hauled up for drunken doughnuts in my front paddock. It’s my front paddock, I will do what I want!

      • The law is fairly specific and states that a licence is still required for private property “that the public has access to”.

        So, as long as there’s a gate, fence or other barrier between the road and your front paddock that makes it clear it’s private property and that public access is not available, then you’re OK.

        Having said that, being seen by the police doing “drunken doughnuts” could be considered a breach of the peace or public order offence and still lead to a penalty

  • A licence is required to operate a motor vehicle.
    Vehicle registration on the other hand is only required if operating the vehicle on public roads

    • With the exception of private roads, a licence isn’t required to operate a vehicle on private property.

  • So being on private property makes no difference, assuming it was a private hotel car park and not a public car park? I’m genuinely asking. Would the same apply if I was driving the car on my own property?

  • road rules still apply on private roads and road related areas

    That is far to broad of a statement. I’m no lawyer either I would probably say that’s more likely to be

    road rules still apply on private roads and road related areas, that are opened for use to the general public.

    Police can’t come up your driveway and fine you for doing burnouts.

    • Police can’t come up your driveway and fine you for doing burnouts.

      They would probably consider this a “breach of the peace” and could still take action. Especially if a member of the public has complained.

  • I once had my car hit in a car park by another card I rang the cops to report the accident and they said “it happened on private property it is a civil matter not a matter for the police”
    My insurance company agreed to that statement as well. This was act. It may be different in other states but when as a kid used to paddock base at my grandparents property in qld that was fine because. .. private property. You need a license and rego for public roads. Or it can be a condition to entry of a private property. And there can be agreements for police to monitor the area. Again very state law based.

  • Is this more about private areas open to the public? I have a kid who doesn’t have his L’s yet – Can I not let him back my car out of the carport and up the driveway (Not, of course as far as the road though)

    • In your driveway at your private residence, no dramas, as soon as the car crosses onto public land (the footpath, potential issue

  • What a rotten bit of luck.

    Wish I got a photo the day I saw a local farmer’s quad bike parked on one side of the fuel bowser and a highway patrol on the other side. To be fair his property is about 100m away from the petrol station and it’s a common event to see him refuelling there but a nasty cop could change that.

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