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Drink Driving

Drink driving falls into three tiers under Queensland law, all of which carry mandatory licence disqualification periods and even mandatory jail sentences in some cases.  If you are guilty of drink driving and your driver’s licence is disqualified you might be eligible to apply for permission to drive for work purposes (called a ‘work licence’) but there are strict rules that apply to such an application.

If you, or a family member, have been charged with drink driving you should contact us for a confidential, cost and obligation free, discussion about the situation and how Townes & Associates can help.

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    Drink Driving

    Section 79

    Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995

    Drink driving is divided into three ‘tiers’ under Queensland law: low range drink driving, mid range drink driving and high range drink driving as well as a fourth category of the offence called ‘driving under the influence’.  At its least serious the charge carries a maximum fine of 14 penalty units and/or up to 3 months imprisonment while at its most serious, a charge of high range drink driving carries a maximum fine of 28 penalty units and/or up to 18 months imprisonment.  If a person is guilty of high range drink driving more than 3 times within a 5 year period then the penalty imposed on them must include jail.

    In all cases a court must disqualify a person who is guilty of drink driving from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for a period of time.  For low and mid range drink driving offences a person can make an application for a work licence at the time their licence is disqualified if they are eligible.  You can learn more about work licence applications, and your potential eligibility for one, at our dedicated work licences page

    The minimum and maximum disqualification periods for each offence, and the potential entitlement to apply for a work licence, are set out in the table below:

    Offence

    Mandatory minimum disqualification

    Maximum possible disqualification

    May apply for a work licence

    Low range drink driving

    1 month

    6 months

    Yes

    Repeat low range drink driving

    3 months

    9 months

    No

    Mid range drink driving

    3 months

    12 months

    Yes

    Repeat mid range drink driving

    3 months

    18 months

    No

    High range drink driving

    6 months

    Absolute disqualification

    No

    Repeat high range drink driving

    12 months

    Absolute disqualification

    No

    Drink driving offences in Queensland

    Select an offence from the tabs below for more information including the maximum penalty, common case examples and practical tips. Use the form at the bottom of this page, or the email link above, to get in touch if you have been charged with any of these offences.

    A charge laid under s.79(2) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, low range drink driving is the least serious drink driving offence under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody drives, attempts to put in motion or is in charge of a motor vehicle, tram train or vessel while they have a blood alcohol concentration of between .05 and .1 miligrams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath (being over the general, but under the middle, alcohol limit).  The maximum penalty for low range drink driving in Queensland is a fine of 14 penalty units and/or up to 3 months imprisonment with a criminal conviction.  A person who is convicted of low range drink driving must be disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for a minimum of 1 month and they might be eligible to apply for a work licence at that time.

    Low range drink driving can be committed without any specific knowledge, or intent, by a driver to be over the limit (the classic example being the person who has carefully counted their drinks at a social function but still blows over on the way home). Being mistaken as to ones level of intoxication, or having a reasonable belief about being under the limit is not a defence to a charge of low range drink driving.

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for low range drink driving in Queensland can be severe (always including a licence disqualification and often a criminal record, even for first offenders).  

    If you would like to know more about low range drink driving in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Low range drink driving is often committed in the following ways:

    Miscounted drinks

    A person has been drinking socially with friends, being careful to have only two glasses of wine in the first hour (which unfortunately contain 2 or more standard drinks each because they are large pours and a high alcohol wine) and one every hour after that, only to find that they blow over the limit at an RBT on the way home.  Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 1 and 6 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    The morning after

    A person wakes early after a ‘big night’ and immediately jumps in their car to head home and get ready for work.  Upon being stopped by Police for an RBT the person returns a positive blood alcohol reading because their body has not had time to metabolise all of the alcohol which was consumed the night before. Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 1 and 3 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    In charge

    A person, knowing they have had too much to drink, gets into their car and reclines the driver’s seat to go to sleep rather than attempt to drive home.  Before going to sleep they turn on the ignition (to run the aircon if it’s summer or the heater in the winter time).  They are awoken by Police, knocking on their window, who administer a breath test and charge the person with drink driving on the basis that they are ‘in charge’ of their motor vehicle. 

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    Drink driving charges can be difficult to defend but it is not impossible.  A person cannot rely on a defence of ‘mistake’ (as they can in relation to most other charges) but they can, in certain circumstances, cast doubt upon their blood alcohol content at the time of driving (normally in cases where the Police administer a test after a person is alleged to have driven a vehicle) which can either lower the seriousness of the charge of cause it to fail altogether.

    Low range drink driving will be heard in the Magistrates Court

    A client can enhance their prospects of a favourable outcome when facing a charge of low range drink driving by completing a traffic offender program prior to sentence and providing a certificate or report to you upon completion (for tendering in court).

    Many Magistrates will insist that a drink driving offence is a ‘traffic conviction’ and that, therefore, their discretion under s.12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 is less fettered than had it been a ‘criminal offence’.  While due respect and deference must be accorded a Magistrate, consideration might be given to putting forward an argument, based on a combination of sections 2 and 3 of the Queensland Criminal Code that there is no distinction at law between ‘traffic’ and ‘criminal’ offences (even if there is a distinction made by Police record keepers) and that therefore the discretion under s.12 should not be applied differently to drink driving cases.

    A charge laid under s.79(1F) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, mid range drink driving is the second most serious drink driving offence under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody drives, attempts to put in motion or is in charge of a motor vehicle, tram train or vessel while they have a blood alcohol concentration of between .1 and .15 miligrams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath (being over the middle, but under the high, alcohol limit).  The maximum penalty for mid range drink driving in Queensland is a fine of 20 penalty units and/or up to 6 months imprisonment with a criminal conviction.  A person who is convicted of mid range drink driving must be disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for a minimum of 3 month and they might be eligible to apply for a work licence at that time.

    Mid range drink driving can be committed without any specific knowledge, or intent, by a driver to be over the limit (the classic example being the person who has carefully counted their drinks at a social function but still blows over on the way home). Being mistaken as to ones level of intoxication, or having a reasonable belief about being under the limit is not a defence to a charge of mid range drink driving.

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for mid range drink driving in Queensland can be severe (always including a licence disqualification and often a criminal record, even for first offenders).  

    If you would like to know more about mid range drink driving in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Mid range drink driving is often committed in the following ways:

    Miscounted drinks

    A person has been drinking socially with friends, being careful to have only two glasses of wine in the first hour (which unfortunately contain 2 or more standard drinks each because they are large pours and a high alcohol wine) and one every hour after that, only to find that they blow over the limit at an RBT on the way home.  Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 3 and 9 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    The morning after

    A person wakes early after a ‘big night’ and immediately jumps in their car to head home and get ready for work.  Upon being stopped by Police for an RBT the person returns a positive blood alcohol reading because their body has not had time to metabolise all of the alcohol which was consumed the night before. Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 3 and 6 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    In charge

    A person, knowing they have had too much to drink, gets into their car and reclines the driver’s seat to go to sleep rather than attempt to drive home.  Before going to sleep they turn on the ignition (to run the aircon if it’s summer or the heater in the winter time).  They are awoken by Police, knocking on their window, who administer a breath test and charge the person with drink driving on the basis that they are ‘in charge’ of their motor vehicle. Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 3 and 6 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    Drink driving charges can be difficult to defend but it is not impossible.  A person cannot rely on a defence of ‘mistake’ (as they can in relation to most other charges) but they can, in certain circumstances, cast doubt upon their blood alcohol content at the time of driving (normally in cases where the Police administer a test after a person is alleged to have driven a vehicle) which can either lower the seriousness of the charge of cause it to fail altogether.

    Mid range drink driving will be heard in the Magistrates Court

    A client can enhance their prospects of a favourable outcome when facing a charge of mid range drink driving by completing a traffic offender program prior to sentence and providing a certificate or report to you upon completion (for tendering in court).

    Many Magistrates will insist that a drink driving offence is a ‘traffic conviction’ and that, therefore, their discretion under s.12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 is less fettered than had it been a ‘criminal offence’.  While due respect and deference must be accorded a Magistrate, consideration might be given to putting forward an argument, based on a combination of sections 2 and 3 of the Queensland Criminal Code that there is no distinction at law between ‘traffic’ and ‘criminal’ offences (even if there is a distinction made by Police record keepers) and that therefore the discretion under s.12 should not be applied differently to drink driving cases.

    A charge laid under s.79(1) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, high range drink driving,  is the most serious drink driving offence under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody drives, attempts to put in motion or is in charge of a motor vehicle, tram train or vessel while they have a blood alcohol concentration of over .15 miligrams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath (being over the middle, but under the high, alcohol limit).  An analogous offence called driving under the influence (‘DUI’) is also committed where a person drives or is in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug (in this case no specific blood alcohol content needs to be alleged but indicia of intoxication must be established).  The maximum penalty for high range drink driving, and DUI, in Queensland is a fine of 28 penalty units and/or up to 9 months imprisonment with a criminal conviction.  A person who is convicted of high range drink driving or DUI must be disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for a minimum of 6 months and they are not entitled to apply for a work licence at that time.

    The maximum penalties for repeat offenders (meaning anyone who has been convicted of drink or drug driving within the last 5 years) escalate quickly, with 3rd time offenders facing a mandatory jail sentence.

    High range drink driving can be committed without any specific knowledge, or intent, by a driver to be over the limit (the classic example being the person who has carefully counted their drinks at a social function but still blows over on the way home). Being mistaken as to ones level of intoxication, or having a reasonable belief about being under the limit is not a defence to a charge of high range drink driving.

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for high range drink driving and DUI in Queensland can be severe (always including a licence disqualification and often a criminal record and sometimes jail, even for first offenders).  

    If you would like to know more about high range drink driving and DUI in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    High range drink driving and DUI are often committed in the following ways:

    Chancing it

    A person has been drinking socially with friends and, knowing full well that they are at risk of being over the limit, decide to ‘chance it’ and drive home only to be pulled over, and fail a breath test, en route.  Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a large fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 6 and 18 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).  If the person comes to Police attention because of an accident in which there is significant property damage or personal injury caused a jail sentence, even for a first offender, becomes a real possibility.

    The morning after

    A person wakes early after a ‘big night’ and immediately jumps in their car to head home and get ready for work.  Upon being stopped by Police for an RBT the person returns a positive blood alcohol reading because their body has not had time to metabolise all of the alcohol which was consumed the night before. Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 6 and 12 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    In charge

    A person, knowing they have had too much to drink, gets into their car and reclines the driver’s seat to go to sleep rather than attempt to drive home.  Before going to sleep they turn on the ignition (to run the aircon if it’s summer or the heater in the winter time).  They are awoken by Police, knocking on their window, who administer a breath test and charge the person with drink driving on the basis that they are ‘in charge’ of their motor vehicle.  Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a fine with a conviction and a licence disqualification of between 6 and 12 months (depending on the blood alcohol content revealed in the breath analysis).

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    Drink driving charges can be difficult to defend but it is not impossible.  A person cannot rely on a defence of ‘mistake’ (as they can in relation to most other charges) but they can, in certain circumstances, cast doubt upon their blood alcohol content at the time of driving (normally in cases where the Police administer a test after a person is alleged to have driven a vehicle) which can either lower the seriousness of the charge of cause it to fail altogether.

    High range drink driving and DUI will be heard in the Magistrates Court

    A client can enhance their prospects of a favourable outcome when facing a charge of low range drink driving by completing a traffic offender program prior to sentence and providing a certificate or report to you upon completion (for tendering in court).

    Many Magistrates will insist that a drink driving offence is a ‘traffic conviction’ and that, therefore, their discretion under s.12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 is less fettered than had it been a ‘criminal offence’.  While due respect and deference must be accorded a Magistrate, consideration might be given to putting forward an argument, based on a combination of sections 2 and 3 of the Queensland Criminal Code that there is no distinction at law between ‘traffic’ and ‘criminal’ offences (even if there is a distinction made by Police record keepers) and that therefore the discretion under s.12 should not be applied differently to drink driving cases. 

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with a drink driving offence, in particular if you think you’ll need to apply for a work licence, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

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