Drink Driving a Boat

One of the best things about living in Queensland is our long stretches of beach and the adventures they allow. Every day, people take their boats out for all sorts of reasons – fishing, skiing or just exploring the coastline.

Boating is often a social outing for Queenslanders. This means that when out on their boats or stopped at a beach, many people will enjoy a few cold beers or a glass of wine, particularly on hot Summer days.

However if you enjoy boating, it is important that you know the alcohol laws that apply so that you don’t find yourself in trouble. Continue reading “Drink Driving a Boat”

The Hip Flask Defence

Most drink drivers are charged with the offence of drink driving after being caught actually driving while over the alcohol limit. This is usually after the driver fails a random breath test or they’re intercepted due to the way they are driving.

However in some situations, a person can be charged with a drink driving offence hours after they have stopped driving. In those situations, they may be able to rely on what is known as the “Hip Flask Defence”.

Continue reading “The Hip Flask Defence”

Are the Police allowed to Speed?

The police have a wide range of powers which allow them to do their job effectively.

Many of these powers are well-known. For example, everyone knows that the police can arrest a person who has committed a criminal offence.

However when it comes to traffic laws, there seems to be some confusion about what the police can and can’t do.

One of the biggest questions we hear is – are the police allowed to speed? To answer this question, we first need to look at the offence of speeding.

Continue reading “Are the Police allowed to Speed?”

The True Cost of Drink Driving

Nowadays, going out for a few drinks can get pretty expensive.

Drinks, food, clothes, transport… it all starts to add up very quickly!

But do you know what’s even more expensive? Getting into your car at the end of the night and risking driving home while over the limit.

Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the possible consequences of drink driving and the financial and emotional costs that can come as a result. If they did, they would almost certainly stay away from their cars after drinking alcohol.

Here, we look at some of the costs that can be incurred due to drink driving.

Continue reading “The True Cost of Drink Driving”

Drink Driving + DUI Queensland: The Ultimate Guide (2019)

Drink driving is a very serious offence in Queensland and can lead to:

  • Significant fines;
  • Loss of your driver’s licence;
  • Termination of employment; and
  • Imprisonment.

Despite this, Queenslanders are still being caught drink driving every day.

Often, people are charged with a drink driving offence simply because they did not know or understand Queensland’s DUI laws.

This is why we have prepared this article: The Ultimate Guide to Drink Driving + DUI Laws in Queensland.

If you have a question about drink driving or DUI laws in Queensland, we hope that we have covered it here.

If not, contact the team at Harper Finch Lawyers to speak with an expert drink driving and DUI lawyer.

Continue reading “Drink Driving + DUI Queensland: The Ultimate Guide (2019)”

Defensive Driving Courses in Brisbane & Gold Coast

Defensive driving courses in QueenslandWhenever we represent a new client who has been charged with a traffic offence, one of the questions that we always ask ourselves is whether they should attend a defensive driving course. In almost all cases, our opinion is that they SHOULD attend such a course and we will then recommend an appropriate course for them to complete.

Defensive driving courses are important for a number of reasons:

  • It shows the magistrate or judge that our client is willing to go that ‘extra step’ to avoid committing similar types of offences in the future;
  • It almost always improves the penalty that our client receives and our client is of course extremely grateful for this, particularly when the penalty will often involve a licence disqualification.

More importantly though, we believe that these courses are important for the safety of our clients and the public generally.

Young drivers may not have had enough experience with driving to know how to handle driving under different conditions. For example, driving during a thunderstorm is very different to driving on a bright and sunny day and drivers need to know how to handle both situations.

For older drivers, it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming that they know what they’re doing because they’ve been driving for so long. Unfortunately with the passage of time, it is easy to become complacent when driving and to forget all the little rules and techniques necessary to drive safely.

This is where defensive driving courses play such an important part.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re 18 and on your Provisional licence or if you’ve been driving for 50 years already. It is almost certain that you will learn something new by attending a defensive driving course.

The courses themselves can range from a few hours of theory one evening to a full day which includes both theoretical and practical components. They are all good however some may be more appropriate than others.

Most people don’t attend a defensive driving course until they have already been charged with a traffic offence. We recommend that ALL driversfind the time to attend a course – it may help you to avoid being charged in the first place and it may just save your life one day.


Queensland Traffic Offenders Program

The Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (or “QTOP” for short) is one of the most well known courses in Queensland and has been running since March 2006.

The program requires a commitment of a few hours one evening each week for three weeks. If you are willing and able to attend different locations, you can even complete the program in 1.5 weeks.

It takes place in Nerang on Tuesday evenings and Mt Gravatt on Wednesday evenings and costs $185 (inc GST).

Topics that are covered include:

  • Safe driving;
  • Emergency services;
  • Substance use;
  • Legal issues; and
  • Insurance cover.

Since this program takes place in the evenings and has two different locations, it is good for participants who work during the day and do not have the time to devote a whole day to attending a course.

If you want to attend QTOP, bookings are essential so make sure you visit their website to find out how to register.


Attitudinal Drivers Workshop

The Attitudinal Driving Workshop (“ADW”) was developed as a way to educate the community about safe driving and is designed to be accessible to anyone who wants to attend. For this reason, the only ‘cost’ is a gold coin donation of $2 to cover costs.

The ADW runs for just a few hours on one Monday each month. Although this means that there aren’t many courses that are run, it only takes a few hours and is therefore perfect for those who have limited free time. It is also ideal for those who don’t have much to spend on program fees.

Many of our clients have provided very positive feedback and have described how confronting this workshop can be. Its purpose is to make it very clear just how devastating the consequences of making poor decisions can be, not just on the driver but on the wider community as well.

To find out how to register, you can either visit the website or their Facebook page.


S.A.V.E Traffic Offender Program

The S.A.V.E Traffic Offender Program (“S.A.V.E”) has been running in New South Wales for a number of years however they have recently been granted approval to bring their program to Queensland.

They are currently running their programs in Brisbane City which makes it very convenient for participants. They are also hoping to open further programs in:

  • Caboolture;
  • Ipswich;
  • Logan;
  • Beenleigh;
  • Gold Coast.

Unlike other programs, S.A.V.E runs for a full day. Fortunately, it is held on Saturdays which makes it accessible for most people who work Monday to Friday.

The cost is $160 and the program cover the following topics:

  • What the law says;
  • Traffic and highway patrol;
  • Rescue;
  • Driving under the influence;
  • Roads, vehicles and insurance; and
  • The real casualties.

If you want to attend S.A.V.E, you can visit their website to find out more information.


Paul Stokell’s Defensive Driving Course 

Unlike the courses discussed above, Paul Stokell’s Defensive Driving Course is a much more “hands on” experience.

It runs for 7 hours and covers a wide range of topics.

The theoretical subjects include:

  • Defensive driving ‘What it means and how it is achieved’
  • Evaluation of the main part of the car – the driver
  • Driver attitude
  • Practical Road Safety Tips
  • Explanation of safety features of modern cars and how to use them
  • Tyres and their importance in driving safety
  • Vision skills
  • Basic vehicle dynamics and skid control


In addition to the theory, participants get a chance to test their new knowledge by getting behind the wheel and applying it in real world situations.

The practical subjects include:

  • Assessment of vehicle condition
  • Seating & steering
  • Emergency braking with & without ABS
  • Emergency lane changes
  • Reaction times and their effects on stopping distance.
  • Vehicle handling / steering techniques

The cost for this program is $179 which is very reasonable when you consider just how much you will learn about how to be a safe driver.

Visit their website to find out more information about attending.


Charged With a Traffic Offence?

At Harper Finch Lawyers, we are very familiar with a number of different courses in Brisbane and throughout Queensland and we would be happy to discuss which course might be more appropriate for you.

Drink Driving Convictions and Blue Cards

If you are facing a drink driving charge in Queensland, it is highly likely that you are concerned about what impact the punishment will have on your life.

The courts have a lot of powers when it comes to sentencing drink drivers. This can include fines, licence disqualifications and even jail.

However, for lots of Queenslanders, their biggest concern might be what impact a drink driving conviction will have on their Blue Card.

Continue reading “Drink Driving Convictions and Blue Cards”

What Are Mitigating Circumstances?

When a person is convicted of a crime in Queensland, they will be sentenced to an appropriate punishment. This could be anything from a fine to a lengthy jail term.

Generally speaking, judges and magistrates have the power to decide what sentence should be given. The sentence however must be consistent with the law and also within an appropriate range.

This means, for example, it is simply impossible for a person to get a fine for murder. On the other hand, it is impossible for a person to go to jail for public urination.

When deciding what sentence should be imposed, the court has to take into account a number of different factors and the Penalties and Sentences Act provides guidelines to assist the court in considering these factors.

Some of these factors are referred to as “mitigating circumstances” and we will review these below.

Continue reading “What Are Mitigating Circumstances?”

What Happens If You Miss a Court Date?

If you are charged with a traffic or criminal offence in Queensland, you will (almost always) need to attend court. You will then have the option to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.

However, people sometimes miss their court date and this could be for any number of reasons.

For example, a person may be sick on the day of court and be so physically or mentally unwell that they cannot make it to court.

Occasionally, a person may simply be disorganised and forget that they have a court date. This often happens when the person is heavily intoxicated when being charged with the offence. They wake up the next morning and don’t remember that they were in fact charged with an offence.

If you think that you will miss a court date for any reason, or if you think you might have already missed an appearance, it is important that you understand what might happen to you as a result and what you should do to fix the problem.


The Penalties for Missing a Court Date

If you fail to attend court at the required time, the consequences can be serious.

If it was your first court appearance for your case, the magistrate will likely issue an arrest warrant. This means that the police have the power to find and arrest you and bring you before the court for failing to appear.

You will then need to explain why you missed court. If you are unable to provide a good enough reason, you will be punished by the magistrate. Ordinarily, this would involve a fine for the first time you fail to appear. However, if you have a history of failing to attend court, a magistrate can impose a more serious punishment which can include imprisonment.

If it was not your first time in court and you had previously been granted bail for the offence, you can be charged with breaching your bail conditions. This is seen as contempt of a court order and is treated very seriously.

In addition to being given a punishment such as a fine or jail, you may also need to convince the magistrate that you deserve to be given bail again. This can be difficult if you have just breached your bail conditions.


What To Do If You Fail To Appear

If you fail to attend court when required, the first thing you should do is seek legal advice. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to provide you with advice and possibly appear in court with you to explain why you did not attend court.

If you have any documents which explain why you did not attend, you should make sure you get these. This could include, for example, a medical certificate from your doctor.

Lastly, you should surrender yourself to the police or the local courthouse. You should do this as soon as possible, especially if you know that a warrant has been issued. It is a much better option than being arrested by the police and taken to court.


Deemed Possession of Drugs

It is a well-known fact that it is a crime to possess certain items in Queensland.

For example, the Weapons Act makes it illegal to possess weapons such as a switchblade knife.

It can also be a criminal offence under the Summary Offences Act to possess certain items if they are to be used for committing other offences, such as burglary or unlawful use of a vehicle. This could include a crowbar, for example.

The laws relating to possessing dangerous drugs in Queensland is quite clear and these are outlined in section 9 Drugs Misuse Act.  In summary, it is an offence to possess dangerous drugs (such as cocaine, marijuana etc) unless the person has a lawful excuse.

What is less-known however is that you do not need to physically be in possession of dangerous drugs to be charged with being in possession. In fact, they do not even need to be your drugs. This unusual rule is called “deemed possession”.

What Is Deemed Possession

The relevant law about drug possession states that “a person who unlawfully has possession of a dangerous drug is guilty of a crime”.

However more detailed information about possessing drugs is found in section 129(1)(c) Drugs Misuse Act. This section states that if drugs are found in or on a place that is owned or under the control of a person, that person can be charged with possessing the drugs.

In practical terms, this means that you can be charged with possessing drugs if the police search your vehicle and drugs are found in the boot.

This law also has serious consequences for people who own or rent a home that has drug users visiting. If those visitors leave drugs at the residence, the owner/renter can be charged with possessing the drugs.

If you are deemed to be in possession of drugs, you can be charged and convicted as if you were in fact the owner of the drugs.

Is There a Defence?

The law provides a defence which states that a person will not be guilty of the offence if they can prove that he or she neither knew, nor had reason to know, that the drug was in or on the place.

This defence, however, creates a serious issue for anyone wanting to rely on it.

Unlike the standard rule that the police need to prove their case against an accused, this defence requires the accused to prove that they did not know about the drugs.

The problem is that it is extremely difficult to provide evidence that you did not know something!

Alternatively, an accused may be able to argue that there was no reason for them to suspect that the drugs were present. Again, this can be difficult to prove.

How To Avoid Being Charged With Deemed Possession

The best way to avoid being charged with possessing dangerous drugs is, of course, to avoid drugs altogether.

However, as this article shows, you also need to make sure you don’t get charged with possessing someone else’s drugs.

You can take steps to avoid this by knowing more about your friends or visitors. If you suspect that they be in possession of drugs, you can ask them to not bring them into your house or car.

If you lend your car to someone or let someone stay in your home while you are away, you can also ask them whether they have left anything that may be illegal.

We understand however that these steps might not be so easy in real life.

Therefore if you face being charged with possessing dangerous drugs (whether your own or someone else’s), you should seek legal advice immediately. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to help you navigate the criminal justice system to get the right outcome.