The Queensland Government has recently released a discussion paper which proposes a number of significant changes to the current drink driving laws. If passed, these will have a significant impact on the penalties that are imposed on drink drivers.
Here, we examine the various proposals and how they will affect Queensland drivers.
If you are going to be caught drink driving, it is probably safe to say that you will be either driving a car or riding a motorbike at the time. These are overwhelmingly the most common forms of transport being used when people are found drink driving. But does this mean that these are theonly forms of transport you can be caught drink driving? Absolutely not!
The Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act says that you can be charged with drink driving if you are operating a motor vehicle, tram, train or vessel. This therefore means that in addition to cars and motorbikes, you can be charged with drink driving trains, ships, ferries and any other type of motorised transport that moves on wheels. However this Act then goes further to say that you can also be charged with drink driving a horse or other animal, as well as any non-motorised vehicle. This means that if you are found to be for example riding a horse with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit, you can be charged and convicted of drink driving. Similarly, you can be charged and convicted of drink driving a bicycle or a skateboard, as both of these forms of transport fall within the definition of a “vehicle”. The maximum penalty for drink driving an animal or a non-motorised vehicle is $4,000 or 9 months imprisonment but generally does not involve any licence disqualification. Many people are caught out by this law as they do not realise that the drink driving offence goes beyond cars and motorbikes. To make matters worse, this situation often arises after a person has had their car licence disqualified for drink driving and the person subsequently uses a bicycle to get around during the disqualification period. If they are caught drink driving the bicycle, they will be charged with their second drink driving offence which will increase any penalty they will receive. The lesson to be learnt here is that if you need to go somewhere after a few drinks, your best options are to have someone else drive you or, if it is safe to do so, simply walk.
It is well known that a person needs to hold a driver’s licence in order to drive within Queensland. No licence = no driving. Despite this, thousands of people are still charged with the offence of unlicensed driving in Queensland every year.
Contrary to popular belief, it can in fact be quite easy to lose your licence as there are many ways that a person’s licence can be suspended or disqualified. The purpose of this article is to provide some information about the different ways that a person can be charged witih unlicensed driving.
REASONS WHY A PERSON MIGHT BE UNLICENSED
The simplest reason why a person may not have a licence is if they simply never obtained one. They may have applied and been refused for whatever reason or they may have simply never taken any steps to apply for a licence. In this case, they are not suspended or disqualified from holding a licence – they simply don’t have a licence.
Another common reason why drivers may not have a valid driver’s licence is if they forgot to renew their licence after it had expired. This happens often and it is usually a genuine mistake. For example, the driver may have moved house and simply forgotten to renew their address in time, meaning that they didn’t receive the renewal notice.
A person can also be driving while unlicensed because their licence was suspended. The most common reasons why licences are suspended are for failure to pay a SPER debt, accumulating too many demerit points or if a person has committed a high-speed offence (driving more than 40km/hr over the speed limit).
Licences are also suspended following a charge for a drink driving or drug driving offence. For less serious offences, the licence will be suspended for a period of 24 hours whereas a charge for a more serious drink or drug driving will result in a person’s licence being immediately suspended until their charge is finalised.
If a person is convicted of an offence in court and they are disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence in Queensland, their licence is immediately cancelled. It is an offence to then drive while disqualified. Since the disqualification was imposed by a magistrate or judge, offences of disqualified driving are seen as ‘contempt of court’ and the penalties can be quite serious. For repeat offenders, it is not uncommon for jail sentences to be imposed.
PENALTIES FOR UNLICENSED DRIVING
There is a wide range of penalties that can be imposed if a person is convicted of unlicensed driving in Queensland. For the least serious unlicensed driving offences (such as forgetting to renew a licence), the penalty may be nothing more than a fine. For the more serious offences, a licence disqualification is mandatory in addition to a fine and the disqualification periods can range from 1 month to 5 years. It is also possible for drivers to be sent to jail if their traffic history is bad enough.
Although it might be obvious, our first piece of advice is to always make sure that you are aware whether your licence is valid or not. It is no defence to say that you didn’t know that your licence was suspended.
If you are paying off any fines through SPER, make sure that your payments are being received and that they have your correct contact details.
Make sure that the Department of Transport also has your correct address, even if you don’t have any outstanding fines. You want to make sure that you receive any notices from the Department.
Finally, make sure you seek legal advice if you have any questions or if you have been charged with unlicensed driving. For most people, their driver’s licence is essential for their work and family requirements and therefore the loss of their licence can be catastrophic. At Harper Finch Lawyers, we are experts in helping our clients minimise penalties including disqualification periods so call us now if you need assistance.
If you have been charged with a serious traffic or criminal offence, you have probably spent a lot of time already thinking about what you can do to improve your punishment if and when you are sentenced. For example, you may have gathered a handful of references from family and friends or you might have attended a defensive driving course.
But have you thought about seeing a psychologist before you go to court?
Even if you think that you do not need to see one, you might be surprised just how beneficial it can be – not just in court but in your life.
Read on to find out more about why you should see a psychologist.
Most people are aware that they will lose their driver’s licence for a period of time if they are caught drink driving in Queensland. However many people don’t realise that there can be many other consequences that can impact them as a result of drink driving.
Alcohol Interlock Device
If you have been caught drink driving twice in 5 years, or if you were caught drink driving with a reading above 0.15%, you will be required to install an alcohol interlock device in your vehicle before you are eligible to get a new licence after your disqualification period ends. These devices are attached to your vehicle’s ignition and prevent you from starting your vehicle unless you blow into the device and it records a nil alcohol reading.
These devices can be very expensive to install and can cause all sorts of complications for people, such as those who drive multiple cars for work.
There is a procedure where you can apply to have an exemption from the device but there is no guarantee that the application will be successful.
You just need to grab something from the supermarket but you don’t want to bring your child into the store with you. Perhaps they’re sleeping or you just don’t want to disturb them. No matter the reason, there is always the temptation to leave your child in the car while you quickly go to the shops.
Or perhaps your children are at home and you need to go somewhere for a short time. Instead of dragging everyone into the car just for a short drive, you might be tempted to tell your children that you’re just leaving the house for a minute and not to get into any trouble while you’re away.
But could you actually be committing a criminal offence by leaving your child unattended, even just for a very short period of time?