Being in charge of a vehicle while intoxicated

Many readers would no doubt be familiar with the following scenario: You drive to a party or a bar with the intention of having just one or two drinks and then driving home afterwards. However after a few hours, you realise that you haven’t been careful enough with monitoring your alcoholic drinks and that, if you were to drive, you could easily be caught and charged with drink driving. Not wanting to break the law, you decide to spend the night in your car and then drive home the following morning. Surely there couldn’t be anything wrong with this, you think to yourself?
Actually, you could find yourself being taken to court for the offence of being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of liquor.

A person can be charged in Queensland with the offence of “being in charge of a vehicle” if it appears that they had control over the vehicle while over the applicable alcohol limit (which will depend on the licence held by the person). Acts which can constitute this offence can range from anything as innocent as opening the driver’s door to retrieve a wallet, to something more obvious as sitting in the driver’s seat with the ignition on to pass the time. This charge therefore covers a wide range of acts that most people would not consider as being against the law.
In relation to penalties, the legislation treats the offence of “being in charge of a vehicle” essentially the same as it treats an offence of drink driving. This means that you can receive the same penalty for simply being in charge of a vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit as you would have received if you were actually drink driving. Similar laws apply to people who are in charge of animals and other vehicles while drunk and/or under the influence of drugs.
The best advice is therefore to think twice about approaching your vehicle after you’ve been drinking. If you do need to get inside your vehicle, or to get something from your vehicle, it is best that you avoid the driver’s compartment at all times and in particular do not put the key into the ignition, even if you are standing outside of the vehicle.
If you have been charged with this offence, you can call us to speak with an experienced lawyer about your case and to discuss your options. There are  defences available and in certain circumstances, a person can apply for a restricted work licence if the loss of their licence would cause them financial hardship.