Is Drink Driving a Criminal Offence?

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It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows that drink driving/DUI is an offence in Queensland. Most people however are confused about whether drink driving is a criminal offence or not.

If you appear in court for a drink driving offence, the magistrate may make a comment about drink driving being a “traffic offence”, similar to speeding fines or parking tickets. This is because drink driving convictions appear on a person’s traffic history and not their criminal history. This is generally the reason why a magistrate will exercise their discretion to record a drink driving conviction – they believe that a traffic offence conviction is unlikely to have much of an impact on a person’s future, if any.

Although it’s true that drink driving/DUI convictions don’t show up on a person’s criminal history, this doesn’t necessarily mean that drink driving offences are not criminal offences.

What Are Criminal Offences?

Section 3 of the Criminal Code outlines the different divisions of offences within Queensland and this is an extremely important section not just for this discussion but for the criminal justice system generally.

Section 3 says that offences are either criminal offences or regulatory offences.

The section then explains that a criminal offence can be a crimemisdemeanour or simple offence.

Finally, this section then states that unless the legislation specifies what type of offence an unlawful act is, an offence is considered to be a simple offence.

For example, the offence of common assault is specifically referred to as a misdemeanour – it is therefore not a simple offence.

 

What Type of Offence is Drink Driving/DUI?

The offence of drink driving is set out in s79 TORUM which states (in part) the following:

Any person who, while under the influence of liquor or a drug-

(a) drives a motor vehicle…

(b) …

(c) …

is guilty of an offence

The legislation therefore simply refers to drink driving (and drug driving) as being “an offence”. It is not specifically designated as being any particular type of offence. According to s3 Criminal Code as outlined above, drink driving is therefore classified as a simple offence which is a type of criminal offence.

 

Why Does It Even Matter?

At this point, you might be wondering why it matters whether a drink driving offence is a criminal offence in Queensland or not.

To put it simply, it’s relevant because it means that people who have drink driving convictions recorded against them are technically having a conviction recorded for a criminal offence. This can impact their future in many ways, including by limiting their employment prospects or by preventing them from travelling overseas.

We have seen magistrates and other lawyers refer to drink driving convictions as being just “traffic” convictions and therefore of limited consequence. However at Harper Finch Lawyers, we believe that this attitude is dangerous as it ignores the simple fact that a drink driving conviction is, technically, a criminal conviction (even if it doesn’t show up on a criminal history).

 

Have You Been Charged with Drink Driving/DUI?

If you have been charged with drink driving/DUI, you should contact us immediately. We are Queensland’s leading traffic law firm and we have helped hundreds of drivers just like you to get the best outcome possible.

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