Every year, thousands of Queensland drivers are charged with drink driving offences. A conviction for a drink driving offence leads to licence disqualifications, substantial fines and even imprisonment. Drink driving is therefore a very serious offence that can have significant consequences for members of the community.
Most drivers are charged with drink driving after being intercepted for a random breath test. As the name suggests, this is a process where a driver will be randomly selected to provide a sample of their breath which will then be tested for the presence of alcohol. Depending on the result of the test and the driver’s licence status, he or she might then be charged with drink driving.
Due to the seriousness of the offence, we thought that it would be useful if we outlined the procedures that almost all random breath tests follow. This way, you will at least have a good understanding about what to expect if you are pulled over by the police for a random breath test.
1. The Initial Interception
In most cases, drivers are intercepted by police officers who either have a static site set up on the side of the road or by officers who are following behind the driver’s vehicle and who then indicate that the driver should pull over.
In Queensland, the police do not need to provide any reason for intercepting you other than for the purposes of a breath test.
It should also be noted that the police can ask you to participate in a random breath test even if they did not see you actually driving. All they need to show is that they had a reasonable suspicion that you were driving at some point within the last three (3) hours.
2. The Initial Breath Test
After being intercepted by the police, you will be asked to blow into a handheld breath testing device. The police officer needs to follow a strict process when conducting this test to ensure that the test results are valid.
For example, he or she must ensure that they use a new mouth-piece for each person tested and should also make sure that at least 20 minutes have passed since the driver’s last alcohol drink.
The officer must also provide a formal requirement directing you to provide the sample of breath and then provide instructions on exactly how you need to provide the sample of breath.
If you provide the sample of breath as required and it comes back negative or below the legal alcohol limit, you will be free to go. However if the test comes back positive, you will be advised of this and you will be taken away for a breath analysis test.
3. The Breath Analysis Test
If you are required to participate in a breath analysis test, you will be taken to a location where a special breath analysis machine is located. This will be either at a “booze bus” or at a police station.
Regardless of where you are taken, the process is the same.
The operator of the machine will go through a process to ensure that the machine is in working order. Once that process has been completed, you will be directed to blow into a mouthpiece. The operator needs to provide a formal direction explaining that you are required to provide the breath sample along with an explanation on how to comply.
If you record an alcohol reading that is lower than the applicable legal limit, you will be released without being charged (assuming that you haven’t committed any other offences). However if you have recorded an alcohol reading that exceeds the applicable legal limit, you will be charged with drink driving.
4. Being Charged with Drink Driving
If you are charged with a drink driving offence, you will be given a small piece of paper called a Notice to Appear. This document tells you that you are required to attend court to answer the charge against you. It will outline the court that you need to attend, along with the date and time of your court appearance.
The police are also required to provide you with a notice informing you that your licence is suspended. The suspension period will depend on the charge that has been laid against you. Generally speaking, a charge of driving with an alcohol reading below 0.10% will result in a 24-hour suspension. However if your reading was above 0.10%, your licence will be immediately suspended until you case is finalised. It is extremely important that you do not drive during the suspension period as this will result in a further charge and a possible licence disqualification of two years or more.
Can You Refuse a Breath Test?
If you are given a lawful requirement to provide your sample of breath and you either fail or refuse, you can be charged with an offence of failing to provide a sample of breath. This offence is similar to a drink driving offence and can result in the loss of your licence, fines and so on.
Seeking Legal Advice
Many people seem to assume that a drink driving offence is a fairly minor offence, perhaps because it is so common. The truth is that drink driving is a very serious offence which can have devastating consequences for many people. If a person relies on their driver’s licence for work or personal reasons, the loss of their licence could result in the loss of their employment or the breakdown of their family. In serious cases, it can even lead to lengthy jail sentences.
It is therefore extremely important that you seek legal advice if you have been charged with drink driving or failing to provide a sample of breath when required.
Expert Drink Driving Lawyers
Harper Finch Lawyers are expert drink driving lawyers and we are here to help you. We know Queensland’s drink driving laws back-to-front and how to use those laws to help you. If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, contact us now for an obligation free discussion about your case.