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
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.
Table Of Contents
Queensland Drink Driving Limits
In Queensland, it is an offence under the Transport Operations (Road Use) Management Act to drive while over the legal alcohol limit.
There are four alcohol limits in Queensland, as follows:
- No alcohol limit (0.00% or above);
- General alcohol limit (0.05% or above);
- Middle alcohol limit (0.10% or above);
- High alcohol limit (0.15% or above)
No Alcohol Limit
Some drivers are not allowed to have any alcohol in their blood when driving on Queensland roads.
These drivers include:
- Learners, P1 and P2 licence holders and restricted licence holders (regardless of the driver’s age); and
- Drivers of trucks, taxis, limousines, tow trucks and tractors.
It is very easy for a person to commit a DUI drink driving offence without knowing that they are doing the wrong thing. You may, for example, enjoy a few drinks with your dinner and then assume that you are legally okay to drive the following morning. You will however be committing an offence if you have just the slightest alcohol reading present.
Unfortunately, too many drivers only find out the hard way when they are actually being charged by the police for a DUI drink driving offence.
If you commit a DUI offence of drink driving while over the no alcohol limit, your driver’s licence will be disqualified for at least 3 months.
You cannot apply for a drink driving work licence if you are convicted of driving over the no alcohol limit.
General Alcohol Limit
If you hold a valid Queensland driver’s licence and you are not required to drive within the no alcohol limit, you will be subject to the ‘general alcohol limit’ which is 0.05%.
Many people believe that you can stay under this alcohol limit if you only drink within the recommended guidelines, as follows:
- Men can drink 2 standard drinks in the first hour and 1 standard drink each hour afterwards;
- Women can drink 1 standard drink each hour including the first hour.
Unfortunately these guidelines often cause more harm than good because they fail to take into account other factors that can impact a person’s blood alcohol levels. As a result, many drivers assume that they have done the right thing by following the guidelines but then end up being charged with a drink driving offence anyway.
If in doubt, don’t drive.
If you are convicted of a DUI drink driving offence while over the general alcohol limit, you face a mandatory licence disqualification of at least 1 month.
You may be eligible to apply for a drink driving work licence if you satisfy all other requirements.
Middle Alcohol Limit
If you are caught driving with an alcohol reading of 0.10% or more, you will be charged with driving over the ‘middle alcohol limit’.
The consequences of committing this offence are more serious than a lower range DUI offence and drivers face a minimum disqualification of 3 months.
You may be eligible to apply for a drink driving work licence if you satisfy all other requirements.
High Alcohol Limit
The most serious DUI or drink driving offence in Queensland is driving over the high alcohol limit, which occurs when a person’s alcohol reading is 0.15% or above.
It is legally assumed that you are under the influence of alcohol or liquor due to the very high reading and therefore this offence is also known as ‘driving under the influence of liquor’ (or “UIL” for short).
The penalties for committing a high range drink driving offence are serious. For example, the minimum disqualification period is six months with no maximum disqualification period.
It is therefore common for drivers to be disqualified for 12 months or more, depending on their alcohol limit and the circumstances of the offence. In more serious cases, such as where the person is a repeat offender, penalties can include probation, community service and even jail.
Drink driving work licences are not available for high range drink driving offences.
10 Factors That Can Impact Alcohol Readings
You’ve probably heard the general guideline that males can stay under the legal alcohol limit if they limit themselves to two standard drinks in the first hour and then one standard drink for each hour afterwards. For women, the guidelines recommend just one standard drink in the first hour and then one drink for each further hour.
While these guidelines are a good start to reducing the number of drink driving offences being committed, they are unfortunately also the cause of many drink driving offences. This is because people rely on the guidelines without taking into account all the other factors that can impact a person’s alcohol readings and then find themselves over the limit and facing court.
Here, we cover 10 of the most common factors that can affect your blood alcohol level. You should always keep these in mind when trying to decide if it’s safe for you to drive after drinking.
There is no denying that a person’s age can impact how alcohol affects them. As a person grows older, their body goes through a number of changes which reduce how well they can process the alcohol they consume which, in turn, results in higher alcohol readings.
It should also be noted that many people drink less as they age which leads us to the next factor – tolerance levels.
2. Tolerance levels
The more a person drinks, the higher their tolerance to alcohol will be. To put it another way – the more you drink, the more you can drink.
For heavy or regular drinkers, it can be harder to become intoxicated because their bodies have grown used to constantly processing alcohol and have become more resistant to the alcohol itself.
For light drinkers, it might only take one or two drinks before they are feeling intoxicated.
Therefore the amount a person drinks can have an impact on their alcohol levels when they do in fact drink.
The guidelines recommend different quantities of standard drinks depending on whether you are male or female. This is, of course, not an accident.
Men are generally able to drink more than women because they are usually taller and heavier and therefore have a greater ability to absorb and process the alcohol that they consume.
If you ever see a male and a female drinking the same amount of alcohol, you can almost always assume that the female will end up more intoxicated than the male. Ladies should keep this in mind the next time they try to match a male “drink for drink”.
4. Alcohol Concentration
The guidelines specifically refer to “standard drinks” however many people forget this important point. They tell themselves that they are allowed a certain number of drinks per hour without properly considering just how strong those drinks are.
For example, the difference between a heavy and light beer is significant and will play a significant part in determining your alcohol level. Many beer drinkers have been charged with drink driving after they thought they were drinking light beers but they were in fact drinking heavy beers.
Many people are also charged with drink driving because they are given glasses of wine which are much larger than a standard drink. This increases the amount of alcohol that the person is consuming which, in turn, increases their blood alcohol levels.
5. Body type
Everyone has a unique body type. Some are tall and lanky whereas others might be short and overweight, or any combination in between.
Your body type can impact your blood alcohol levels because different body types have different abilities to process alcohol. A tall and overweight man will be able to drink more alcohol and stay under the legal limit than a short and skinny man, simply because of their body types.
Just like body types, people also have different metabolism rates. This simply means that some people’s bodies are better at processing toxins like alcohol through the body better than other people.
While metabolism can play a role in a person’s body type (for example overweight versus skinny), it does not mean that you can pick a person’s metabolism rate just by looking at their bodies.
In the same way, you can’t predict your own metabolism rate and therefore you should keep in mind that you might not in fact be very efficient at removing the alcohol quickly from your body.
Some medications can exaggerate the impact of any alcohol that has been consumed. This is dangerous not just because it can increase your chances of being caught drink driving, but it can also put you at serious risk of being involved in an accident and harming yourself or others.
If you are taking any medication, you should check to see whether you need to stay away from alcohol. If in doubt, speak to your doctor.
Carbonated drinks (such as sparkling wine and beer) allow the alcohol to be more easily absorbed into a person’s bloodstream than non-carbonated drinks (such as red wine).
Therefore you should always take into account the type of alcoholic drink you are drinking before you make a decision about whether you should drive or not.
A person will have a higher blood alcohol level if they are drinking on an empty stomach, because there is less food to absorb the alcoholic drinks and also because there are less barriers between your body and the alcohol itself.
If you know that you will be having a few drinks, plan ahead by having a large meal beforehand. This will not only hopefully reduce the impact of the alcohol while you are drinking but it might also give you a lesser hangover the following day.
10. Fitness levels
Fit and healthy people have less toxins in their bodies and also have a greater ability to pump blood throughout their system. An active person is also less likely to be a regular drinker. This means that athletes and those who live healthy lifestyles will be more strongly impacted by alcohol drinks than those who are inactive.
Drink Driving Penalties
At a minimum, a drink driver can expect to be fined and disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence.
There are however a wide range of penalties that can be suffered by a person convicted of a drink driving offence in Queensland, including:
- Licence Suspensions
- Licence Disqualifications
- Community Service
- Alcohol Interlock Device requirement
- Recording of a Conviction
Most people who have been charged with drink driving know that they will be disqualified from holding a Queensland driver’s licence as part of their punishment.
However, many drivers don’t realise that their licences will also be suspended for a period of time. This leads to a lot of confusion and, in some cases, people committing driving offences simply because they didn’t understand how the Queensland DUI laws work.
What Are the Suspension Periods?
The suspension period depends on the person’s alcohol reading, as set out below.
- Less than 0.10%
If you were charged with drink driving and your alcohol reading was less than 0.1%, your licence will be immediately suspended for a period of 24 hours.
Once 24 hours have passed, you will be able to start driving again (assuming that you don’t have any other active suspensions or disqualifications).
- 0.10% or higher
If you were charged with drink driving and your alcohol reading was 0.1% or higher, your licence will be immediately suspended until your matter is finalised. For most people, this is when they plead guilty in court and their licences are disqualified by a Magistrate.
When Does The Immediate Suspension Start?
Regardless of whether the suspension is 24 hours or until your case is finished, the suspension will start at the time that you are charged with the DUI offence. This means that if you are charged with drink driving, you will be unable to drive away from the breath test site or the police station, even if your alcohol reading has reduced to less than 0.05% by that stage.
When Does The Immediate Suspension End?
As outlined above, a 24-hour suspension ends once that period has finished.
An immediate suspension for a higher reading will continue until the charge is finalised, whether that is following a guilty plea, a trial or a dismissal of the charge.
What Happens If I Drive while Suspended?
Driving while suspended due to a drink driving charge is a very serious offence and the consequences can be devastating for some people.
If you drive during the 24-hour suspension period, you face a licence disqualification of six (6) months.
If you drive while suspended until court, you face a minimum two (2) year disqualification period and it can be as long as five (5) years.
Can I Apply For A Drink Driving Work Licence While Suspended?
If you have been given a 24-hour licence suspension, there is no work licence available and probably no need for one anyway.
However if you have been suspended until your DUI charge is finalised, you face a potentially lengthy suspension period which is not included in the disqualification period that will be imposed in court.
For example, your licence could be suspended for 6 months or more if you are taking your DUI charge to a trial. In these situations, you may be eligible to apply for what’s known as a “s79E application”. If granted, you will be given a temporary licence which allows you to keep driving under strict conditions until your case is finalised.
As Brisbane’s expert DUI lawyers, we can help you to apply for a s79E licence.
Once a person has been convicted in a Queensland court of drink driving, they will receive a drink driving disqualification for a period of time to be decided by the Magistrate. Unsurprisingly, the disqualification period will depend on a number of factors including the alcohol reading.
What Are The Minimum Disqualification Periods?
The minimum licence disqualification period that will be imposed will depend on your alcohol reading:
|Alcohol Reading||Disqualification Period|
|BAC 0.05 – 0.10||Disq 1-9 months|
|BAC 0.10 – 0.15||Disq 3-12 months|
|UIL 0.15 or above||Disq 6 months or longer|
|BAC – no alcohol limit||Disq 3-9 months|
It is important to note that if you have previous drink or drug driving convictions within the 5 years prior to this offence, the mandatory minimum disqualification period will increase depending on the number of prior convictions, the seriousness of those offences and so on.
When Does The Licence Disqualification Start?
The licence disqualification begins the moment that the Magistrate announces that you are disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland licence. This means that if you drive from the courthouse, you will be charged with disqualified driving.
When Does The Licence Disqualification End?
The Magistrate will sentence you to a fixed disqualification period. You will need to wait until this disqualification period has finished before you can start driving again. You will however need to get a new licence from Queensland Transport before you can start driving again and you may be subject to certain conditions or restrictions.
If you are disqualified for longer than 2 years, you may be eligible to make an application for the removal of your disqualification once the initial 2 year period has finished.
Can I Apply For A Drink Driving Work Licence While Disqualified?
in some circumstances, a driver can apply for a restricted work licence which will allow them to continue driving for work purposes only. This means that you cannot drive children to school or to visit friends – you can drive for work and that’s all.
You will also be restricted to driving between certain hours and on certain days, depending on your employment needs.
Applying for a restricted work licence is a complicated process and you need to be able to prove not only that you are eligible to apply, but also that you deserve a work licence. It is therefore not as easy as filling out a form and getting a new work licence.
Due to the complex nature of work licence applications, we always recommend that you hire a DUI lawyer to represent you. If you need your licence for work, you have too much to lose by attempting it yourself.
If you are convicted of a DUI drink driving offence, you will be given a fine – unless you are sentenced to probation, community service or jail which all usually take the place of the fine.
Fines can range from $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on the seriousness of the offence and a person’s previous traffic history.
Any fines that are imposed can be referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry for payment which means that you will be able to pay off the fine over an extended period of time.
In some cases, the magistrate might decide the probation is an appropriate penalty. Probation involves meeting with a probation officer, usually once per week, to monitor their behaviour and to provide support and assistance if possible.
A person can be ordered to attend probation for a period between 6 months and 3 years. The length of the probation period is up to the magistrate.
Probation orders are usually imposed for young drivers who appear to have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol or repeat offenders who have not learnt their lesson previously.
A magistrate may also decide that community service is an appropriate penalty. Community service requires a person to perform a specified number of hours of unpaid community service as a way of ‘paying back their debt’ to the community.
If a person is ordered to do community service, they will need to complete between 40 to 240 hours of service within the community. There are a wide range of options for service available – it does not mean that you will be scrubbing graffiti off walls!
A magistrate is likely to impose a community service order if they feel that the driver has shown a disregard for the community because of their behaviour.
In serious cases, magistrates have the option of imposing a jail sentence. For less serious (but still serious) cases, the magistrate may not require the driver to actually spend time in jail. This can be achieved by either wholly suspending the jail sentence or granting immediate parole. In either of these cases, a person will not physically go to jail but will have a prison sentence hanging over their heads.
However in the most serious of cases, a magistrate will order that the driver must spend actual time in prison.
Imprisonment is normally only required for repeat offenders or for drivers who committed other serious offences at the same time (such as dangerous driving).
Recording of a Conviction
If you plead guilty to a drink driving offence, or if you are found guilty at the end of a trial, you will be sentenced by the magistrate. One of the considerations for the magistrate is whether to record a conviction on your traffic history or not. Ordinarily a conviction WILL be recorded, unless the magistrate is convinced that it should not be.
Convictions can create significant difficulties for people who, for example, are applying for a new job or who want to travel overseas. For this reason, it is obviously better to have no conviction recorded.
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 drivers, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Drink Driving A Criminal Offence?
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” only, 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.
It states that offences are either criminal offences or regulatory offences.
The section then explains that a criminal offence can be a crime, misdemeanour 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…
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 section 3 of the 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).
Q: Drink Driving On Private Property
At Harper Finch Lawyers, we are often contacted by people who have been charged with drink driving while on private property. They believe that they should not have been charged with drink driving and that the charge should be dismissed by the police.
Unfortunately, the law says something different.
In the District Court case of Jovanovic v Lucas  QDC 138, Judge Samios confirmed a Magistrates Court finding that the appellant/defendant could be convicted of drink driving even though the driver was on private property at the time.
In particular, His Honour referred to the relevant drink driving and breath-testing laws set out in s80(2) Transport Operations (Road Use) Management Act which state that a police officer can require a person to participate in a breath-test if the officer believes that the person was driving on a road or elsewhere.
The broad words “or elsewhere” were included in the legislation so that police officers have the power to breath-test a person anywhere, even in places that are not actually roads. Importantly, there is no specific mention that drink driving offences are restricted to public roads or places.
The lesson here is simple: drink driving is an offence no matter where you are in Queensland. It doesn’t matter if you are on your driveway, driving along the Bruce Highway or in a shopping centre carpark. If the police suspect that you have been driving, they have the power to require you to participate in a breath-test.
Q: Is It Legal To Drink Alcohol While Driving?
Everyone knows that drink driving is an offence in Queensland (and throughout Australia). However have you ever wondered whether you are legally allowed to drink alcohol while actually driving, as long as you are within the legal alcohol limit?
For Learner and Provisional licence holders, the answer is obviously no as they are required to have a zero blood alcohol reading at all times. But what about Open licence holders?
Drinking Alcohol While Driving in Queensland
In Queensland, it is in fact an offence for an Open licence holder to drink alcohol while driving, even if your alcohol level is below the legal limit of 0.05%.
Specifically, section 300A of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulation 2009 states that it is an offence for the driver of a vehicle to drink alcohol while driving.
Interestingly, it also says that a supervisor of a Learner driver is also banned from drinking alcohol while supervising the Learner.
What Punishment Applies?
If you are charged with drinking while driving in Queensland, you face a maximum fine of 20 Penalty Units which is about $2,000.
Although Magistrates always have the power to disqualify a person from driving if they commit a driving-related offence, it is unlikely that a Magistrate would exercise their power to disqualify unless the circumstances of the case were extremely serious.
Q: Can You Be Fingerprinted For A Drink Driving Offence?
A question that often arises is whether the police can, or should be able to, fingerprint drink drivers.
This has resulted in Harper Finch Lawyers receiving a number of enquiries from concerned citizens about whether they’ve been made to provide their fingerprints when they should not have been. We therefore thought that we would take this opportunity to provide some clarification about the law as it currently stands.
In Queensland, the police can only order a person to provide fingerprints in certain circumstances.
For example, a person can be required to provide their fingerprints if they have committed an offence against the Weapons Act 1990 or the Explosives Act 1999. Alternatively, they can be made to provide their fingerprints if they have been charged with an offence that has a maximum penalty of at least 1 year’s imprisonment.
The maximum penalties for first-time DUI drink driving offences in Queensland range from 3-9 months. Therefore, a person should not be required to provide their fingerprints if charged with a first-time DUI drink driving offence
However if a person has previous drink driving offences or if the offence was committed at the same time as another offence (such as driving dangerously while intoxicated), then the maximum penalty can increase beyond 9 months and even 1 year. In these circumstances, the police can ask you to provide your fingerprints for their records.
Why Choose Harper Finch Lawyers – Expert Brisbane Drink Driving/DUI Lawyers
If you have been charged with a DUI drink driving offence, one of the first questions you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you should hire a lawyer to represent you in court.
Many people will simply look at the costs of hiring a DUI drink driving lawyer and decide that they’ll take a chance and represent themselves. However before you make a decision to appear in court unrepresented, it is important that you understand that there are many benefits of hiring an experienced lawyer to appear in court with you and that you may actually save money by hiring a lawyer.
We Will Get You The Best Outcome
If you are convicted of a drink driving offence in Queensland, you will receive a mandatory licence disqualification of anywhere from 1 month to an absolute disqualification. Additionally, you will receive a fine or worse (including a potential jail sentence).
Nowadays, holding a driver’s licence is essential for most people. We need our licences to go to work, drop off children to school and to visit friends and family. Therefore wouldn’t you want to make sure that you receive the shortest disqualification possible so that you can start driving sooner?
At Harper Finch Lawyers, we know how to get our clients the best outcome possible. We have represented hundreds of drink drivers and we know what needs to be said and done to make sure our clients receive outstanding results.
We Know Your Options
If you are charged with drink driving, do you know all the options available? For example, you may be eligible for a work licence which could be the key to saving your job. Alternatively, do you even know if you’ve been charged with the correct offence? We see people being charged with the wrong drink driving/DUI offence all the time and we have saved our clients from a worse-than-necessary penalty on countless occasions.
Being charged and convicted of a DUI drink driving offence can have a devastating impact on drivers and their families. Make sure that you know all your options so that you protect your legal rights.
We Know the Judges and Magistrates
Each Judge and Magistrate is human.
They all have their own unique approaches to drink driving offences and this means that they will have their own opinion about what sort of penalty should be imposed.
Since we regularly appear in courts throughout Queensland, we know almost all of the Judges and Magistrate that might hear your case. Our experience means that we can present your case to the Judge or Magistrate in the best way to ensure that your case is given the appropriate attention. If however you represent yourself, you are walking in blind without having any idea about what the Judge or Magistrate will say or do with your case.
Judges and Magistrates also appreciate it when a person is represented by a lawyer and they often refer to this when they give their reasons for sentencing a person:
- It shows that the driver is taking the court process seriously as they have gone to the expense of arranging legal representation.
- The Judges and Magistrates know that your lawyer will present your case properly and professionally which is important in a courtroom.
We Can Save You Time
People today are busier than ever and trying to juggle all of our commitments can seem like a never ending struggle. The last thing that people want is to have to waste their precious time sitting in a courthouse all day.
Most self-represented defendants have no idea just how much time will be wasted when going to court. The situation is even worse when if they need to appear in court more than once (for example, when making an application for a work licence which usually requires two or more court appearances).
If you have a lawyer representing you, you will automatically receive priority over everyone else in the court.
This means that you will be in and out of court early in the morning while the others might still be sitting in court well after lunchtime. We have no doubt that you have more important things to do than to sit in a courtroom all day.
In addition, in some situations your lawyer can even appear in court on your behalf without you needing to turn up to court. This means that you can have your case handled by expert drink driving/DUI lawyers without the inconvenience of spending countless hours and days waiting in court. For many people, even just the extra time that they can spend at work is worth their lawyer’s fees.