Clarity Law

Specialist Traffic Law Firm Queensland
Tuesday, 22 November 2022 20:54

Drink Driving Penalties in Queensland

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Queensland drink driving penalties are consider some of the harsher penalties in Australia for drink driving.  Queensland has a mandatory loss of licence for all drink driving offences.

The purpose of this article is to try and give some guidance as to how the court comes up with the penalty for drink driving and what that penalty may be.


What is drink driving?

The law states that a person can be charged with drink driving if the driver;

  1. Is over the legal limit for that category of driver; and
  2. Drove a vehicle; or
  3. Attempted to put in motion a vehicle; or
  4. Was in charge of a vehicle


What level of alcohol will see me charged with drink driving?

In Queensland the BAC limits for different licence holders are as follows.

BAC Limits


Levels of drink driving

In Queensland there are 4 levels of drink driving

BAC levels


What happens to a drink driving charge

We have a full article on how the court deals with drink driving charges in Queensland.


Immediate license suspension

For low range drink driving charges the police should suspended the driver’s licence for 24 hours.  If the charge is mid range drink driving or high range drink driving the licence will be suspended until the court date.


What are the types of penalties the court can impose

It very much depends on a number of factors that are outlined below.

In Queensland it is mandatory for every person charged with drink driving to lose their licence.  We do not have in Queensland the ability for the court to decide not to disqualify a persons driver’s licence.  In certain circumstances it might be possible to apply for a work licence.

drivers licence


How long will my licence be disqualified for?

The actual penalty depends on a number of factors including;

  • Your BAC reading
  • Did a accident occur
  • Was there a passenger in the car
  • The reason you were driving
  • Your traffic and criminal history
  • Your work situation
  • What your personal circumstance are
  • If you have done a drink driving course like QTOP
  • Which Magistrate hears your matter

Your BAC reading

Your Blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in your body and is measured by the concentration on alcohol in your breath or blood. It is measured in grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.  The reading is a very important factor the Magistrate looks at when setting the penalty.


Did an accident occur

If there was a crash then this will increase the penalty.  This is especially true if other property was damaged or someone else was hurt in the crash.


Was there a passenger in the car

Having another person in the car, especially children, can be a factor to increase the penalty.


The reason you were driving

Why you were driving may be a factor.  If it was always meant to be a very short drive like shifting a vehicle to a more secure location then the penalty might be less.  Someone who undertook a drive when they knew they were over the limit might expect a harsher penalty.


Your traffic and criminal history

This is a critical factor.  Your criminal and traffic history will be looked at closely by the Magistrate.  If you have previous drink driving charge this will almost certainly increase the penalty.  If the previous drink driving charge occurred in the last 5 years, and the police have served a notice to allege previous offences then the minimum and in most cases the maximum disqualification must be increased.  For example if you are charged with a low range drink driving charge on an open licence and in the last 5 years you had another low range drink driving charge then the minimum disqualification increases from 1 month to 3 months. 


Your personal and work situation

Your personal antecedents such as your personal and work situation will be taken into account by the Magistrate in setting the penalty.  This includes the impact the disqualification will have on your family and any impact on your ability to work.  In some cases you may not be able to get a work licence and will suffer greatly from not being able to work.  Also in Queensland you cannot get a licence to be able to drive for personal reasons such as collecting children from school etc during a disqualification for a drink driving charge even if you get a work licence.


If you have done a driving course

Doing a course before the sentence date is a great way to reduce the penalty.  A great course to do is QTOP


Which Magistrate hears your matter

All the Magistrates in Queensland try and be consistent in setting a penalty.  In the ideal world this would mean you would get largely the same penalty whether your charges are heard in Southport Court, Beenleigh Court, Brisbane Court, Maroochydore court, or Ipswich court.

In practice each Magistrates has their own views on what the penalty for a high range drink driving charge should be.  This is one of the main reasons an experienced traffic lawyer who has appeared numerous times before the Magistrate is so important.


What period of disqualification of my driver licence will I get?

Below is a table showing a table of minimum and maximum licence disqualifications that apply to a first time offender.

Max and Min licence disq


What is the penalty for low drink driving?

The penalty for a drink driving charge varies according to a number of factors.  Below is very general guide to the penalty a first-time drink driver person might expect in the Brisbane Magistrates Court

Possible penalties


What is the penalty for mid range drink driving?

See table above


What is the penalty for high range drink driving?

The penalty for a drink driving charge varies according to a number of factors especially your history, what occurred and your exact reading.  Below is very general guide to the penalty a first-time drink driver person might expect in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court

 Possible penalties


Will I go to jail for drink driving?

Generally first or second time offenders would not be likely to be sent to prison however this depends on a number of factors including;

  • Are you charged with other offences
  • Was there a crash
  • Was any other cars or property damaged
  • Was anyone injured
  • What the blood alcohol reading was
  • If the person has a poor traffic or criminal history
  • Which Magistrate hears the matter

If this is your third high range drink driving charge in 5 years then a prison sentence is mandatory.

Only an experienced traffic lawyer can advise if a prison sentence is likely, even if it is the courts have the option of potentially suspending that sentence. 

If you are worried about a prison sentence then get legal advice.


What can I do to minimise the penalty?

You should always engage an experienced  traffic lawyer to represent you if you are charged with drink driving.  Your lawyer can work out what things you need to do to reduce your penalty especially considering what Magistrate might be hearing your case.  In general we have found the following things useful in trying to reduce the penalty:

  • Character references
  • Attending a driving course like Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (“QTOP”).  We are a proud sponsor of QTOP and believe it is one of the most powerful things people facing a high range drink driving charge can do before their court date.
  • If you have any alcohol or mental health issues then obtaining appropriate medical help



Will I get a criminal conviction recorded?

Drink driving charges in Queensland are considered to be traffic offences and are not recorded on a persons criminal history.

The court does have the ability not to record the conviction on a person’s traffic history.  This might be useful for people in the transport industry or those that rely on their drivers licence to work.


Repeat drink driving charges

If you have previous drink driving convictions then if they were in the last 5 years the minimum and maximum disqualification periods increase.  Even if your previous conviction was outside of 5 years ago the court will take into account that offence as the police will provide your traffic history to the court.

If this is your third high range drink driving charge in the last 5 years the court must impose a prison sentence.


Can I get a work licence?

It may be possible for you to apply for a work licence if you held an open licence at the time of the offence, are charged with low or mid-range drink driving and had no suspensions of your licence in the last 5 years but this must be done at the time you appear in the court to plead guilty, it cannot be done afterwards.  You cannot apply for a work licence if you are charged with high range drink driving (driving under the influence) or were subject to the no alcohol limit.

Please see our section on work licences for further information or check out the most comprehensive guide on the internet on how to apply for a work licence.

A work licence only allows you to drive for work purposes and nothing more, the court cannot authorise someone to drive for personal reasons i.e. driving kids to and from school.  In Queensland a period of disqualification must be imposed and so if personal driving is critical all you can do is try and minimise the disqualification period as much as possible.

The court also has the option to double then period of disqualification they would have imposed if no work licence was applied for.  Well thought out submissions and arguments before a Magistrate can in our experience significantly reduce the length of your disqualification.  There are a number of factors that can lead a magistrate to impose the lowest penalty possible, we know them all.


Can the press report what occurred?

Unless the Magistrate refuses the allow the press to report, which is very uncommon, then yes the press can report what occurs.

There are some tactics that can be used to try and avoid the matter being reported.  As different courts will have different potential tactics to avoid the matter being reported you will need advice from an experienced drink driving lawyer to advise on this.



If you have a mid range or high range drink driving charge you must have an interlock device fitted to your vehicle for the period of one year once you are eligible to obtain your driver’s licence back.  The Court has no discretion to exempt you from an interlock if this applies to you as it is a Queensland Transport licencing requirement. 

You are also require to have an interlock installed if you have more than 2 drink driving charges in the previous 5 years.

You must meet strict eligibility criteria to apply for an interlock exemption.

This is an area that is subject to constant change, for more information visit their website.

australian courtroom reduced size


Education course to get your driver’s licence back

You will need to complete a short course to get your licence back once the disqualification has ended.  For first time offenders this is done online. 

If you have 2 or more drink driving offences after 10 September 2021 then the course is longer and must be completed in person.  Details can be found on the Transport Department Website


Do I really need a lawyer to represent me?

An experienced traffic lawyer can;

  • Minimise the disqualification period
  • Minimise the fine
  • Look for any potential defences
  • Obtain a work licence if you qualify
  • Take the stress of the situation away
  • Try and avoid press reporting
  • Ensure that you are treated fairly by the magistrate and the prosecutor


What would you charge to represent me?


If this is not your first drink driving charge or you have other charges contact us and we are happy to provide a quote.


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm
  3. Click here to select a time for us to call you back
  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We have been undertaking drink driving charges since 2010 and in that time have undertaken thousands of drink driving cases.

We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide information to assist you, if you want to engage us then great, if not then you at least have more information about drink driving

You won’t be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a drink driving charge no matter the reading will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  

 low res group


Need more information?

We have a range of articles on drink driving on our blog.  Some of the most recent have included:

Steven Brough

Steven Brough is the Founder of Clarity Law.  He is one of the most experienced traffic lawyers in Queensland having appeared in court many thousands of time throughout Queensland since 2010.  He has authored over 100 articles about every aspect of traffic law in Queensland. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.