Clarity Law

Specialist Traffic Law Firm Queensland
Tuesday, 04 July 2023 10:12

From Bad to Worse: What Happens if You Have a Prior Drink Driving Offence in Queensland?

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Most people would be aware that a drink driving offence in Queensland requires the court to disqualify a person's drivers licence for a certain amount of time and will in almost all cases impose a fine. Queensland does provide some people with the ability to apply for a work licence which would lessen the impact of that disqualification by still allowing the person to drive for work purposes but doesn’t apply to all people and cannot allow a person to drive for personal reasons.

However where a person has a previous drink driving charge this can cause both an increase in the drink driving penalty and the inability to get a work licence where that previous drink driving charge occurred in the last 5 years.


Increased penalties

For most drink driving charges the law sets both a minimum and maximum penalty. The only exception is high range drink driving which sets a minimum disqualification of six months for a first time offender and leaves the maximum to the Magistrate. However where a previous offence in the last 5 years has occurred then that penalty increases.

Let's take for example a first time driving offender who has recorded a low range drink driving reading of 0.065.  The law states that the minimum is disqualification for that offence is one month and the maximum is 9 months licence disqualification.  If however that same person was to get another low range from driving charge say in 3 years time, when they returned to court at that time they would be facing a minimum of 3 months and maximum of 12 months of disqualification.

The type of previous drink driving charge is also relevant.  If the previous driving charge was a high range then the penalties will go even higher.


Inability to get a work licence

To qualify to apply for work licence the court sets a number of factors such as restricting that to people who have been charged with low range and mid-range driving but excluding people charged with high range drink driving.  The law also states that in the previous 5 years a person must not have lost their licence for any reason (except for some exemptions which you can find on a work licence article).  Therefore a person who has in the last 5 years lost their licence because of a drink driving offence and then goes to court would not be eligible to apply for work licence if that previous driving charge was still within 5 years.



The law provides that where a person is charged with high range drink driving and has in the pervious 5 years two other convictions for high range drink driving then the court must impose a prison sentence.  This doesn’t mean a person has to serve that in actual prison the court could wholly suspend that sentence if proper arguments are made before the court.


A potential loophole?

There is an important legal principle that can have an impact and that is requirement for the prosecutor to allege any previous drink driving offences formally in court. This area of law is extremely complicated but a very basic summary is that if the police wish to rely on a previous drink driving offence to increase the minimum and maximum disqualification period then they must serve on the defendant a document called a notice to allege previous offences. 

Where that document is not provided by the time of the sentence then the court does not impose the higher penalties because of the previous drink driving offence however this does not stop a court from taking into account the fact that there is a previous drink driving offence when setting penalty it just mandates that the increased minimum and maximum penalties that apply where there is that preexisting drink driving offence does not occur.

This is an extremely complicated area of law and you will need to talk to your lawyer where you have a previous drink driving charge in the last 5 years and the police have not served on you a notice to allege previous offences.


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

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  6. Click to go to our main drink driving page

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 July 2023 10:20
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.

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