Clarity Law -

South East Queensland's most experienced traffic law firm

FAQ - Drink Driving

Drink Driving


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

In general, the higher the BAC reading the worse the punishment. In Queensland the drink driving offences are usually separated into low range drink driving that being below .1, mid-range drink driving that being a reading between .1 and .149 and high range drink driving (also called a DUI or UIL) which is anything above .15.


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

First time convictions carry a fine and disqualification. The length of disqualification and amount of the fine depends largely on the blood alcohol limit. If there are previous convictions the fine and disqualification time will increase. According to the legislation if there are 3 convictions in 5 years with BAC readings above 0.15% jail time will be a compulsory part of the punishment.


Over the "no alcohol limit"

Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
Mandatory disqualification of 3 months with a maximum of 9 months

Over "general alcohol limit" (.05% - .099%)

Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
Mandatory disqualification of 1 month with maximum of 9 months

Over “middle alcohol limit” (.1%-.149)

Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
Mandatory disqualification of 3 months with maximum of 12 months

Over "high limit" (over .15%)

Maximum fine $2,100 and/or 9 months' imprisonment; AND
Mandatory disqualification of 6 months with a maximum of an absolute disqualification

It is also an offence to refuse or fail to provide a specimen of breath for analysis. If you are charged with this you are considered to have committed a high range drink driving charge (DUI)


I am charged with drink driving but need to drive during any disqualification

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

A work licence only allows you to drive for work purposes you cannot get a work licence or hardship licence to be able to drive for person reasons i.e. driving your children to 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.

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.


I wasn’t driving the vehicle but I was arrested for being in charge of a motor vehicle

You can be charged with drink driving being in charge of a vehicle if you had control of the motor vehicle for example if you were in the driver’s seat and had the keys near you even if you were not driving or had no intention of driving. Often this occurs when people are in the car waiting to be picked up, in the car wanting to find something or just sleeping.

It does not matter that the car was not on a road. You can be charged with drink driving even if the car was on private property such as a car park or driveway.


Are there defences to a drink driving charge?

Most defences to a drink driving offence have now gone. The police must conduct the breath or blood test within 3 hours of you driving and it must be conducted in accordance with the law.

If you are charged with a failure to provide a breath sample then it is a defence to this charge to prove that due to a physical condition you were unable to provide a sufficient specimen of breath. This is a very technical area of the law and if you think you have a defence you should contact us.


Will I get a criminal record?

No all traffic convictions are just that, traffic convictions, they are not considered to be criminal charges. The Courts are unlikely not to record a conviction unless specific evidence is placed before it that a traffic conviction will harm you in some way. It should be noted however that overseas travel may be more difficult or impossible if a conviction for a DUI is recorded, especially to Islamic countries or the United States or Canada.  Professional drivers might be impacted by the recording of a traffic conviction.


Do I get to keep my physical licence?

No, you are required to surrender your licence to Queensland Transport by the day after the Court disqualifies you or to the Police prosecutor on the Court date.

The surrender of your licence may in some circumstances deprive you of your main form of identification, you may therefore wish to attend Queensland Transport before the Court and obtain an proof of age card to help with identification during your period of disqualification.


High Range Drink Driving


What is a high range drink driving charge?

High Range drink driving is any drink driving charge in Queensland where the reading is at or above .15. It is also known as a DUI that is driving under the influence but its actually more properly known as driving UIL that is driving under the influence of liquor. The charge is contained in section 79 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.


What is the difference between low, mid and high range drink driving?

The difference lies in the reading.

Low Range – A reading of .099 or below
Mid Range – A reading of .1 to .149
High Range – A reading over .15

The court also has set minimum and in some cases maximum disqualifications for each level of drink driving.


The police told me I can’t drive until my court date, Is this correct?

If you are charged with a high range drink driving charge the police are supposed to serve you with a notice suspending your licence immediately. This means that if your court date is 6 weeks away you cannot drive for 6 weeks prior to court and then in addition the court will impose a further disqualification if you plead guilty.

The law does however allow a Magistrate to consider the time you were suspended before your sentence date when deciding what penalty to impose.


What happens in court?

We have 2 great articles that set out exactly how a drink driving charge is heard in Queensland.

How Drink Driving Matters are Heard in Queensland

Going through a drink driving charge in Brisbane Magistrate Court

Basically the Court will ask you what is happening. After you confirm a guilty plea then the police prosecutor will read from the QP9 and then a copy of your traffic history and criminal history (if you have one) will be given to the Magistrate. You will then be asked to give what is known as a speech in mitigation which seeks to limit the sentence the Magistrate will impose on you. After you are finished talking the Magistrate will give their decision.


How long will my licence be disqualified for?

This depends on a number of factors including;

Your reading

Did a crash occurWas someone else in the car

Why you were driving

Your traffic and criminal history

Your personal and work situation

If you done a course like QTOP

What Magistrate hears your matter


In essence the big factors are your reading, your traffic history and what your lawyers tells the court.

With a high range driving charge the absolute minimum disqualification period is 6 months (if you have no other drink driving or similar charges in the last 5 years) and there is no upper limit.


What other penalties will the court impose?

In almost all cases the court will also impose a fine. In addition there is an offender levy that everyone must pay.

In cases where the reading is very high or where there was an accident or if the person has other drink driving charges the court may consider imposing


Community Service order



Can I get a work licence?

No. With a high range drink driving charge you cannot apply for a work licence nor any other type of licence to continue to drive after the disqualification.


Can I fight a high range drink driving charge?

Fighting any drink driving charge is very complicated. You certainly have the right however you should get legal advice before pleading not guilty.


Can I be charged with high range drink driving for sitting in my car?

The law does not restrict where high range drink driving offence can occur. In other words, you can commit these offences anywhere. You only need to be:

Driving a motor vehicle;
Attempting to put it in motion a motor vehicle; or
In charge of a motor vehicle.

We have encountered cases where people have been charged with drink driving offences where their car was:

Parked in a driveway;
Parked in a garage with the door shut;
Parked in a shopping centre or pub carpark;
Parked on the side of the road; and
Being driven on a dirt track on private property.

In short, there is no where you can legally drink and drive. If you are found driving or in charge of a car anywhere in Queensland, you can (and probably will) be charged with an offence.


I had a crash and the police took a blood sample, are they allowed to do this?

Yes if the police suspect the drink driving took place within the previous 3 hours then they can request a nurse or doctor take a blood sample whether you consent or not.


Can I be charged with high range drink driving for refusing to give a breath test?

The police can charge you if you refuse to give a breath or blood test at the testing location (A RBT bus, the police station, the hospital etc). The law then treats the offence like a high range drink driving charge with the same type of penalties. This is a complicated area of the law. We have an article that can provide some more information, that article can be found by clicking here.

If you refuse to give a sample of breath at the roadside this is a separate but less serious charge.


What happens after court?

We have a comprehensive article on what happens after a drink driving charge


How do I prepare for court?

The best way to prepare for a drink driving charge is to hire a lawyer and they will do everything for you. If you are determined to do a guilty plea by yourself then you should look at;

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

Writing down what you want to explain to the Magistrate as you will be more nervous than you think


Can the press report what occurred?

Unless the Magistrate refuses the allow the press to report then yes the press can report what occurs.


Will I need to install an interlock?

Yes, If you have a 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. The Court has no discretion to exempt you from an interlock if this applies to you as it is a Queensland Transport licencing requirement. This is an area that is subject to constant change, for more information visit their website.


Can I just plead guilty online for drink driving?

No, you must appear in court in person.

If you live along way from the court where you are required to appear or live interstate then in some cases we can arrange to transfer the charge to a more convenient courthouse for you or for you to appear by phone (if your lawyer is present in court).

The Qld Court website has a list of all the courthouses in Queensland.


Can’t I just use the duty lawyer at court for a drink driving charge?

A duty lawyer is not about to assist people with drink driving charges unless you are at real risk of imprisonment. If you don’t organize your own lawyer then you would have to face the Magistrate by yourself.

Remember if you are unsatisfied with the result then you must appeal to the District Court which will be a very difficult process.


High Range drink driving facts and myths

Demerit points – unlike some other states you will not occur any demerit points for a drink driving offence.

Section 10 – Section 10 applies only in NSW it does not apply in Queensland and we have no equivalent provision. If you are charged with drink driving in Queensland you must get a licence disqualification.

When the disqualification begins – It begins the moment the court sentences you.

Work licence – There is not work licence, special hardship, day licence or any type of licence you can get if convicted of high range drink driving.

I wasn’t driving a car I was on a bicycle, scooter, horse etc – you can still be charged with drink driving but in must cases you won’t have a license disqualification. We have a great article on drink driving on a lime scooter


Should I get a Traffic Lawyer to represent me?

In a word, yes this is not an offence where you should simply turn up to the Court without a lawyer. The consequences and penalties the Court may impose are too serious not to seek to minimise the penalty by having a drink driving lawyer with you.

If you have a bad traffic history, have previously been convicted of drink driving a DUI or drink driving Lawyer is critical. We get 3-4 calls a week from people who represented themselves in court and received extremely harsh penalties and need to try and appeal the result. In most cases an appeal is not possible or if it is will cost a huge amount for the legal fees. It is better to have a lawyer from the start to minimise the drink driving penalty.


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;

  • use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
  • call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm
  • email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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 atleast have more information about drink driving. You wont 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.


Need more information?

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

Top 5 Drink Driving Myths
The Essential Guide to Obtaining a Work Licence
Drink Driving on a Lime Scooter
How Drink Driving Matters are Heard in Queensland
What happens after your drivers licence is disqualified?
Refusing a Breathalyser Test in Queensland
Can you commit a drink driving offence in your driveway?
Immediate suspension for drink driving
Case Study - High Range Drink Driving and Disqualified Driving
Three High Range Drink Driving Charges
Special Hardship Orders v Work Licences
High Range DUI
Going through a drink driving charge in Brisbane Magistrate Court
DUI Charges