You would have to be living in a cave in Australia to have not seen and understood the implications of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Public campaigns across our media have highlighted the consequences of choosing to drive after drinking, which can range from fines, loss of licence, loss of your job and, for the most serious offences, imprisonment.
Unfortunately all the public education in the world does not deter certain behaviours and drink driving is one of them. In this article, therefore, we’ll outline the different categories of drink driving in Queensland, the penalties, and whether there are any defences to a charge of DUI.
Categories of drink driving charges
Low-range drink driving: Any drink driving offence ranging between 0.00 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) but under 0.10 BAC will be classified as a low-range drink driving charge. People who hold a licence requiring a zero-alcohol limit obviously cannot have any alcohol in their system, while some licences allow up to 0.05 BAC in Queensland.
No alcohol limits apply to those holding Learners, P1 and P2 licences, as well as restricted licence holders (regardless of the driver’s age); and drivers of trucks, taxis, limousines, tow trucks and tractors.
Mid-range drink driving: Any drink driving offence ranging between 0.10 BAC but under 0.15 BAC is considered a mid-range offence.
High-range drink driving: A BAC of 0.15 or higher means you are “conclusively presumed” to be under the influence of liquor.
Offences and penalties
Understandably the higher the concentration of alcohol in your system, the harsher the penalty for the offence will be, given you pose a greater risk to yourself and the general public when operating a vehicle while under the influence.
Dangerous operation of a vehicle while adversely affected by alcohol or drugs is punishable by five years in prison. An aggravated offence, such as seriously injuring or killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can result in a term of imprisonment up to 14 years.
Low-range: If you are charged with a first-time offence of drink driving with less than 0.10 BAC, your licence will be suspended for a period of at least 24 hours from the time you are confirmed as having exceeded the legal limit. Police will issue you with a notice to make the suspension clear to you.
If you are charged with a low-range drink driving offence but already have a drink driving charge pending, your licence will immediately be suspended.
As mentioned, for those who are on learner, probationary and provisional licences, there is a zero-alcohol limit in Queensland. The penalties for a first offence in this category includes licence disqualification for between three to nine months; a maximum fine amount of 14 penalty units (with a penalty unit set at a value of $130.55); a maximum term of imprisonment of three months.
For everyone else, BAC of over 0.05 but under 0.10 can result in licence disqualification of between one and nine months; a maximum fine amount of 14 penalty units, and a maximum term of imprisonment of three months.
Mid-range: A drink driving offence where your BAC is above 0.10 but below 0.15 will result in your licence being suspended until the time you have to appear in court.
The penalty can comprise licence disqualification of between three to 12 months; maximum fine amount of 20 penalty units (more than $2,600); and a maximum term of imprisonment of six months imprisonment.
High-range: A BAC of 0.15 or higher will see your licence immediately suspended until your court appearance.
The penalties that apply for a first offence in this category are minimum disqualification from driving for six months; a maximum fine amount of 28 penalty units, or more than $3,600; and a maximum nine-month term of imprisonment.
There are also separate offences if you refuse to take a breath test in Queensland when asked, or following being charged with an offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle while adversely affected. In this case your licence can be immediately suspended.
Driving while suspended and repeat offences
If your licence is suspended and you choose to drive again, the consequences can be considerable. Driving during the 24-hour suspension period can result in licence disqualification of up to six months, while driving when suspended until a court appearance can see you disqualified from driving for two years up to a maximum of five years.
In Queensland, repeat drink driving penalties can bring terms of imprisonment. If you come back to court on charge of driving under the influence of liquor, and have been convicted of two prior offences involving the same charge or certain other traffic offences within a five-year period, then imprisonment as all or part of the punishment becomes mandatory.
Work licence applications
Of course, many people are reliant on their vehicle for their livelihood. Disqualification from driving and suspension of their licence for DUI can have a serious impact on their ability to provide for their family. In these cases, you can make an application to the court for a work licence. It should be noted, however, that the criteria for eligibility is strict and the level of proof required to support the application is high. The expertise of an experienced legal representative is advised when making a work licence application.
The need for good legal representation
A conviction for DUI can affect a person’s life in tangible and permanent ways, including their current and future employment prospects, their reputation in society, their ability to travel and even their ability to deal with root causes such as alcohol abuse, depression or other mental health issues.
In recognition of this fact, a consideration for a magistrate in drink driving cases is whether to record a conviction on your traffic record or not. A magistrate also has the discretion to consider certain other penalties, such as probation and community service.
In short, there are many variables when it comes to DUI and its penalties and the assistance of a legal representative with experience in this part of the law can prove invaluable in helping you through the court process. At Twohill Lawyers we offer confidential and relevant advice on any DUI matter, including suspensions, disqualifications and work licences, as well as strong advocacy and representation in court. If you have any questions about a drink driving offence please contact us today on (07) 5571 1450.