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Drink Driving


At all times of year but especially during the Christmas – New Year period you should be wary of drink driving and the consequences if you are caught by the Police.

There are well publicised guidelines as to how many standard drinks you can consume and the effect this has on the average man or woman but be warned as these are not accurate. You should use these publicised guides as merely that – a guide. The effect of alcohol is different for each and every person and also the effect on the same person can be different according to other factors as food consumption, mood and type of alcohol.

Whatever you do, don’t trust your own judgement as most people who drink and drive think that they were under the limit! It is better to drive home and drink than the other way around! But a word of caution – even then you can be charged if you are found to have more than the legal limit within 2 hours of driving your motor vehicle. So you can be perfectly sober whilst driving, go home, have a few drinks and be charged if the police can obtain a reading on you and show that you drove a motor vehicle in the last 2 hours.

There are 3 legal limits for alcohol in your blood system:

  1. a zero alcohol limit (or .02% to be exact) for drivers within certain professions (eg taxi, truck and bus drivers while on the job) and those under 25 years old and hold a provisional licence, learner’s permit or (worse still) have no license at all;
  2. .05% but under .15% – having a concentration of alcohol in your system. This has less severe penalties;
  3. .15% and over – under the influence of alcohol (i.e. drunk). This has serious consequences especially if you are apprehended 3 times in the last 5 years (you must go to prison).

If you are pulled over by the Police and they request you to blow in the road-side tester then you must do so. Some years ago you could refuse to do this and if the police suspected that you had been drinking, they would take you to the Police Station for a test. Now, if you do not blow into the road-side tester, you have committed an offence and can be charged with this even if you have not had a drink!

You must supply a specimen if requested by the Police no matter where you are. If you have driven a motor vehicle (or for that matter ridden a bicycle) within the previous 2 hours the Police can ask you to supply a specimen of your breath. You can be in your lounge room and still be in charge of your motor vehicle.

If the road-side test shows that you have more than the prescribed amount of alcohol in your system, the police will ask you to accompany them to the Police Station or if a “booze bus” is nearby to go to this. The second reading must be taken within 2 hours of your driving a motor vehicle.

Depending on your reading several things may happen. The first is if your reading is taken at a “booze bus”, is less than .15% and you have no previous drink-driving convictions you may receive an on-the-spot ticket. If you pay the fine within the time specified then your license will be suspended for the period on the ticket. Should you need your license for work then you must make an application for a work license to a Magistrates Court before you pay the fine and before the time set for payment of the fine expires.

If your reading is taken at the Police Station, is over .15% at a”booze bus” or you have previous drink-driving conviction/s then you will receive a notice to appear before a Magistrates Court at a later date.

If your reading is over the prescribed amount and you are charged or receive an on-the-spot ticket then your license is suspended for 24 hours. You should not drive or attempt to drive during that period or you will face further charges. You will face another charge of drink-driving if you are still have more than the legal limit of alcohol in your blood. After that you are free to drive until the Court disqualifies you or pay the on-the-spot fine.

You should consider whether you require legal representation for your Court case. If your reading is .15% or more and you have 2 previous convictions for drink-driving with a reading of .15% or more in the last 5 years then you will go to prison and so you should seriously consider engaging a solicitor.

If you enter a plea of guilty you will be fined and disqualified from driving for a period depending on the circumstances of your apprehension, whether you were involved in an accident, if anyone was injured, your reading and previous driving (and criminal) history. You cannot apply for a license after you have been disqualified and so you must file the Application beforehand. On the first appearance the Magistrate may ask you if you need a license for work. If you do then the case will be adjourned to a later date to enable you to file the Application and supporting affidavits.

If you do not apply for a work license your case can be dealt with on the first appearance. If you wish to contest the case then you will be asked by the Magistrate to see a Solicitor and come back with the Solicitor in about 2 weeks.

If you need your license for work and have no previous convictions for drink-driving in the last 5 years then you may apply for a work license. However, if your reading was .15% or above then you cannot apply for a work license. The events that gave rise to the offence with which you are charged must not have occurred while you were working. You must convince the Magistrate that the loss of your license will cause extreme hardship on you and your family and that you are a fit and proper person to hold a license having regard to other road users. Generally the higher the reading, if you have a bad driving record or if you were involved in an accident, the less chance you have of obtaining a work license. The Magistrate will need to consider your work position, your financial situation and your history (traffic and criminal) in reaching a decision and these factors will need to be presented to the Court on your behalf in an affidavit. If your application is successful, the usual disqualification period is doubled and you will be granted a license during specified hours for work-related activities only.

The provisions of the Traffic Act that establish drink-driving offences also apply to driving whilst under the influence of drugs (both legal and illegal). If a Police Officer suspects that you are under the influence of a drug then you can be required to give a blood sample taken by a Medical Doctor for analysis. If the result is positive then you may be charged at a later time once the results are known. Given the time delays in analysing samples this may be some months later.

This article should not be taken as legal advice but merely a guide. Also note that the applicable law is that of Queensland, Australia. The particular facts of your case may alter the outcome and so you should consult a solicitor for further advice.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with a Springfield Legal Service representative regarding our service, please contact us.