What is the legal alcohol limit for driving in Queensland?
For some drivers, you are breaking the law if you drive with any alcohol in your body. If:
- you have a learner licence;
- you have a provisional, probationary or restricted licence (for example, a ‘P’ licence), you have a class RE motorbike licence and you have held that licence for less than 12 months or you are learning to ride a class R motorbike;
you drive a tractor or specially constructed vehicle; or
- you drive a truck, a bus, articulated vehicle, road train, a vehicle carrying dangerous goods, a tow truck, pilot vehicle, taxi, limousine or driving instructor vehicle
- you are not allowed to drive with any alcohol in your body.
For all other drivers, if the amount of alcohol in your body is 0.05% or more, you are ‘over the limit’ and you are breaking the law.
What if I have been drinking but I’m just sitting or sleeping in the car?
You don’t have to be driving the car or other vehicle to be breaking the law as you may be what the law calls ‘in charge of the vehicle’ – that includes sleeping or just sitting in the car.
If you don’t drive but you try to start the vehicle or move it or you are sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition or nearby, you may be breaking the law if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if the police haven’t seen you driving, just by being in the car under the influence of alcohol or drugs you risk being charged.
I need to be able to drive to work. Can I still keep my driver’s licence if I have been caught drink driving?
If you work in an industry which requires you to use a vehicle during work hours, you may be eligible to apply for a work licence. You will need to demonstrate to the Court that you will suffer a special hardship if you are not permitted to use your licence for work purposes. Most often, special hardship means that you will lose your job if you lose your licence. The flow-on effect being that you will be unable to meet your financial obligations.
You will be eligible to apply for a work licence if, at the time of being caught drink driving you:
- held a current Queensland open driver’s licence for the vehicle you were driving;
- had a blood alcohol level of less than 0.15%;
- were not driving for your job or already under a work licence; and
- were not driving under a licence that required your BAC to be zero e.g. if you are on a learner, provisional, probationary or restricted license.
You must still have an open driver’s licence at the time of applying for your work licence so if you lose your licence for some reason between being caught for drink driving and appearing in Court, you will be ineligible to apply. You will also be ineligible to apply for a work licence if in the last five years:
- you have been convicted of a drink driving offence;
- you have been convicted of dangerous driving; and
- had a licence suspended or cancelled (although there are some circumstances which still permit you to apply to the Court for a work licence. You should seek legal advice about your eligibility to apply for a work licence if your driver’s licence has been suspended or cancelled in the last five years).
If I have been charged with drink driving can I drive until I appear in Court?
If you have been charged with driving ‘over the limit’, your licence will immediately be suspended for the following 24 hours. If you drive within that 24 hour period, even if it is just to go back to where you left your car and drive it home, you are breaking the law. If you are caught going back to get your car and are still over the limit, you can be charged again for drink driving and also with the more serious offence of driving with a suspended licence. Even if you go back to get your car and you are under the limit, you still risk being caught for driving while suspended.
For some drink driving offences your licence is suspended immediately, not just for 24 hours, and if you drive any time before you go to Court you are breaking the law. These include:
- driving/in-charge of a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.10% or more (the high alcohol limit), or
- not giving the police a breath specimen or allowing them to take blood for it to be analysed
- a second drink driving offence while you still have a drink driving charge to be finalised in Court.
Do I have to give my name and address if I am pulled over for a Random Breath Test (RBT)?
If the police think you may be under the influence of alcohol they can require you to:
- give your name and address
- show your driver’s licence
- take a roadside breath test – this test must be done within two hours of you driving or being in charge of the vehicle
- get a doctor to take blood from you for a blood test
- take a breath test at a police station
It is an offence if you:
- don’t give your name and address
- refuse or don’t take a breath test (at the roadside or at the police station). This is called failing to provide a breath specimen.
- refuse to allow a blood test (but you have no right to insist that there be a blood test).
What fine and/or disqualification period am I likely to get?
The amount of the fine and extent of the period of disqualification is at the complete discretion of the Court and depends heavily on the individual circumstances of the case. However, we are able to provide a rough guide about what fine and disqualification period you might expect for a first time offender on an open licence:
|Reading||Potential Fine||Disqualification Period|
|0.05 – 0.06||$200||1 month|
|0.07 – 0.08||$400||3 months|
|0.09 – 0.10||$600||4 months|
|0.11 – 0.12||$700||6 months|
|0.13 – 0.14||$800||8 months|
|0.15 – 0.16||$1000||10 months|
|0.17 – 0.19||$1200||12 months|
|0.20 +||$1500||15 months|
If you have been caught for drink driving previously, or are unlicenced, or under the age of 25 years, the fines and disqualification periods increase and you should seek legal advice about what fines and disqualification periods might apply.
What can I do to decrease my fine and/or disqualification period?
Most importantly, you should seek legal advice. You should also ask about any traffic programs endorsed by the Court that might apply to your situation. The reason for completing Court endorsed traffic programs is the Court wants to know that you accept you made a mistake and you are doing something to prevent it happening again.
Should I have legal representation?
If you are unsure about your situation, you should always get legal representation. In particular, you should obtain legal advice if you:-
- have been charged with your third or more drink driving charge within 5 years;
- want to contest a drink driving charge;
- need to know your prospects of success in appealing a decision of a Magistrate about the disqualification period; and
- have more questions about applying for a work licence for drink driving.
Your solicitor will act as your advocate in Court, they will know the laws relating to drink driving and Court room procedures and will be able to best put forward the positive aspects of your situation. The Court appreciates that you have gone to the trouble of getting legal representation and will deliver a more favourable sentence as a result.