Drink Driving Penalties in Queensland: Your Guide

Key Takeaways

  • Sentencing for driving whilst under the influence can range from a fine all the way to imprisonment.
  • What sentence you get depends on a number of factors, including: Your BAC reading, the circumstances and level of danger you presented and your past driving behaviour.
  • Your BAC reading falls into three categories: low range (0.05-0.09), mid range (0.10-0.15) and high range (0.15+). Higher readings increase your chances of a more severe penalty.
  • If you are being charged, you can call Cridland & Hua’s 24 hour number here: +61 7 3211 3177
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    What are the Consequences & Penalties for Drink Driving?

    In Queensland it is an offence to operate a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol or substance.  This is commonly referred to as ‘drink driving’ or ‘drug driving’.

    As regards to alcohol, quite obviously, it is only an offence if a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over a certain amount, and the penalty will vary depending upon the person’s BAC reading.  The There are three different categories of readings: the ‘general limit’, ‘mid-range limit’ and ‘high limit’, which are 0.05, 0.10 and 0.15 respectively.

    This in turn creates three different offences:

    1. Driving whilst over the general limit but under the mid-range limit, which is a reading between 0.05 and 0.10
    2. Driving whilst over the mid-range limit but under the high limit, which is a reading between 0.10 and 0.15
    3. Driving whilst over the high limit, which is a reading over 0.15

    The term ‘driving whilst under the influence’ (DUI) is a commonly mis-used term and in fact only applies to the third category of offence above – that is, if a person’s reading is over 0.15, or if a person’s driving is in some other way substantially impaired as a result of drugs.

    What is the Sentencing?

    When a court imposes a sentence on a defendant for drink driving, it will have regard to a number of things.  First and foremost, their BAC reading.  Additionally, the circumstances of the manner of driving, the danger that the person presented to members of the public and the defendant’s past driving behaviour are all things that the court will take into account.

    As for the sentence that can be imposed, there will ordinarily be two aspects to this.  The first is the substantive penalty, which can range from a fine all the way up to a term of imprisonment, depending upon the circumstances referred to above.  Repeat offenders can and often do receive terms of imprisonment for drink driving offences.

    The second aspect of the penalty will be the disqualification period.  For a low range drink driving, where the person is a first time offender, a short period such as one month is possible.  However, for high readings involving repeat offenders disqualification periods of one or two years, or even absolute disqualifications, are possible.

    There have been some recent reforms in relation to interlock devices and these are discussed in detail below.

    Interlock Program Reforms

    When did the reforms commence?

    The drink driving reforms came into effect on Friday 10 September 2021.

    What are the drink driving reforms?

    The drink driving reforms incorporate two key elements:

    • a significant overhaul and expansion of the existing Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program, and
    • the introduction of education programs designed to change driver behaviour and separate drinking and driving.

    What is the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program?

    The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program applies to drivers who are convicted of high-risk drink driving offences. The interlock program aims to help drink drivers separate drinking and driving when they get their licence back.

    How has the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program changed?

    Prior to 10 September, the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program (Interlock Program):

    • applied to repeat offenders and high-risk drink drivers, including those with a high-range blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 and above;
    • was time based (12 months); and
    • had a sit-out period of 2 years.

    From 10 September, the Interlock Program:

    • has expanded to include mid-range drink drivers (BAC 0.10-0.149);
    • is now performance based, meaning if a driver fails any of the interlock breath samples or breaches other conditions, such as getting regular interlock services and not tampering with the interlock, their time in the Interlock Program will be extended; and
    • has a sit-out period of 5 years.

    Who does the Interlock Program apply to?

    The interlock program applies to anyone who commits and is convicted of any of the following offences:

    • driving under the influence of alcohol
    • drink driving with a blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 or more
    • failing to provide a blood/breath specimen for analysis
    • dangerous driving while affected by alcohol
    • 2 or more drink driving offences (regardless of BAC) within 5 years.

    Is the Interlock Program mandatory?

    No. Eligible convicted drink drivers can choose not to enter the Interlock Program. However, they will have to adhere to the sit-out period, which means they cannot drive for 5 years.

    Are there any exemptions to the Interlock Program?

    Exemptions can only be granted if a person meets strict eligibility criteria, which are stipulated in the legislation. An exemption will not be granted if a person is unable to install an interlock for employment, educational or financial reasons.

    Eligible convicted drink drivers who are granted a restricted (work) licence by the courts are not exempt and will have to fit an interlock to any vehicle they drive, including work vehicles.

    Who pays for the Interlock Program?

    The participants are responsible for all costs associated with undertaking the Interlock Program. This is estimated to be, on average, $3000 per vehicle for the first 12 months. These costs include:

    • installing an interlock in their vehicle(s);
    • required periodic servicing of the interlock and
    • relicensing fees, including applying for an interlock condition on their licence.

    What is an interlock?

    An interlock is a device connected to a vehicle’s ignition system that requires a breath sample to start the vehicle. The vehicle will only start if no alcohol is detected.

    Couldn’t drivers get someone else to blow in the interlock?

    Under the new program, all interlocks will be fitted with a camera which will take a reference photo at the start of the program and each time a breath sample is provided. These photos can be reviewed to ensure the driver provided the breath sample and is complying with the zero BAC requirement. It is an offence for someone else to blow into the interlock device for the interlock participant.

    What are the education programs?

    There are two education programs being introduced as part of the reforms.

    • Plan.Drive.Survive. Foundations course applies to all drivers who commit and are convicted of a drink driving offence (from 10 September onwards). Drivers who don’t complete the course will not be able to apply for their licence for 5 years.
    • Plan.Drive.Survive. Comprehensive course applies to any drivers who commit and are convicted of two or more drink driving offences from 10 September onwards. These repeat offenders will need to undertake this multi-session course in order to complete the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program.

    If you’re needing assistance with legal matters or determining your legal rights, Cridland & Hua are the specialists amongst Brisbane Law Firms, practising exclusively in criminal and quasi-criminal law. Contact us today.

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