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Immediate suspension for drink driving

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Drink driving legislation in Queensland now provides that any person who is charged with a drink driving offence that is a mid-range or high-range offence will immediately lose the ability to drive. Those persons who have a low-range drink driving charge only have a 24-hour prohibition on driving after being arrested.  A low range drink driving offence applies to readings between .05 and .099, a mid range drink driving offence applies for readings between .1 and .149 and a high range drink driving offence is anything above that.

 

People who have received an immediate suspension notice from the police will often suffer a huge shock to both work and personal life arising from the inability to continue to drive. While it’s true in Queensland, we have mandatory periods of disqualification, the impact should not be overlooked.

 

The legislation does provide some levels of relief to the impact on the loss of a person's licence. The first area in which the legislation provides some relief is that the period of suspension that a person has served under the notice may be taken into account by the Magistrate when setting the disqualification period for the drink driving charge. This does not mean that the disqualification that the court sets will run from the date of arrest, it will still run from the day that the Magistrate disqualifies the person's licence, however in setting the penalty the Magistrate may take into an account the period that a person has spent off the road.

 

This is meant to work in the following way. If the Magistrate was considering imposing a disqualification of two months and the person had already been suspended for a period of one month, then the Magistrate should set a penalty of one month only.

 

In practise, the period of time a person has spent under suspension may very well be taken into account by the Magistrate but each Magistrate treats that period of suspension quite differently. As the legislation doesn't provide that the Magistrate must lower the disqualification as a result of the person's immediate suspension period, simply then it may be taken into account, each Magistrate will use their own judgement as to how much they take into account the immediate suspension period.

 

The other way the legislation provides some relief is that where a person is challenging a drink driving charge or applying for a work licence, then, under the act you are able to apply to the court for an immediate return of your licence. The requirements for the application are very similar to a work licence application in that a person must file an affidavit of themselves and an application form. This is known as a Section 79E Application. Further information could be found on our website at www.drivinglaw.com.au/blog/item/3-all-you-need-to-know-about-section-79e-applications.html

 

In practise this type of application is generally of most use where a person's court date for the hearing of a work licence application is some time in the future. For instance, Southport Magistrate's Court will not hear work licences on the first court date, so for example, say you had a mid-range drink driving charge and were immediately suspended and your first court date was three weeks into the future, then you will be suspended for the period up until your first court date plus whatever period runs from the date of your first court date to when the application for work licence is actually heard. This would generally be at least a week or two after the initial court date as Southport Magistrate Court only hear work licence applications on Tuesdays at 9am.

 

To mitigate that period of suspension, a person could lodge an application for a Section 79E Licence prior to the first court date and seek the ability to continue to drive up until the Magistrate ultimately deals with the entirety of the work licence application which as stated above, may be five weeks after the arrest.

 

There are strict timelines applying for people who are wanting to apply for a section 79E Licence and as such you need to take immediate legal advice should this be something you wish to pursue.

 

Finally, we need to discuss the consequences of driving whilst on the immediate suspension. The law is extremely harsh in this regard. If you are caught driving whilst immediately suspended and before the court ultimately rules on your drink driving offence, then that driving will be treated as essentially driving whilst disqualified and will attract a minimum licence disqualification of two years. This would then be added on top of any period of disqualification you may receive for your drink driving charge.

 

We have had many examples where clients have recorded a drink driving charge, been arrested, then released and have immediately gone back to their car and started to drive again.  As they breach the immediate suspension, their disqualification period can end up being in excess of three years when the drink driving disqualification is added on, especially where they have returned to the car still over the legal limit for driving.

 

In those cases the potential three-year disqualification cannot be mitigated by applying for a work licence as the driving under the immediate suspension charge eliminates that possibility.

 

For more information contact us on 1300 952 255. We appear in Southeast Queensland Courts every week conducting traffic matters such as drink driving, drug driving and disqualified driving. We can assist you should you be needing a 79E licence or work licence, or simply where you have a drink driving charge.

 

This article is subject to our disclaimer notice which can be read at www.drivinglaw.com.au/disclaimer.html

 

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