High Range Drink Driving | Whats the Penalty?

What is high range drink driving and what penalty will the court impose?

A high range drink driving is one of the most serious charges a person who has likely never been to court in Queensland can commit.


If you are charged with a high range drink driving charge in Queensland (also known as DUI or UIL) the mandatory minimum disqualification, for a first time offender, is 6 months and the court can impose a disqualification of anything up to an absolute disqualification.  Obviously your penalty will vary based on your exact alcohol reading, your traffic history, personal circumstances and the Magistrate handling your case.  This article is written to give someone facing a high range drink driving charge some idea of the court process.


What is a high range drink driving charge?

High Range drink driving is any drink driving charge in Queensland where the reading is at or above .15.  It is also known as a DUI that is driving under the influence but its actually more properly known as driving UIL that is driving under the influence of liquor.  The charge is contained in section 79 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.

There are three different levels of drink driving for a Queensland open licence driver:

Low Range


Mid Range


High Range

.15 and above


What penalty will the court impose for high range drink driving in Queensland?

It is a given that someone charged with a high range drink driving charge is going to get a more severe penalty than that of a low or mid-range offender.  The law states that the licence disqualification period cannot be less than 6 months and will be imposed no matter what other penalties are also imposed.  The court will also almost always impose a substantial fine.

Exactly what penalty will be imposed for high range drink driving depends on a number of factors including;

  • Your reading

  • Did a crash occur

  • Was someone else in the car

  • Why you were driving

  • Your traffic and criminal history

  • Your personal and work situation

  • If you done a course like QTOP

  • What Magistrate hears your matter

In essence the big factors are your reading, your traffic history and what your lawyers tells the court.

With a high range driving charge the absolute minimum disqualification period is 6 months (if you have no other drink driving or similar charges in the last 5 years) and there is no upper limit.

Learn more with our dedicated article on high range drink driving penalties.


What other penalties will the court impose?

In almost all cases the court will also impose a fine.  In addition there is an offender levy that everyone must pay.

In cases where the reading is very high or where there was an accident or if the person has other drink driving charges the court may consider imposing


What can I do to minimise the penalty?

You should always engage a traffic lawyer to represent you if charged with high range drink driving.  Your lawyer can work out what things you need to do to reduce your penalty especially considering what Magistrate might be hearing your case.  In general we have found the following things useful in trying to reduce the penalty:

  • Character references

  • Attending a driving course like Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (“QTOP”).  We are a proud sponsor of QTOP and believe it is one of the most powerful things people facing a high range drink driving charge can do before their court date.

  • If you have any alcohol or mental health issues then obtaining appropriate medical help


Will I go to prison for high range drink driving?

Generally first time offenders would not be likely to be sent to prison however this depends on a number of factors including;

  • Was there a crash

  • Was any other cars or property damaged

  • Was anyone injured

  • What the blood alcohol reading was

  • If the person has a poor traffic history

  • Which Magistrate hears the matter

Only an experienced traffic lawyer can advise if a prison sentence is likely, even if it the courts have the option of potentially suspending that sentence.  If you are worried about a prison sentence then get legal advice.  We have a article all about penalties for high range drink driving.


Will a conviction be recorded?

In Queensland a conviction for a high range drink driving charge will appear on your traffic history but not your criminal history.

In deciding whether to record a conviction the court under the law must consider the following factors;

  • the nature of the offence; and

  • the offender’s character and age; and

  • the impact that recording a conviction will have on the offender’s—

    • economic or social wellbeing; or

    • chances of finding employment.

In assessing the character of a person the court will have a strong regard to that persons’ traffic history.


What happens in court?

We have 2 great articles that set out exactly how a drink driving charge is heard in Queensland.

Basically  the Court will ask you what is happening.  After you confirm a guilty plea then the police prosecutor will read from the QP9 and then a copy of your traffic history and criminal history (if you have one) will be given to the Magistrate.  You will then be asked to give what is known as a speech in mitigation which seeks to limit the sentence the Magistrate will impose on you.  After you are finished talking the Magistrate will give their decision. 


DUI, UIL and high range drink driving what’s the difference?

In practice DUI, UIL and high range all refer to the same thing.  DUI is driving under the influence, its term more associated with America rather than Australia but has been gaining more popularity over the years.

UIL means under the influence, it is largely being replaced by the term DUI but it is the more correct term used in Queensland and the term used in the law and in court.

High Range drink driving is a term commonly used in the court and by lawyers and prosecutors.  It can be used interchangeably with UIL.



Can I be charged with high range drink driving for refusing to give a breath test?

The police can charge you if you refuse to give a breath or blood test at the testing location (A RBT bus, the police station, the hospital etc).  The law then treats the offence like a high range drink driving charge with the same type of penalties.  This is a complicated area of the law.  We have an article that can provide some more information, that article can be found by clicking here.

If you refuse to give a sample of breath at the roadside this is a separate but less serious charge.


Can I be charged with high range drink driving for sitting in my car?

The law does not restrict where high range drink driving offence can occur. In other words, you can commit these offences anywhere. You only need to be:

  • Driving a motor vehicle;

  • Attempting to put it in motion a motor vehicle; or

  • In charge of a motor vehicle.


We have encountered cases where people have been charged with drink driving offences where their car was:

  • Parked in a driveway;

  • Parked in a garage with the door shut;

  • Parked in a shopping centre or pub carpark;

  • Parked on the side of the road; and

  • Being driven on a dirt track on private property.

In short, there is no where you can legally drink and drive. If you are found driving or in charge of a car anywhere in Queensland, you can (and probably will) be charged with an offence.


Can I apply for a work licence if I have a high range drink driving charge?

No, Work licences can only available to low to mid-range drink drivers. Regardless of your situation there is no way around this. There are other requirements you must meet to be eligible but if you are charged with high range drink driving you cannot apply for a work licence nor any other licence such as a special hardship licence  

If you are facing a high range drink driving charge it is important to have an experienced traffic lawyer and traffic law firm represent you to ensure you obtain the absolute shortest disqualification period and fine possible.

See our article on high range drink driving and work licenses.


Will I be subject to an Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device?

Anyone charged in Queensland with a high range drink driving charge (or 2 low or mid-range drink driving charges within 5 years) will be subject to having an alcohol ignition interlock device fitted to their vehicle at the conclusion of their suspension. The alcohol ignition interlock device is similar to a breath test device and is connected to your vehicles ignition. You must blow into with a zero alcohol limit before your vehicle will start. You will need to have the alcohol ignition interlock device for a minimum of 1 year.

The alcohol ignition interlock device needs to be installed by an approved provider and costs vary depending on your vehicle size and if you are a pensioner.  You will incur the costs associated with the rental, installation, servicing and removal of the interlock from your nominated vehicle. 

If at the end of your suspension period you decide not to have an alcohol ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, you will be unable to drive for a further 2 years from the date your Court suspension ended.

Whilst there are grounds for an exemption, there are few and it is difficult to obtain. Grounds of exemption can be if you are residing in a remote location (over 150kms from an alcohol ignition interlock installer) or living on an island, have a medical condition preventing you from being able to use the device or you have extenuating circumstances. Please note that extenuating circumstances cannot be that you are unable to install the interlock for employment or financial reasons. 

It’s important to note that the court does not impose an interlock condition, it is a requirement imposed by Queensland Transport to get your driver’s licence back.  More information can be found on the Queensland Transport website.


The police told me I can’t drive until my court date, Is this correct?

If you are charged with a high range drink driving charge the police are supposed to serve you with a notice suspending your licence immediately.  This means that if your court date is 6 weeks away you cannot drive for 6 weeks prior to court and then in addition the court will impose a further disqualification if you plead guilty. 

The law does however allow a Magistrate to consider the time you were suspended before your sentence date when deciding what penalty to impose.

The penalty for being caught driving while on this suspension is very harsh.  Learn more from our article on driving on a police suspension.


Are there any defences to avoid the high range drink driving charge?

There are a number of possible defences to a drink driving charge, but the courts are reluctant to accept them. Some possible defences include not being in charge of the vehicle, not having driven in the 3 hours before the test.

It is also a limited defence if the police did not follow the correct procedure when requesting a sample of breath or blood.

In reality most defences are very limited.  We have a whole page about drink driving defences.


Can I just plead guilty online?

No, you must appear in court in person. 

If you live along way from the court where you are required to appear or live interstate then in some cases we can arrange to transfer the charge to a more convenient courthouse for you or for you to appear by phone (if your lawyer is present in court).

The Qld Court website has a list of all the courthouses in Queensland.


Can’t I just use the duty lawyer at court?

A duty lawyer is not about to assist people with drink driving charges unless you are at real risk of imprisonment.  If you don’t organize your own lawyer then you would have to face the Magistrate by yourself.

Remember if you are unsatisfied with the result then you must appeal to the District Court which will be a very difficult process.


High Range drink driving facts and myths

Demerit points – unlike some other states you will not occur any demerit points for a drink driving offence.

Section 10 – Section 10 applies only in NSW it does not apply in Queensland and we have no equivalent provision.  If you are charged with drink driving in Queensland you must get a licence disqualification.

When the disqualification begins – It begins the moment the court sentences you.

Work licence – There is not work licence, special hardship, day licence or any type of licence you can get if convicted of high range drink driving.

I wasn’t driving a car I was on a bicycle, scooter, horse etc – you can still be charged with drink driving but in must cases you won’t have a license disqualification.  We have a great article on drink driving on a lime scooter  


Should I get a Traffic Lawyer to represent me for high range drink driving?

In a word, yes this is not an offence where you should simply turn up to the Court without a lawyer.  The consequences and penalties the Court may impose are too serious not to seek to minimise the penalty by having a drink driving lawyer with you.

If you have a bad traffic history, have previously been convicted of drink driving a DUI or drink driving Lawyer is critical.  We get 3-4 calls a week from people who represented themselves in court and received extremely harsh penalties and need to try and appeal the result.  In most cases an appeal is not possible or if it is will cost a huge amount for the legal fees.  It is better to have a lawyer from the start to minimise the drink driving penalty.


What do you charge?

We charge a flat upfront fee for our services, that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. Our fees are clearly posted on our website so that you know exactly what your costs will be.

To see what we will charge for a guilty plea to a drink driving charge click here


If I contacted you what would occur?

If you contact us then likely Steven Brough the firms founder or our office manager Belinda Smyth will take the call or receive the email. They have 40 years legal experience between them, we can provide immediate legal assistance and answer any questions you have. We will discuss your case, provide guidance and send a quote by email with additional relevant information about your charge, all at no cost.

If you want to engage us then it’s easy, there is a form you can complete and email back or complete online. If you don’t want to engage us or want to engage another firm that’s fine, you won’t be hassled and at worst you will just have more information about your charge. Once engaged one of our lawyers will go through your matter and contact you to discuss what the best way forward is to achieve the best results. Everyone of our lawyers are very experienced with thousands of courts appearances between them.


My court case is tomorrow, is that enough time to engage us?

We can take on cases urgently so just contact us and we can sort it out. If there is not enough time to prepare before the court date then we can arrange for the charges to be adjourned for a few weeks.


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to book a teleconference at a time that suits you

  4. Email our firms founder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger

We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide information to assist you, if you want to engage us then great, if not then you at least have more information about drink driving. You won’t be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a drink driving charge will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  


What Courts do you cover?

We cover all courts in South East Queensland from the Gold Coast to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast out to Toowoomba.  We have 6 offices in South East Queensland to assist people. The offices are locacted at 




Gold Coast





Need more information?

We have a range of articles on drink driving on our blog.  Some of the most recent have included:

This article general information only and not legal advice and is rewritten subject to our disclaimer that can be read by clicking here