Drink Driving

If you are charged with drink driving or a DUI in Queensland and need information what will happen in court or if you need to engage a traffic lawyer then this article will provide all the information you need.

Drink driving (also referred to as a DUI or driving UIL), is one of the most serious traffic offences a person can find themselves charged with.  In Queensland unlike other states there is a mandatory requirement to disqualify a person’s drivers licence no matter what the personal circumstances are or the affect a disqualification will have on a person and their family.

A drink driving charge is one of the most common offences that a Magistrate will encounter however along with increased enforcement and public education over the past few years the Courts attitude to drink driving has harden especially in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast Courts.  If you are charged with a DUI or drink driving offence do not treat it lightly as the Magistrate will not be.  Clarity Law is one of the leading drink driving law firms in Queensland but with very affordable fixed fees.  We can appear in any court from Southport to Beenleigh, Brisbane to Strathpine, Caboolture and Maroochydore and out to Ipswich and all courts in between.


What level of alcohol will see me charged with drink driving?

In general, the higher the BAC reading the worse the punishment.   In Queensland the drink driving offences are usually separated into low range drink driving that being below .1, mid-range drink driving that being a reading between .1 and .149 and high range drink driving (also called a DUI or UIL) which is anything above .15.

Below is a table with the applicable BAC limits:

Licence class or age

Legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC)

Holder of a learner, P1/P2 provisional or probationary licence (regardless of age).

(no alcohol limit)

Holder of an open licence.
(However, if you obtain your class RE motorcycle licence, you must ride with a zero BAC in your first year of riding, regardless of your age or the class of vehicle licence you hold).

Below 0.05
(general alcohol limit)

Holder of a licence when driving, or in charge of, a truck (GVM over 4.5t), bus (built or fitted to carry more than 12 adults, including the driver), articulated motor vehicle, B-double, road train, vehicle carrying dangerous goods, taxi, limousine, tow truck, pilot vehicle, and public passenger vehicle or a vehicle while it is being used by a driver trainer to give driver training (or any driver supervising a learner driver).

(no alcohol limit)


What period of disqualification of my driver licence will I get?

First time convictions carry a fine and disqualification. The length of disqualification and amount of the fine depends largely on the blood alcohol limit. If there are previous convictions the fine and disqualification time will increase.   According to the legislation if there are 3 convictions in 5 years with BAC readings above 0.15% jail time will be a compulsory part of the punishment.

Below is a table showing a table of possible penalties for first time offenders:

Over the "no alcohol limit"

  • Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
  • Mandatory disqualification of 3 months with a maximum of 9 months

Over "general alcohol limit" (.05% - .099%)

  • Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
  • Mandatory disqualification of 1 month with maximum of 9 months

Over “middle alcohol limit” (.1%-.149)

  • Maximum fine $1,400 and/or 3 months' imprisonment; AND
  • Mandatory disqualification of 3 months with maximum of 12 months

Over "high limit" (over .15%)

  • Maximum fine $2,100 and/or 9 months' imprisonment; AND
  • Mandatory disqualification of 6 months with a maximum of an absolute  disqualification

It is also an offence to refuse or fail to provide a specimen of breath for analysis.  If you are charged with this you are considered to have committed a high range drink driving charge (DUI)


I am charged with drink driving but need to drive during any disqualification

It may be possible for you to apply for a work licence if you held an open licence at the time of the offence, are charged with low or mid-range drink driving and had no suspensions of your licence in the last 5 years but this must be done at the time you appear in the Court to plead guilty, it cannot be done afterwards.  You cannot apply for a work licence if you are charged with high range drink driving (driving under the influence). Please see our section on work licences for further information or check out the most comprehensive guide to apply for a work licence on the internet.

A work licence only allows you to drive for work purposes you cannot get a work licence or hardship licence to be able to drive for person reasons i.e. driving your children to school.  In Queensland a period of disqualification must be imposed and so if personal driving is critical all you can do is try and minimise the disqualification period as much as possible.

Well thought out submissions and arguments before a Magistrate can in our experience significantly reduce the length of your disqualification.  There are a number of factors that can lead a Magistrate to impose the lowest penalty possible, we know them all.


I wasn’t driving the vehicle but I was arrested for being in charge of a motor vehicle

You can be charged with drink driving being in charge of a vehicle if you had control of the motor vehicle for example if you were in the driver’s seat and had the keys near you even if you were not driving or had no intention of driving.  Often this occurs when people are in the car waiting to be picked up, in the car wanting to find something or just sleeping.

It does not matter that the car was not on a road.  You can be charged with drink driving even if the car was on private property such as a car park or driveway.


Are there defences to a drink driving charge?

Most defences to a drink driving offence have now gone.  The police must conduct the breath or blood test within 3 hours of you driving and it must be conducted in accordance with the law.

If you are charged with a failure to provide a breath sample then it is a defence to this charge to prove that due to a physical condition you were unable to provide a sufficient specimen of breath.  This is a very technical area of the law and if you think you have a defence you should contact us.


Will I get a criminal record?

No all traffic convictions are just that, traffic convictions, they are not considered to be criminal charges.  The Courts are unlikely not to record a conviction unless specific evidence is placed before it that a traffic conviction will harm you in some way.  It should be noted however that overseas travel may be more difficult or impossible if a conviction for a DUI is recorded, especially to Islamic countries or the United States or Canada


Do I get to keep my physical licence?

No, you are required to surrender your licence to Queensland Transport by the day after the Court disqualifies you or to the Police prosecutor on the Court date.

The surrender of your licence may in some circumstances deprive you of your main form of identification, you may therefore wish to attend Queensland Transport before the Court and obtain an proof of age card to help with identification during your period of disqualification.


What will happen in Court?

We have a great article on appearing in Brisbane Court for drink driving charge that will give you more information.

In general terms, drink driving matters are dealt with “summarily”, which means that they are dealt with in a Magistrates Court.  The different Magistrates Courts across Queensland deal with drink driving offences on their own or as part of a general, criminal law “call-over”. This depends on the size of the court. For example, Brisbane Magistrates Court has a dedicated courtroom that only deals with traffic matters. In Maroochydore the majority of drink driving charges are heard on a Monday, in smaller, regional courts (which usually only have 1 courtroom) like Pine Rivers or Caboolture, you may find yourself in court with people charged with far more serious criminal offences. Regardless, when you are charged, the police will give you a notice to appear in court or give you bail to appear in court on a specific date.  The addresses of all Queensland Magistrates Courts can be found by clicking here.

In addition to the date, you will also be advised of what time you must be at court. Generally, you will be told to be at court at 8.30am or 9.00am (again, depending on the court). While you must be at court at this time, your matter will not be heard immediately. Instead, the court and the police prosecutor work together to decide the order in which matters will be heard that day.  As a rule, anyone who has legal representation will be heard first, followed by everyone who is representing themselves.

At Court

When you first get to court, your Solicitor will speak to the police prosecutor. The police prosecutor will give your Solicitor (we always obtain them before the court date so you can know exactly what the police are alleging occurred) a copy of the police’s court brief (in Queensland, this document is referred to as a “QP9”). The QP9 describes the drink driving charge for with which you have been charged, a brief outline of the facts that the police allege constitutes the offence, your criminal history (if any), your traffic history (if any), and a copy of the breath analysis certificate (which you should have received at the time you were charged). If you would like to know more about a QP9 and why it’s so important we have an article you can read.

If the QP9 is incorrect than negotiations would have to be had with the police prosecutor to amend the QP9, this is why we always get our clients QP9 before the court date so if changes need to be made they can be made before the court date as usually the police prosecutor will not amend the QP9 at court and therefore the charges would have to be adjourned to another date.

If you need to apply for a work licence, the court may adjourn your matter to a special day for hearing work licence applications (although not all courts do this). The work licence application and the drink driving charge must be heard at the same time. All of the affidavits and the application form must be filed and served before the date the court hears the work licence application.

If you require an adjournment, the court will give you a date to come back to court.

If you were charged with a low-range drink driving offence, your driver’s licence continues to be valid (unless it has been cancelled or suspended for other reasons) until the next court date and you can still drive. If you were charged with a mid-range or high-range drink driving offence, your driver’s licence remains suspended until the next court date and you must not drive during this time.

If you intend to plead guilty and already have legal representation and do not need to discuss your matter with the police, the court will finalise your matter on the first court date.

Pleading Guilty

If you plead guilty, the court will deal with your matter immediately. The Magistrate will read the charge to you and ask you how you plead. The Magistrate may also ask you if you are entering the plea of your own free will. The Police Prosecutor will then read the outline of facts and give the Magistrate copies of the breath analysis certificate, your criminal history and traffic history. The police prosecutor may also offer an opinion as to what penalties should be imposed on you.

After the Prosecutor has spoken, the Magistrate will give you an opportunity to speak. Your Lawyer (or you if you don’t have a lawyer) will then put explain what occurred, why it occurred, the positive things you have done since the offence, your general good character and the impact the penalty including the disqualification will have on you. This is done to support asking the Magistrate to give you the minimum penalty that can be argued for on the strength of those facts and circumstances.

The court will also consider any other material you might have obtained that will help reduce the penalty such as character references or completing a driving course such at Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (“QTOP”). We are proud to be a sponsor of QTOP.

Once your Lawyer has spoken, the Magistrate may seek further clarification of certain matter from the police, from your Lawyer, or from both. The Magistrate will then formally convict you, impose a penalty (which can cover the full range of penalties from fines, community service, probation, and up to imprisonment), and disqualify you from driving for a certain period of time. The licence disqualification takes effect immediately.

If you have applied for a work licence, the Magistrate will indicate whether the application is granted. If it is granted the Magistrate will state the conditions on which the licence is granted.

Once you are disqualified, you must immediately surrender your driver’s licence to the police prosecutor. It is an offence to be in possession of your licence after you have been disqualified from driving. Your Solicitor will usually hand over your licence on your behalf. If you have been granted a work licence, you will not need to surrender your driver’s licence.


Will my matter be in the paper?

Possibly, the Court is an open Court, what this means is that any person is entitled to watch the Court proceedings.  This also means that a reporter is entitled to report on what occurred in the Court.  It is not possible to have the Court ban the reporting.


When does the disqualification begin?

The disqualification starts immediately.  You would not be able to drive once you leave the Court.  If your licence was immediately suspended because you were a mid or high range drink driver then the court will take into account the time you have been suspended but the disqualification period the court sets starts from the court date.


Will I need to fit an Interlock to my car?

You will be required to have an interlock device fitted to your vehicle for the period of one year once you are eligible to obtain your driver’s licence back if you are charged with high range drink driving (DUI or UIL) or this is your second drink driving charge within 5 years.  The Court has no discretion to exempt you from an interlock if this applies to you as it is a Queensland Transport licencing requirement.  This is an area that is subject to constant change, for more information visit their website.


What happens after my disqualification period?

After the period of disqualification has ended you will need to attend Queensland Transport and reapply for your licence.  You cannot simply start driving after your disqualification period has ended.

After you have been disqualified for a drink driving offence you will be on a probationary licence for one year, this means that;

  1. You have only 4 demerit points available
  2. You have a zero alcohol limit for 1 year

You do not have to re-sit any tests to get your licence back if you were licenced at the time of the offence.

During your disqualification you cannot drive any motor vehicle for any reason.  If you do drive then you can be charged with disqualified driving which is a very serious charge.


Should I get a Traffic Lawyer to represent me?

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 or are charged with mid or high range drink driving offence then 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.


Engaging Clarity Law to act for you

Engaging us gives you the best chance at obtaining the lowest disqualification period and a fine as low possible.   We are the leading drink driving law firm in South East Queensland, everyday our lawyers are in Court getting the best outcome for clients.  Since 2010 we have appeared in over 1,500 drink driving cases and no one has the experience we do.  Just some of the benefits of us acting for you for your drink driving charge include;

  • we know the judges and what they want to hear to give you the best outcome
  • we have good relationships with the Police prosecutors meaning we can often have them not object to the Court imposing the minimum disqualification period applicable.
  • we are there to help you through the process and make everything as stress free as possible, in most cases you will not have to say anything in Court
  • engaging us shows the Court you are taking your charges seriously
  • your matter will be heard early, often first, you do not have to wait for 20-30 other matters to be heard before you
  • you will be fully informed of what is to happen in Court and what this means for you after Court
  • unlike the police or the Judge, we are there to look after you, your privacy and your interests

Here at Clarity Law we appear every week in the Courts with people charged with drink driving, it is this experience that allows us to get the absolute best result for clients.  Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the Magistrates like we do.


What Courts do you appear in?

We appear in every Court in South East Queensland.  Just some of the Court we appear in are;





Holland Park

Pine Rivers





Sunshine Coast








Gold Coast








Darling Downs




We have offices at;




                Gold Coast




Will I need to come in to the office to see you?

We have offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Strathpine, Loganholme and Ipswich but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office.  We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.


What do you charge?

We charge a flat upfront fee for our services, that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills.  We don't charge any travelling fees either; if you are in Maroochydore or Southport you will pay the same price as if you are Brisbane.

We are also upfront with our fees, if you look at other law firms few, if any, clearly list how much they are going to charge you.  Clarity Law on the other hand are happy to list our prices as we are sure no other South East Queensland law firm can match our prices and experience. Our prices include;

  • full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
  • negotiations with the police prosecution unit including obtaining traffic history and charge documents
  • drafting submissions for the court
  • arranging for you to attend a driving course (if appropriate)
  • all telephone calls, faxes emails and meetings with you
  • detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
  • appearing in the court with you for your guilty plea to the drink driving charge

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


If I contacted you what would occur?

If you contact us then 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.


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 at a time that suits you
  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm
  3. Click here to select a time for us to call you back
  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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 atleast have more information about drink driving. You wont be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a drink driving charge no matter the reading will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  


Need more information?

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


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

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