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High-Range Drink Driving

Driving a vehicle while over the “high alcohol limit”, commonly called high-range drink driving or driving under the influence (“DUI”), is the charge police lay against a person who is found driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over 0.15%. High-range drink driving is the most serious drink driving offence under Queensland law and carries a maximum penalty of 9 months imprisonment and/or 28 penalty units for a first offence.

A second, or subsequent, offence within 5 years, carries a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment and/or 60 penalty units. For a third, and any subsequent, offence within 5 years of the first, the law requires that a court impose a sentence which includes imprisonment. While this requirement does not mean, as a matter of law, that a person must serve a full-time prison sentence, in practice this is usually the outcome.

Upon convicting a person of high-range drink driving a court is required to disqualify that them from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for a minimum of 6 months for a first offence, a minimum of 1 year for a second, and a minimum of 2 years for any subsequent offences. A court is empowered to disqualify a person absolutely (meaning they can never hold or apply for another Queensland driver’s licence) even for a first high-range drink driving offence (though in practice this is rare). If more than one period of disqualification is imposed (for example for repeat offences), they must be served cumulatively (that is, each period of disqualification does not commence until the previous one has expired).

People convicted of high-range drink driving are required to have an Alcohol Ignition Interlock device fitted to their nominated vehicle for a period of 12 months after they get their licence back.

What Happens to My Licence When I am Caught Drink Driving?

If you are caught high-range drink driving, your licence is immediately suspended until such time as the charge against you is determined in court (this can sometimes be a period of months).

Driving during an immediate suspension period is an offence and carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and/or 40 penalty units, but it is possible to be granted permission by a court to drive during the immediate suspension period if you are eligible and you make the correct application.

After being convicted by a court of high-range drink driving, your licence will be disqualified. Eligible people can apply for a restricted licence, sometimes called a work licence, which allows them to drive for the purpose of earning a living during the period of a court-ordered disqualification.

Will I Have to go to Court for a High-Range Drink Driving Charge?

Yes. All drink driving charges in Queensland are determined in a Magistrates Court. Police do not have the power to issue on-the-spot fines, or infringement notices, for drink driving offences.

Will I Get a Criminal Conviction for High-Range Drink Driving?

Yes. High-range drink driving is considered to be a serious offence. The seriousness of the charge is heightened depending on the concentration of alcohol in the offender’s blood or breath. The penalties are severe and it is not uncommon, especially if a collision occurred, for some form of custodial sentence to be imposed, even for a first offender. This is on top of the recording of a criminal conviction against your name.

What Does it Mean to Have a Criminal Conviction Recorded?

The consequences of having a criminal conviction recorded can be very serious. For example, most employers will conduct a background check on potential employees as part of the standard recruitment process including a police check. A police check would reveal if you have a criminal conviction recorded against your name, and the charge for which it was recorded. This may impact the employer’s decision in whether or not to employ you.

In certain professions a criminal conviction may need to be reported to a regulatory body. For example, a member of the legal profession must report any criminal convictions to the relevant law society who will then make a determination as to whether that legal practitioner should be allowed to continue to practise law.

A criminal conviction may also inhibit future overseas travel. Most countries require visitors to obtain a visa prior to entering the country. As part of the visa process, the applicant will more than likely need to disclose any criminal convictions. Depending on the policy of the particular country for which the visa is being sought, the visa may or may not be granted based on your criminal record.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Represent Me on My High-Range Drink Driving Charge?

It is your choice whether to represent yourself or whether to have a solicitor represent you in court. In making this decision, however, you should consider the impact of any form of sentencing on both your life, and the lives of the people close to you. High-range drink driving is a serious criminal offence, and you will be sentenced accordingly. Further, it can be very daunting for a person with no prior contact with the criminal justice system to find themselves before a court for this sort of charge. Our solicitors specialise in these matters and will use their experience and expertise to lead you through the process to the best possible outcome.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Lawyers.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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