If you are guilty of drink or drug driving in Queensland, a sentencing court must, in addition to any other penalty imposed on you, disqualify you from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence. Depending on the charge you are guilty of the mandatory minimum period of disqualification will range from 1 month to 6 months. Disqualification periods in excess of the mandatory minimum are routinely imposed and this can often have a severe impact on a person’s ability to maintain their employment (for example in the case of a taxi driver or machine operator).
Whilst a court must impose a mandatory disqualification period upon conviction, you may be able to apply for a work licence which is, as the name suggests, a permission given by the court to allow you to continue driving for the purpose of earning your living during the period of your disqualification. A work licence is the common name given to what is, pursuant to law, known as a “restricted licence”.
Am I Eligible?
There are a number of requirements that must be fulfilled to be eligible for a work licence.
- You must hold a current Queensland open licence;
- You must, at the time of the offence:
- have a blood alcohol level of less than 0.15;
- not be driving already on a work licence or for work. That covers using the vehicle for any activity that is directly connected with how you earn your living;
- not be driving on a licence that required your BAC to be zero; and
- not have been convicted in any state of a drink driving or similar offence, dangerous driving or had a licence suspended or cancelled in the past five years.
Even if you are eligible to make an application for a work licence, that is no guarantee that you will have an order made in your favour. Vigorous argument is often required to convince the court as to the merits of an application for a work licence.
What Do I Need To Show?
If you meet the requirements set out above, you may make an application to the court for a work licence. You must show the court two things in order to make a successful application:
- that you are a “fit and proper” person; and
- if you are not granted a work licence, this would cause you and/or your family extreme hardship by depriving you of your means of earning a living.
Most commonly, special hardship is demonstrated by evidence from your boss that you will lose your job if you can’t drive. Self-employed people will normally demonstrate hardship through their own testimony as to their reliance on a licence to conduct the business form which they draw their livelihood.
When Do I Apply For A Work Licence?
You must make an application for a work licence at the time you are sentenced for a drug or drink driving offence. You cannot apply for a work licence after sentence has been passed and a disqualification pronounced.
If you are applying for a work licence, this needs to be indicated to the magistrate on the first date set for your drink or drug driving matter. The matter will then be adjourned and in that time you will be required to prepare an affidavit stating your need for a licence. An affidavit from your employer will also be required stating that you will lose your job if you have no licence. If you are self-employed, that information should be contained in your own affidavit. You will also need to complete an application form and file this with the court along with your affidavits. You will then need to serve a copy of all your material on police, before your next court date.
Once the matter returns to court for a second hearing, your employer will sometimes be required to attend court and it is possible that both you and your employer will be required to give evidence. This second court date is when you will ordinarily enter your plea of guilty to the offence and receive your sentence, while at the same time making your application for a work licence.
What Happens If I Drive Outside Of My Conditions?
It is important that you read carefully the conditions of a work licence if one is granted. Your licence will be subject to restrictions, such as:
- your BAC must be zero when driving;
- you must carry your licence and court order when driving;
- a restriction on the hours that you drive, the purpose for which you drive, or the class of vehicle you can drive. This will be determined by the court on a case-by-case basis.
If you drive outside of those conditions, that will be a breach of the work licence. Your work licence will be cancelled. It is likely you will also be charged with breaching a condition of your work licence which is a potentially serious offence carrying further penalties.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Lawyers.