Have you recently been pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of drink driving? Did you confess to consuming alcohol, but not to the point where your ability to drive safely was compromised? Are you wondering if you're facing a lengthy licence suspension for being a repeat offender, including jail time? It's natural to have these questions since the outcomes for a drink driving conviction are not always clear cut.

The potential penalties for driving while intoxicated in Queensland are often severe because the likelihood of a deadly crash is so high. According to the Queensland Government, between 2016 and 2020, approximately 2,400 people were killed on Queensland roads as a result of drink driving. In fact, an average of 20% of all fatal accidents on the state's highways are related to alcohol use.

But even if your drink driving offence did not result in a crash – nor in the loss of someone's life – you may still need legal representation to ensure your rights are protected, especially if you question the reliability of a blood alcohol test that showed you were severely over the legal limit.

However, just as there is a range of ways to determine whether your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels were over the legal limit, there are many possible criminal law punishments following a drink driving conviction. Here, we'll go over what the court takes into consideration when deciding the appropriate penalties if a drink driving offence results in a drink driving conviction:

What variables play a role in sentencing for drink driving?
There are at least three things that a magistrate takes under advisement when determining the appropriate penalty for a traffic offence related to intoxication. These include:

  • Blood alcohol concentration
  • Outcome of the incident in question
  • Recidivism

Recidivism refers to whether you're a repeat offender, meaning if this drink driving charge is not your initial criminal offence. In Queensland, the current blood alcohol level limit is 0.05%. In some parts of the world, this means your blood alcohol concentration could theoretically fall below the maximum (e.g. such being 0.03 or 0.04, or low-range drink driving) and you wouldn't be charged with drink driving. But that's not the case in Queensland. Here, even if your BAC level is 0.01, you may still be penalised. For example, following a first offence for drink driving, the maximum amount of time that your licence could be taken away from you is anywhere from three months to nine months, according to the rules and regulations of the Queensland Government. You may also be fined, but the amount cannot be any more than $1,929. You may additionally be required to serve a jail sentence of as many as three months.

Repeat offenders are subject to harsher sentences
The potential penalties outlined above are applicable if this is a first offence and your BAC is lower than the legal limit (0.05). The severity of these punishments can go higher, though, if a breathalyser test suggests your BAC was well beyond 0.05. For example, a BAC of 0.15 (i.e. high-range drink driving) and above for a first offence carries a minimum six-month licence suspension, a maximum fine of $3,859 and a jail sentence of as many as nine months.

If your BAC is between 0.10 and 0.15 (i.e. mid-range drink driving), then the maximum prison sentence is six months, maximum fine is $2,757 and licence disqualification period is anywhere from three months to 12 months.

The consequences of drink driving are more draconian for repeat offenders. The fine can be up to $8,271, your car could be seized (depending on your BAC) and there is no upper limit when it comes to a prison sentence.

Why you need someone to defend you
Even when a blood test shows you were under the influence it doesn't mean your fate is sealed. Did the police establish probable cause? Was the breathalyser properly calibrated? Was someone with you in the passenger seat who can corroborate police malfeasance? These are all factors that can throw out a drink driving offence, even if you admitted to drink driving in a plea hearing.

With traffic law being one of our specialties, Beavon Lawyers may be able to help you with your case and avoid a criminal conviction. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team of tenured legal experts.