Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads recently published a shocking statistic. Data from Footprints Market Research shows around one-fifth of all drivers statewide admit to driving when they are or may be over the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC). That's a staggering number of impaired drivers on the road, and this likely stems from confusion around the criminality of driving when inebriated.

5 quick facts about drink driving offences in Queensland

1) Queensland is the only state that mandates an 24-hour licence suspension if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

2) You can still be charged with operating a vehicle while over an acceptable BAC level. This applies if you're in your vehicle and determined to be in control of it. This includes:

  • Trying to move the vehicle in any way, including to park.
  • Sitting in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition. 
  • Operating the motor vehicle in a private driveway

3) A Queensland police officer can request any vehicle user to provide a roadside breath test to determine their BAC. They can also ask for details such as your home address, see your driver's licence or escort you to the police station for a secondary breath test.

4) Your blood alcohol level is determined by your vehicle licence. For example, Learner and Provisional (both red & green P's), along with drivers of large vehicles such as buses, limousines or tractors, have a zero-tolerance policy. Others, including open licence holders, are allowed to have a BAC of 0.05 per cent. It's very difficult to estimate your own blood alcohol level due to differences in drink serves and an individual's age, build and general health.

5) The concentration of alcohol in your body determines the severity of your punishment. High range drink driving (a BAC of over 0.15 per cent) will result in a maximum penalty of nine months imprisonment and/or a 28 penalty unit fine on your licence. Lower breaches of the acceptable blood alcohol levels can incur lower jail terms, suspensions and fines.

As you can see, there are many elements involved in determining what the conviction for ais in Queensland. Blood alcohol, your control of the vehicle, prior driving history, the type of licence held and your interactions with police decide the severity of potential penalties. These factors also determine how the offence is recorded in the legal system. Cases are analysed individually to determine whether the infringement is a traffic offence or worthy of a criminal record.

More than one-in-five Queensland drivers admit to driving when they over the legal blood alcohol levels.

What is the difference between a traffic offence and a criminal offence?

There are two kinds of offences in Queensland law. Regulatory offences are minor breaches of law, including disorderly behaviour and traffic violations. Criminal offences, meanwhile, cover more serious issues. The difference between the two lies in the permanent record held against your name in the legal system.

Traffic offences are handled through penalty units applied against your licence. Depending on the type of vehicle, your BAC and traffic offence history, exceeding a demerit point limit can lead to the court imposing disqualification periods. This period can last from three months up to one year, depending on the penalty units recorded on your licence within a three year period. Additionally, offenders can have their licence disqualified indefinitely under extreme circumstances. 

It's important to note, however, that traffic offences only apply to your driving history and have no bearing on other activities in your life.

Criminal offences, on the other hand, are formal records through the Queensland courts of your convictions. You are legally required to inform certain individuals of a criminal record, including employers. You may also be asked to show your criminal record when applying for a job involving children, seeking insurance cover or obtaining an overseas work visa.

Criminal records do lapse after a period of time, and individuals don't have to discuss their record if they aren't sentenced to prison. However, having a criminal record can obviously inconvenience individuals in the future, so seeking to achieve a more favourable outcome from a drink driving issue is essential.

Finding the right legal help

While penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are designed to reduce the risk of repeat offences, criminal convictions often have more far-reaching effects on drivers. Many factors will play into a magistrate's verdict on a drink driving case, making it a complex area of law to navigate alone. Seeking legal help from expert solicitors improves your chances of achieving a favourable outcome without tarnishing your criminal record.

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence and face disqualification from using your licence, severe fines or imprisonment, contact the Beavon Lawyers team today for advice.