Drink driving continues to be one of the main causes of road fatalities and injuries, responsible for 30% of fatalities and 9% of serious road injuries in Australia. If you consider the statistics it is clear why successive Governments and the Police support it and why the Courts impose tough penalties.

In this article we take a step back and examine why we have the laws we do today. This may be of interest for parents of young drivers or a reminder for those who need to know more.

Random Breath Testing

Random Breath Testing was introduced at different times around Australia as a major drink driving deterrent. There have been numerous evaluations of RBT as a road safety measure and these have largely produced positive outcomes. For example, in NSW the introduction of RBT in 1982 led to an initial (and massive) 48% reduction in fatal crashes over a four and a half month period and an average 15% reduction in fatal crashes over a subsequent 10 year period. In Queensland, RBT led to a reduction in fatal crashes of 35% and 28% in Western Australia over a four year period.

Police officers can require a driver to take a breath test. If the driver refuses to take the test, or, if the test is positive, that person will be arrested and taken to a police station for breath testing within two hours of the first test or refusal.

The cost to the community

The statistics are staggering and it is little wonder all Governments are keen to minimise the costs to the community. In 2006, the cost of each fatality crash to the Australian community was estimated at approximately $2.6m, while the cost of each hospitalisation crash was estimated at approximately $266,000!

What happens in Court?

The matter must be dealt with in a Court and the paperwork received by a driver will set out the day and time of that court appearance. As you can imagine the Court process can be confronting and worrying and of course there will be penalties imposed.

If the charged person is found guilty or convicted, they can receive a fine, a period of disqualification of their licence, a jail sentence or a combination of these penalties. The range of penalties which the Court can impose depends on the blood alcohol reading and the person’s prior record for similar offences.

Court appearances should not be taken lightly and for anyone it is wise to first seek legal help well ahead of the intended court date so their details can be properly discussed. Fundamentally the first issue to consider is if the person should plead guilty to the charge/s and review what the police assert the facts to be.

It may be appropriate to adjourn the matter so there is more time to prepare, or because the person’s lawyer may not be available on the first date. Essentially the person needs to get legal help in order to plan for the process properly.

If there is to be a guilty plea then the person needs to know what the likely penalties are and if they need to do anything that might assist in reducing that penalty such as enrolling in a driving or alcohol education course or seeking character references or seeking other relevant evidence in support of that guilty plea.

Penalties in Queensland

The penalty depends on the type of licence the driver holds:

  • If you hold a learner, probationary or provisional Queensland driver’s licence you must have a blood alcohol concentration reading of zero.
  • If you hold an open driver’s licence you must not have a blood alcohol concentration reading exceeding 0.05.

If you are required to have a ‘no alcohol limit’ (that is a blood alcohol reading of zero)

  • The maximum fine is 14 penalty units and/or 3 months imprisonment.
  • The minimum (and mandatory) period of disqualification is 3 months and the maximum is 9 months.

If your blood alcohol concentration reading is in the low range, that is 0.05 to 0.99

  • The maximum fine is 14 penalty units and/or 3 months imprisonment.
  • The minimum (and mandatory) period of disqualification is 1 month and the maximum is 9 months.

If your blood alcohol concentration is in the mid-range that is 0.10 to 0.149

  • The maximum fine is 20 penalty units and/or 6 months imprisonment.
  • The minimum (and mandatory) disqualification period is 3 months while the maximum is 12 months

If you have a high range reading, or DUI (driving under the influence of liquor) that is 0.15 and above

  • The maximum fine is 28 penalty units and/or 9 months imprisonment.
  • The minimum (and mandatory) disqualification period is 6 months while the maximum includes an absolute disqualification of your driver’s licence.

The penalties change depending on whether you are a first time or repeat offender. A ‘repeat offender’ is someone who has more than one offence within the last 5 years.

If you have three high range offences within the last 5 years the court must impose a term of imprisonment as part of your sentence.

Will the media be at Court?

It is extremely unlikely the media will be interested. As far as our firm is concerned we never talk about your case with anyone. We do not speak to the media under any circumstances. Having your case reported in the media does not help you. Having to go to Court is stressful enough without having your peers, your work colleagues or your local community hearing about it through the media.


The Courts treat traffic offences seriously, particularly drink driving offences. Therefore, for anyone confronting this issue it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible and certainly before they need to attend Court.

If you know someone who might need assistance we can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter, so please contact us on (07) 4724 1152 or email [email protected]