Queensland's Tough DUI Laws Make No Exception

The article from the Gold Coast Bulletin regarding a police officer busted for driving under the influence is a timely reminder that no one is above Queensland’s laws on driving under the influence.  The article reports that the off-duty officer blew over three times the legal limit of 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after he was stopped for a random breath test in Broadbeach Waters.  Ultimately the officer was fined $1000 and no conviction was recorded. 

In this blog article, we look at the DUI laws which apply in Queensland and the sentencing options which are available.

What constitutes a DUI?

The law in Queensland prohibits drivers from driving vehicles if their blood alcohol concentration is above the prescribed amount for the licence which the driver holds.  Blowing above the prescribed alcohol concentration constitutes a driving under the influence (DUI) offence.  Similarly, motorists must not drive their vehicle if they have been consuming illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA (ecstasy) or prescribed drugs (subject to the drugs being legitimately required for medical reasons).

Some drivers are required to have no alcohol in their system when in charge of a vehicle.  This includes many commercial drivers of taxi cabs, buses, tow trucks, road trains, and special vehicles such as tractors or construction vehicles.  All probationary (P1 or P2), learner, restricted or provisional licence holders are also required to have no alcohol in their system.

For all other drivers, the legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%.

The laws regarding driving under the influence are in the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.

Your obligations and rights as a driver regarding tests for DUI

All drivers are obliged to submit to a random breath test, if they are directed to do so by a police officer.  Failing to stop your vehicle, failing to submit to a breath test, saliva test or blood test, and failing to oblige to the reasonable and lawful directions of a police officer are all offences which attract penalties.

The initial breath test is usually conducted at the vehicle.  If the driver blows above the legal limit, he or she will be requested to give a second sample of breath through a breathalyser (which is more accurate).  If you are unable to provide a breath sample due to a medical condition, or you have been in an accident, then a blood sample may be required instead.  The Traffic Regulations 1962 contains the procedures for the taking of breath tests, saliva tests and blood samples.

The range of penalties for DUI offences

Queensland has penalties for DUI offences which increase, depending on how far above the legal limit a driver has blown, and also depending on whether the driver has previously been convicted of a related offence.  For this purpose, the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 has four designated alcohol limits: the no alcohol limit (0.00% BAC), the general alcohol limit (0.05% BAC), the middle alcohol limit (0.10% BAC) and the high alcohol limit (0.15% BAC).

For drivers who are required to have below the limit of 0.05% BAC, the following penalties apply.  If you have blown above 0.05% and over but under 0.10%, you may have your licence suspended for a period of up to 9 months, be fined up to $1,593.90 and face 3 months’ imprisonment.  If your BAC is between 0.10% and 0.149%, you face having your licence suspended for up to 12 months, being fined up to $2,277.00 and potentially 6 months’ imprisonment.  For a BAC of 0.15% or higher you may have your licence suspended for a minimum of 6 months with the full period of suspension to be determined at the discretion of the Magistrate hearing your charge.  You also may be fined up to $3,187.80 and could be imprisoned for 9 months.

For drivers who are required to have a zero alcohol reading, if your BAC is greater than 0.00% but less than 0.05%, you could have your licence suspended for a period of between 1 to 9 months, be fined up to $1,593.90 and face 3 months’ imprisonment.

Sentencing for DUI offences is always at the discretion of the Magistrate, subject to what the legislation states is the maximum (and sometimes, the minimum) penalty for the offence.  Therefore, if you have any exceptional circumstances which ought to be taken into account at the time of sentencing, you ought to make this known to the Magistrate.  These circumstances include whether you would suffer financial hardship without your licence, for example, where you are required to use your vehicle for work.

The lesson is, however, that all drivers must consider whether they are fit to drive after the consumption of alcohol, and, if possible, nominate a designated driver.  If in doubt, do not drive.  If caught out, consider speaking with one of our specialist DUI lawyers for precise advice.