It’s just a drink driving offence, I can’t go to jail. Can I?

Close up of beer glass with frothMost motorists pleading guilty to their first drink driving charge will receive a fine and a loss of their licence.  It is however open for the Magistrate to impose an actual period of imprisonment, especially where it is a repeat drink driving charge.

For some drink driving offences, the law says that the court must impose, as the whole or part of the punishment, imprisonment.


When you enter a plea of guilty to a traffic matter the Magistrate must decide, not only the length of your disqualification, but also whether you will be fined, given a community based order or sentenced to a period of imprisonment.

The Court will look at various factors including:

  1. your reading at the time of the offence;
  2. the circumstances surrounding the offence; and
  3. your criminal and traffic history.

First time drink driving penalties

For a first time drink driver the maximum penalties are:

BACLicence DisqualificationMaximum fineMaximum Imprisonment
0.0%3 to 9 months$1,7063 Months
0.05 and over, under 0.101 to 9 months$1,7063 Months
0.10 and over, under 0.153 to 12 months$2,4386 Months
0.15 and over, Minimum of 6 months$3,4139 Months

Read more about BAC limits in our previous blog post.

Repeat Drink Driving Charge

Imprisonment becomes an option where the court is sentencing you for a repeat drink driving charge.  Repeat drink drivers face higher penalties than first time drink drivers.  In addition to the power to impose a period of imprisonment the court can also:

  1. Have your car impounded (if you refuse to provide a specimen of breath or blow over 0.15%;  Read more about impoundment powers here.
  2. Disqualify your licence for up to two years;

What is a Repeat Drink Driver?

A repeat drink driver is a person who has been sentenced for an offence outlined above within the last 5 years.  The Court will look at the totality of your traffic history in deciding which penalty to apply, however the legislation defines a repeat drink driver as a person convicted within the last five years.

What should I do if I am a repeat drink driver?

If you are intending to enter a plea of guilty to a repeat drink driving offence you should consider your reading, the circumstances of the offence and your traffic history.  If you are concerned that you might be facing a period of imprisonment you should contact a traffic lawyer for advice.

A program such as the Queensland Traffic Offenders Program will assist you to demonstrate rehabilitation.

More Drink Driving Articles


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For specific legal advice you should immediately contact Gatenby Criminal Lawyers on (07) 5580 0120.

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