Did you know that drink driving charges are one of the most common charges that come before the courts? If you have been charged with drink driving, it pays to know what to expect during the process so you can be as prepared as possible. Here’s how drink driving matters are heard in Queensland.
How your matter is dealt with depends on many factors but on the whole, drink driving charges are all handled much the same way in Queensland. Regardless of whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty, your case will be heard in a Magistrates Court. You will stand before a magistrate only who will decide on your punishment for the offence. There is no jury. Some Magistrate Courts in Queensland have a courtroom specifically reserved for traffic matters, others don’t, and all types of cases will be heard in the same room. If you don’t show up to court when you are ordered to, a warrant for your arrest may be issued and you may face additional charges. Details outlining the time, day, and place when you need to appear will be given to you by the Police. In most instances, you will need to be at court early around opening time, even if your matter isn’t until later in the day. Those that have legal representation will be seen first followed by those representing themselves.
When in court
On arriving, you will be directed to speak to the Police Prosecutor, or if you have a solicitor, they will on your behalf. You (or your solicitor) will be given a copy of the Police’s court brief; this is known as a QP9. The QP9 document will contain information the Police allege you did regarding the offence, what you have been charged with, and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the offence. It will also contain your criminal and traffic history if there is any. You should read the QP9 to ensure the details listed are entirely correct. Failing to do this may see you be charged with offences you are not guilty of. If you’ve arrived at court unprepared and you want to apply for a work licence or seek legal advice, you can ask to have your case adjourned. Additionally, if you believe the details are incorrect in your QP9, you can also ask for an adjournment to seek legal advice.
In most cases, for a low-range drink driving charge, you will still be able to drive until you have been disqualified by the court. If you adjourn your court date, you can drive up until the second court hearing.
First court date
If you have a solicitor, you’ve organised your paperwork for a work licence (if you need one) and you intend on pleading guilty, your matter could be dealt with at the first court date.
Second court date
It’s not uncommon for drink driving cases to be adjourned. If you need to seek legal advice, organise your paperwork for a work licence or plan on pleading not guilty, you should ask to have your matter adjourned to a later date.
What happens when pleading guilty?
Most people choose to plead guilty. There are very few circumstances where a not guilty plea will be considered. Your charge will be read out by the Magistrate and they’ll ask you, how do you plead. The facts relating to your charge will be read out to the Magistrate by the Police Prosecutor. You will then have the opportunity to speak if you wish to. This is a chance for you to explain your circumstances and why you chose to drink and drive. Making excuses will not get you any leniency. If you have a solicitor, they can speak on your behalf instead if you prefer. You will then be told what penalty they are imposing on you. At the minimum, you will receive a fine and a disqualification period. You are disqualified from driving immediately, so it’s a good idea to prearrange transport back home or budget in the cost of a cab/uber. You must hand over your drivers licence while at the court to the Police Prosecutor. It’s an offence to carry it once disqualified. If you have applied for a work licence and it has been granted, you can still drive if it is within the timeframes stated in the conditions. You do not have to surrender your licence. Your matter is then concluded.
What happens when pleading not guilty?
If you are pleading not guilty to your drink driving charge, your court date will be adjourned. The prosecution will then put together what’s called a brief of evidence. This evidence will then be used against you. It can take anywhere from three to five months to get a second hearing date. You should seek legal advice if you are pleading not guilty to give you the best chances of receiving an outcome you are satisfied with. Your solicitor can let you know what steps you need to be taking in the lead up to your second court date.
Seek legal advice
Drink driving charges can have a huge impact on your livelihood and everyday life, don’t risk your future by representing yourself. Seek professional advice from an experienced traffic lawyer. Call our expert team here at Drink Driver Lawyer, we offer free consultations.