Main Content Anchor

Drugs and driving—work and special licences

If you are pleading guilty to any sort of charge of drug driving you will lose your licence. You may be able to apply for a work licence. There is no other special licence that you can get no matter how much you need a licence or how good your reasons are (eg for taking children to school; taking mother for cancer treatment). Because it’s not for work, there is no power for the court to give you a licence.

I'm going to court for a 'drug driving offence’ and I'm pleading guilty. I’m the only driver in the family and I need my licence for work. Can I get a work licence?

It depends. There are different types of ‘drug driving offences’. You may be charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or you may be charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle with cannabis, ecstasy or ICE in your saliva or blood (but not under the influence).

If the charge is driving or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, you cannot get a work licence or any sort of order which lets you drive.You will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for a period. During this period and afterwards until you get a licence, if you drive you are breaking the law.

If you are charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle with cannabis, ecstasy or ICE in your saliva or blood (but not with driving or being in charge or a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, which is a more serious charge), then you may be able to get a work licence. See the next question for more information.

I was driving and the police have charged me with something about driving and drugs - the police said I’ll lose my licence but I can still get a work licence. Is it just like with drink driving?

No, although there is a similar process. If you drive after using drugs, you may test positive to drugs in your system. If you are charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle with cannabis, ecstasy or ICE in your saliva or blood (but not with driving or being in charge or a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, which is a more serious charge), then you may be able to get a work licence. Always ask a lawyer about the charge before you go to court.

As with drink driving, you will need to apply in writing to the court and it will decide whether you get one or not. And to be entitled to apply for a work licence at all, you must be able to say "yes" to all of the things below:

  • the charge is the less serious charge of driving with a drug in your saliva or blood, not driving (or being in charge of a vehicle) under the influence of drugs
  • at the time you were caught for driving with a drug in your saliva or blood you:
    • held a current Queensland open driver's licence for the vehicle you were driving
    • weren't driving for your job or already under a work licence
  • at the time you apply for the work licence you hold a current Queensland provisional or open driver's licence
  • in the last five years you have not:
    • been convicted before of this or a similar offence (eg drink driving)
    • been convicted in Queensland of dangerous driving
    • had a licence suspended or cancelled (except in some circumstances).

Even if you can say "yes" that all of these things apply to you, to get a work licence:

  • you must apply to the court at the time you are convicted and before the court orders that you are disqualified from driving
  • you must show the court that
    • you are a 'fit and proper person' and
    • that if you don't get one this will cause you or your family extreme hardship by depriving you of your means of earning your livelihood.

I think I can say "yes" to all the things I need to get a work licence. What do I do now?

  • Go to court on the date set for your driving charge and tell the magistrate you want to apply for a work licence. Do not plead guilty then.
  • The magistrate will give you a court date a few weeks away which is the date you will actually apply for the work licence.
  • Fill in an application form (ask at the court registry for the form) and prepare an affidavit by you and your boss (or just by you if you are self-employed) explaining that you will lose your job if you have no licence.
  • Lodge the application and affidavit/s with the court and give a copy to the police prosecutor (you can do this on the court date or before).
  • When you go into court, make sure you tell the magistrate you are applying for a work licence and that the court and the prosecutor has a copy of your application and affidavits.
  • If your boss has done an affidavit, make sure your boss goes to court too.
  • You can then plead guilty. The magistrate will convict you and decide your application; that is, the magistrate will make an order saying yes or no and for how long.
  • The court may want you or both you and your boss to give evidence as well as reading your affidavit/s.
  • If the court gives you an order for a work licence, read the conditions very carefully. Driving outside the conditions of your work licence is breaking the law and your work licence will be cancelled.
  • The court order is not a licence, it is an order saying you can have one, so do not drive until you have been to the Department of Transport and Main Roads with the court order and the department has noted your licence.
  • If after a court makes an order for a work licence and your job circumstances change, you can make an application to the court to change things. It is a similar process to the application for the work licence.

If you have questions about a work licence, ask a lawyer for legal advice. Legal Aid Queensland has a free guide, Are you going to lose your driver licence? to help you apply for a work licence or special hardship order. 

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been charged with a drug driving offence
  • want to contest a drug driving charge
  • need to know your prospects of success in appealing a decision of a Magistrate about the disqualification period
  • have more questions about applying for a work licence for drug driving.

Important: before seeking legal advice you must have a copy of your traffic history to show the lawyer - this is available from a Department of Transport and Main Roads  Customer Service Centre by filling in a form and paying a fee. You should also apply for your QP9 before seeing a lawyer - contact your local police/police prosecutions office to find out how.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about drug driving.
Our Traffic Clinic provides specialist legal advice on complex matters, including contesting a drug driving charge.

The services below may also provide legal advice on your matter.

Community legal centres may provide preliminary legal advice on drug driving - check with individual CLCs whether they will advise on your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

The following organisations may also be able to help you. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for first and second time offenders who want to plead guilty to a traffic offence, including drink driving, unsafe driving, disqualified driving, suspended licence, appealing licence disqualifications (fees apply for this service).

Department of Transport and Main Roads deals with complaints and enquiries concerning drivers licence, registration, traffic fines, etc.

Back to top