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Drugs and driving—work licences

You will lose your licence when pleading guilty to any sort of drug driving charge, but you may be able to apply for a work licence. There’s 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.

Can I get a work licence if I’m the only driver in the family and need my licence for work if pleading guilty for a drug driving offence?

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 a relevant drug in the saliva or blood.

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

If charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle with a relevant drug 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.

Can I still get a work licence if I was driving and the police charged me with driving with a relevant drug in my saliva?

It depends upon your licence type. If you were driving a type of vehicle or driving with a licence for which you were required to have a nil alcohol limit then you will not be eligible for a work licence. If not, then you may be able to get a work licence. Always get legal advice from a lawyer before applying for a work licence.

Applying to the court for a work licence

As with a drink driving charge, you’ll need to apply in writing to the court and the Magistrate will decide whether you are eligible for a work license. To apply for a work licence, you must be able to say "yes" to the following:

  • 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.
    • You weren’t driving a vehicle which required you to have nil alcohol in your breath or blood (eg a heavy vehicle).
  • At the time you apply for the work licence you hold a current Queensland provisional or open driver's licence.
  • in the last 5 years you haven’t:
    • been convicted before of this or a similar offence (eg drink driving)
    • been convicted in Queensland for dangerous driving
    • had a licence suspended or disqualified (except in some circumstances such as a SPER suspension or immediate suspension).

If these eligibility requirements apply to you, before getting a work licence, you still must:

  • Apply to the court at the time you are convicted, and before the court orders that you are disqualified from driving.
  • Show the court that:
    • you are a 'fit and proper person'
    • it would cause extreme hardship to you or your family by depriving you of your means or earning a living if you don’t get one.

If you have questions about a work licence, get legal advice. Our Are you going to lose your driver licence? guide has information to help you apply for a work licence.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • have been charged with a drug driving offence
  • there are mistakes on your traffic history
  • want to plead not guilty to a drug driving charge
  • you want to know if you will be successful in in appealing a magistrate’s decision about the disqualification period
  • you are going to court for a drug driving offence and your licence is suspended until court, but you need to drive before then (you may need a special licence)
  • you are applying for a work licence for drug driving or drink driving
  • you are applying to remove a disqualification.

Important: before getting 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. Alternatively, you may be able to get a copy of “Queensland Traffic Outcomes” from Police Prosecutions with your QP9 for free. This will sometimes be sufficient, however if you dispute anything on your traffic history or the conditions of your licence, you will need to get your traffic history from Department of Transport and Main Roads. 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

We may give legal advice about drug driving offences. Our traffic clinic gives legal advice on complex matters, including contesting a drug driving charge.

These services may give legal advice:

Community legal centres may give preliminary legal advice on drug driving offences. Check with individual CLCs whether they will advise on your matter.

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

Who else can help?

The following organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for first and second time offenders pleading 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 driver licences, registration, traffic fines, etc.


Disclaimer: This page is provided as information only, and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

Last updated 21 April 2022

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