Work licences—drink driving and drug driving
Acknowledgement—prepared using information from the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads.
Learner, provisional and probationary licence holders must drive or ride with a 0.00 (zero) blood alcohol (BAC) level, regardless of age. Class RE motorcycle licence holders must also ride with a 0.00 BAC during their first year of riding, regardless of age or type of licence they hold.
If you get caught drink driving, and need a vehicle for your work, you may need to apply to the court for a work licence. If you do get a work licence your alcohol limit is zero (0.00). If you drive or attempt to drive with a work licence with any alcohol in your system you are breaking the law. There are very strict requirements to satisfy to get a work licence and you need to give a lot of detailed information to convince the Magistrate to give you one, not just stating you need a licence for work. You should get legal advice before applying for a work licence if you’ve been charged with a drink driving offence.
Pleading guilty for drink driving but I need a work licence
If I’m going to court for drink driving and pleading guilty—but I still need a work licence—can I just ask the court when I make my plea?
No. To get a work licence you’ll need to apply in writing to the court and it will decide whether to give you one.
Why can’t I drive before going to court for drink driving?
"The last time I got caught drink driving I could drive until I went to court. This time the police said I can’t drive from now on even though I am not in court for a while."
The law has changed. For all drink driving offences your licence is suspended immediately for at least the next 24 hours.
For some drink driving offences (for example if you were caught driving over the mid alcohol limit, that is a BAC of 0.10% or more) your licence is suspended immediately until you go to court and finalise your case.
During the time you’re waiting to go to court for the drink driving offence, you can apply in writing to the court for a special licence (called a Section 79E licence). There are strict conditions for this type of licence.
If you are going to plead guilty to the offence it is not likely to be worth applying for a Section 79E licence because you will be disqualified when the court deals with your matter. If you are applying for a work licence, you are better off having your work licence application heard as soon as possible, rather than applying for a S79E licence and then a short time later, applying for a work licence.
Get legal advice if your licence is suspended until your court date, and you’re thinking about applying for a Section 79E licence.
Alcohol ignition interlocks
If you have a blood alcohol content reading of 0.10% and successfully apply for a work licence you will be required to commence your participation in the interlock program as soon as you obtain your work licence. See Alcohol ignition interlocks, Department of Transport
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.
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 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
For a drink driving offence
To apply for a work licence for drink driving you must be able to say “yes” to the following:
At the time you were caught for drink driving you:
- held a current Queensland open driver's licence for the vehicle you were driving
- had a blood alcohol level of less than 0.15%
- weren’t driving for your job or already under a work licence
- weren’t driving under a licence where your BAC must be zero (eg if you are on a learner, provisional, probationary or restricted license).
For a drug driving offence
To apply for a work licence for drug driving 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).
And, for either offence
- 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 drink driving or drug driving or a similar offence
- 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. (You cannot apply for a work licence on a later date after you have been convicted and sentenced)
- 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 of earning a living if you don’t get one.
Remember, if you do get a work licence for a drink driving offence your alcohol limit is zero (0.00). If you drive or attempt to drive with a work licence with any alcohol in your system you are breaking the law.
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 drink driving offence or a drug driving offence
- there are mistakes on your traffic history
- want to plead not guilty to a drink driving or drug driving charge
- you want to know if you will be successful in appealing a magistrate’s decision about the disqualification period
- you are going to court for a drink driving offence or 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
- you have been charged with a drink or drug driving offence and you want to know what the likely penalty, including the disqualification period, will be
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 some traffic matters, including drink driving and drug driving offences. Our traffic clinic gives legal advice on complex matters, including contesting a drink driving or drug driving charge.
These services may also give legal advice:
Community legal centres may give preliminary legal advice on traffic matters. Check with them to find out 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 also be able to help you. They don’t give legal advice.
Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for 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 about drivers licence, registration, and traffic fines.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 29 August 2023
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