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The Times

What are the consequences if you have to drink drive and it's an emergency?

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There are extremely limited circumstances where you may have a defence to drink driving, and you may be wondering if an emergency is one of them. In this post, we'll answer that question and everything else you need to know about getting behind the wheel when you've been drinking in an emergency.

What is drink driving?

Drink driving is driving any motorised vehicle, not only cars, after consuming more than the legal limit of alcohol. It is considered a serious crime in all states and territories, Queensland included. Unless you are consciously mindful of how much you have had to drink, it can be extremely tricky to know if you've had too much or not.

How much do you have to drink to be over the limit?

In Queensland, there is two blood alcohol (BAC) limits, and they are zero and under 0.05. When you get pulled over by the police, they will ask you to do a roadside breath test and this is testing the level of alcohol in your blood. So if you have a reading of 0.05, this means that you have 0.05g of alcohol in every 100ml of your blood.

Different alcohol limits apply depending on the type of licence you hold and the vehicle you are driving.

The different BAC limits explained

A BAC of zero applies to the following drivers

  1. Those who hold learners drivers licences for both cars and motorbikes

  2. Those who hold provisional 1 licences for both cars and motorbikes

  3. Those who hold provisional 2 licences for both cars and motorbike

  4. Those driving vehicles such as trucks, limousines, taxis etc

If you have a BAC limit of zero and you are caught driving even 0.01 over this, you will be charged with a drink driving offence. All other drivers have a limit of under 0.05.

Let's take a look at drink driving for emergency reasons

If you are over the limit and have HAD to drive for the purpose of an emergency, you may have a defence of necessity. This means that you had a plausible defence for getting behind the wheel when you did, and the Magistrate may find you not guilty on the grounds that if you didn't commit the offence of drink driving, more serious consequences would have resulted.

You may have a defence of necessity if the following apply to you and your situation:

  1. You believed at the time, for valid reasons, that you were in a scenario of imminent peril.

  2. You drove while over the limit to avoid death, serious injury or any other extenuating circumstances to either yourself or others.

  3. The act of drink driving is deemed a reasonable course of action given the circumstances at the time of the offence.

While you and others may have seen your need to drive while under the influence in a time of emergency as valid, unfortunately, it is uncommon for the Magistrate to find people not guilty of the offence. This primarily comes down to the seriousness of the offence here in Queensland and the harsh penalties that come along with it. While it is hard to have a successful defence of necessity, it doesn't mean that you don't have a valid defence and that it won't be successful. If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to discuss your options with an experienced traffic lawyer for professional advice. They will be able to advise you on the odds, given your individual circumstances.

Reasons why drink driving in an emergency wouldn't be accepted as a reasonable judgement by a Magistrate

  1. There was someone else with you with a licence and under the limit that could have drove

  2. The situation wasn't a life-threatening emergency

  3. You could have called emergency services for assistance rather than getting behind the wheel and driving yourself

  4. Emergency assistance was immediately close by, and you didn't need to drive


If the Magistrate has found you guilty despite proving that you were in an emergency situation at the time, you may be able to seek leniency when it comes to your penalty. The Magistrate will determine whether your situation is worth considering for leniency. Below is an outline of some of the ways they can implement them:

A section 10 or non-conviction may be considered by the Magistrate. This does still involve recording the conviction however, no fines or disqualification period are applied, allowing you to retain your licence.

It's important to know that there must be extenuating circumstances for the Magistrate to consider a non-conviction. Drink driving without a valid reason for doing so may see you being found guilty with a penalty included.

Speak to an experienced traffic lawyer

Navigating your way through a drink driving charge with valid reasons for driving due to an emergency can be tricky but, with the right legal team on your side, you can have to best chances of achieving an outcome you are satisfied with. We assist people just like you who thought they were doing the right thing or who believe driving was necessary in an emergency to achieve non-convictions allowing them to keep their licences and get on with their lives.

If you have been charged with drink driving, but you did so for valid emergency reasons, contact our professional team of experienced traffic lawyers here at Drink Driver Lawyer Gold Coast. We offer obligation free consultations!