Can I be charged with drink driving, if I wasn’t actually driving?

A person may be charged with drink driving if they are over the legal blood alcohol limit and they are:-

  1. driving a motor vehicle, tram, train or vessel; or
  2. attempting to put in motion a motor vehicle, tram, train or vessel; or
  3. in charge of a motor vehicle, tram, train or vessel.

You can therefore be charged with a drink driving offence if you were in charge of a vehicle, not just if you were driving.

What does ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle mean?

A person is “in charge” of a vehicle if the person has the ability to exercise physical control over the vehicle.  This is a broad definition, and may include situations such as:-

  • sitting in an idling vehicle;
  • sitting in a stationary vehicle while in possession of the keys; and
  • sleeping behind the wheel of a stationary vehicle.

What if I wasn’t in charge of the vehicle?

You may be able to contest the charge if you are able to demonstrate that you did not intend to drive and/or that you were not otherwise in charge of the vehicle.  For example, if you were a passenger in the vehicle and had no control over the vehicle.

It is important that you seek immediate legal advice should you intend to contest the charge on this basis.


The penalties for drink driving include the imposition of a fine or term of imprisonment and license disqualification.  There are mandatory disqualification periods for drink driving offences in Queensland.  The penalty (and also disqualification) you receive will depend on your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and whether you have been convicted of a similar offence in the past.  You are able to read more about penalties and disqualification periods for drink driving offences in our article, Drink Driving Penalties and Disqualification Periods.

For more information on the penalties for drink driving or to discuss contesting the charge, please contact our office on 07 4963 2000 or via our online contact form.

Brittany McIntyre, Law Clerk, Wallace & Wallace Lawyers

Brittany McIntyre
Law Graduate
Criminal Law

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