Can a traffic offence be a criminal offence?

If you’ve been charged with a traffic offence in Queensland there is a chance that this may be recorded on your criminal history. While most traffic offences are minor offences, if the traffic offence is of a serious enough nature, it may end up on your criminal history depending on various circumstances.

If you are a driver, it is important to understand what a traffic offence is and the different types of traffic offences and penalties.


What are the two types of offences in Queensland? 

In Queensland, there are two types of criminal offences: regulatory and serious offences.

Minor offences are labelled regulatory offences which include most traffic offences. More serious criminal offences involve more serious matters such as assault and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

While both are criminal offences, a conviction of a serious traffic offence will generally be noted in your criminal history. Minor traffic offences are generally recorded in your traffic history only, which is different and separate from a criminal history.


What is a traffic offence? 

A traffic offence arises when you have disobeyed the traffic laws.


What are some types of minor traffic offences? 

In Queensland, the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulation 2009 lists minor traffic offences which include:

    • Running a red light
    • Speeding
    • Failing to keep left
    • Illegal U turn


What is the result of a minor traffic offence? 

If you’ve been charged with a minor traffic offence, you will may incur demerit points depending on the nature of the charge.

On top of this, you may be given or sent an infringement notice which will outline your offending behaviour as well as a disqualification period of your license.

If you dispute the notice, you can appear before court.

If you are found guilty of the traffic offence you will charged with the Queenland Offender’s levy and costs.

In some cases of a more serious nature, such as careless driving, you can receive up to 6 months imprisonment. [1] It is important to note that for minor traffic offences, the court may have discretion to sentence a term of imprisonment. If the outcome of a minor traffic offence is a sentence, there will be an automatic recording on your criminal history.


When does a traffic offence become a criminal offence? 

If you are sentenced to any term of imprisonment due to a traffic offence, there will be an entry on your criminal record and the recording of a conviction will be automatic.

There are various instances when a traffic offence may be recorded as a criminal offence including:

    • Drink driving
    • Driving under the influence of a drug
    • Driving with a relevant drug present in your saliva or blood
    • Unlicensed driving

See the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 – s79 for more information

For certain offences, the Court has discretion to enter a traffic offence on a person’s criminal history.

Certain considerations will include:

    • your traffic history
    • your Blood Alcohol Concentration at the time of the offence
    • Whether or not you have been charged with the same or a similar offence
    • Particular vehicle you’ve operated while driving.


Are there any traffic offences in the Criminal Code of Queensland? 

If you are charged with the dangerous operation of a vehicle (dangerous driving), this is considered not just a traffic offence but also a criminal offence. As a serious offence, you will be charged with dangerous driving under s328A of the Criminal Code 1899 which can lead to license disqualification, a fine of $4,000 and an imprisonment term of 5 years. If you are charged with dangerous driving that causes death or bodily harm, there is a risk of imprisonment of up to 14 years.

S328A (1) outlines dangerous driving as occurring when ‘a person who operates, or in any way interferes with the operation of a vehicle dangerously’ and:

(a) at the time of committing the offence is adversely affected by an intoxicating substance; or

(b) at the time of committing the offence is excessively speeding or taking part in an unlawful race or unlawful speed trial; or

(c) has been previously convicted either upon indictment or summarily of an offence against this section;


What are some examples of ‘dangerous driving’?

    • Driving while adversely affected by an intoxicating substance
    • Taking part in an unlawful dangerous race
    • Falling asleep while driving and hitting a pedestrian
    • Driving at a high speed and hitting another car, resulting in the death of the passengers in the other car


Whether you are facing a dangerous driving charge or been charged with a traffic offence, seek legal advice. 

Traffic offences are not always simple and can result in a criminal record if there is one charge or multiple charges and you may lose your licence. With the courts discretion, a criminal conviction for a traffic offence can have a significant impact on your ability to gain employment and travel.

If you have been charged with a dangerous driving offence or you are unsure about your legal rights regarding a traffic dispute, our experienced criminal and traffic team are here to help.

Contact us to discuss your situation & book in an appointment with our criminal and traffic lawyers today.



[1] Section 83, Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.