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 Drink Driving Penalties in Victoria

 

Victoria has mandatory sentencing when it comes to most drink drive offences and many speeding offences. When you combine strict liability offences with mandatory sentencing, life can get pretty grim.


Licence Cancellation

The table below sets out the minimum periods of licence cancellation for all drivers found guilty of a drink driving offence in Victoria. There are no better alternatives except for those who plead not guilty and are acquitted.  The only way to avoid licence loss for drink driving offences is to plead not guilty and be acquitted. The penalties for subsequent offences apply to people who have been found guilty or convicted of a drink driving or drug driving offence during the period of 10 years prior to the date of the current offence.


First Offence and Subsequent Offence

If you have not had a drink driving of drug driving offence in the past 10 years your most recent offence could be treated as a first offence. Your recent drink driving or drug driving offence is considered a subsequent offence if you have, in the period of 10 years prior to your recent offence, been found guilty or convicted of a drink driving or drug driving related offence anywhere in Australia. The 10 years is counted from the date your last penalty was imposed to the date of your recent offending. Amendments to the Act in 2014 are peculiar in that they add sections that refer to your drink driving priors only, rather than referring to a subsequent offence, so you need to take note of the distinction.


MINIMUM Licence Loss Periods for Drink Driving Offences committed on or after 1/10/14
Your BAC Reading
First Offenders
Subsequent Offenders

Under 0.05% for persons who did not hold a full drivers licence at date of offence. 

3 months. [s.50(1A)]

12 months. [s.50(1A)]

Under 0.05%, for persons who held a full drivers licence at date of offence. Discretionary up to 6 months. [s.50(1AB), s.52AA] If you have not been guilty of exceeding your prescribed concentration of alcohol in the past 10 years: discretionary up to 6 months. [s.50(1AB)]
Else 12 months.[s.50(1A((b)]
0.05% or more but less than 0.07
3 months on an infringement notice
6 months at court. [s.50(1A)]
12 months [s.50(1A)]

0.07% or more but less than 0.08

6 months

14 months

0.08% or more but less than 0.09

6 months

16 months

0.09% or more but less than 0.10

6 months

18 months

0.10% or more but less than 0.11

10 months

20 months

0.11% or more but less than 0.12

11 months

22 months

0.12% or more but less than 0.13

12 months

24 months

0.13% or more but less than 0.14

13 months

26 months

0.14% or more but less than 0.15

14 months

28 months

0.15% or more but less than 0.16

15 months

30 months

0.16% or more but less than 0.17

16 months

32 months

0.17% or more but less than 0.18

17 months

34 months

0.18% or more but less than 0.19

18 months

36 months

0.19% or more but less than 0.20

19 months

38 months

0.20% or more but less than 0.21

20 months

40 months

0.21% or more but less than 0.22

21 months

42 months

0.22% or more but less than 0.23

22 months

44 months

0.23% or more but less than 0.24

23 months

46 months

0.24% or more

24 months

48 months

MAXIMUM Penalties for Drink Driving offences committed after 10.10.2006
First Offence
Max Fine
Max Prison

All first offenders

$3,000

Nil

Second Offence


Under 0.15%

$9,000

6 months

0.15% or more

$18,000

12 months

Refusing a requirement

$18,000

12 months

Third Offence


Under 0.15%

$18,000

12 months

0.15% or more

$27,000

18 months

Refusing a requirement

$27,000

18 months


Driving Under the Influence (s.49(1)(a)) carries a maximum fine of about $3,000.00 or 3 months gaol for a first offence, 12 months gaol or $15,000 for a second offence, and about $22,000 or 18 months for a third or more offence. All Victorian licences will be cancelled and you can be disqualified from driving in Victoria  for at least 2 years. 
 Note: only in the most extreme cases will a court impose the maximum penalties.

If you have refused a breath test or blood test, apply the same penalties as if your reading is 0.24%

*BAC = Blood Alcohol Content


Mandatory MINIMUM Licence Loss Periods for Drink Driving Offences committed prior to 1/10/14
Your BAC Reading
First Offence Penalty
Subsequent offence Penalty

Zero limit drivers under 0.05%

Discretionary licence loss of up to 6 months.

If not convicted: no mandatory licence loss period.
If convicted: 12 months.

All drivers aged 26 years or more who are under 0.07%

If not convicted: no mandatory licence loss period.
If convicted: 6 months.

12 months

Drivers aged less than 26 years, and under 0.07% 6 months 12 months

0.07 or more but less than 0.08

6 months

14 months

0.08 or more but less than 0.09

6 months

16 months

0.09 or more but less than 0.10

6 months

18 months

0.10 or more but less than 0.11

10 months

20 months

0.11 or more but less than 0.12

11 months

22 months

0.12 or more but less than 0.13

12 months

24 months

0.13 or more but less than 0.14

13 months

26 months

0.14 or more but less than 0.15

14 months

28 months

0.15 or more but less than 0.16

15 months

30 months

0.16 or more but less than 0.17

16 months

32 months

0.17 or more but less than 0.18

17 months

34 months

0.18 or more but less than 0.19

18 months

36 months

0.19 or more but less than 0.20

19 months

38 months

0.20 or more but less than 0.21

20 months

40 months

0.21 or more but less than 0.22

21 months

42 months

0.22 or more but less than 0.23

22 months

44 months

0.23 or more but less than 0.24

23 months

46 months

0.24 or more

24 months

48 months

 

2014 Amendments to the drink driving penalties

In October 2014 Parliament changed the penalties for drink drivers with readings under 0.07% - compare the two tables above. Perhaps the Road Safety Committee thought the old laws were not complicated enough. The new provisions are not aimed at re-dressing any problem with the old laws.  Drivers under 0.07% are the least likely offenders to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.  The new laws almost totally remove the option for a guilty person under 0.07% to save their licence. Parliament is now micro-managing the sentencing process by setting more and more criteria for this ever-expanding matrix of penalties. It is mind-numbing in its complexity. The mandatory sentences are now extremely prescriptive such that the main function a Magistrate is required to perform is to try to interpret this complicated legislation. The only discretion left for a Magistrate in respect of driver licences is whether or not to permit truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers keep their licence if they blow under 0.05%.


Terms of Imprisonment

Anyone who at the time of committing a drink driving offence has a prior drink driving offence on their record can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.  Most second offenders will not get a term of imprisonment, although some magistrates have a practice of imposing suspended jail terms on anyone who comes to court for a second offence. The more drink driving related offences you commit, or the more outrageous your drink driving offence is, the more likely you will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Suspended terms of imprisonment are no longer available as a sentencing option. The alternative to imprisonment is a community corrections order, which includes doing community work and/or counseling. The best way to avoid a term of imprisonment is to win your case. If that is unlikely, then pleading guilty and presenting a good plea in mitigation of penalty can reduce the risk of being sentenced to any term of imprisonment. Factors that increase the risk of imprisonment are the number of prior offences, the age of prior offences, the circumstances of the current offence, whether there are other charges laid, whether or not you held a current licence at the time of the offence, your personal circumstances and who the magistrate is.


Interlock Conditions

Most drivers found guilty of drink driving will not be relicensed unless their new licence has an interlock condition attached. This means the driver can not lawfully drive any vehicle unless that vehicle is fitted with an interlock device. This condition is imposed by a Magistrate when the driver applies to the court for permission to be relicensed. Since 1 October 2014 first offenders who lose their licence with readings under 0.15% will automatically have a 6 month interlock condition imposed on them by VicRoads without the need to apply to a Magistrates Court for permission to be re-licensed. Others will have the interlock condition imposed by the court that grants them permission to be relicenced.

The driver must pay all the costs associated with the installation and maintenance of the interlock device. VicRoads also charges an administration fee of approximately $40 per month to manage the interlock condition that is imposed on your licence!  The interlock condition can be removed only by order of a Magistrate. The only way to avoid a mandatory interlock condition is to successfully defend the charges. Click here to read more about Interlock conditions.

 

Pleading Guilty at Court.

Some people wrongly assume that if they admit the offence by pleading guilty and show remorse and hardship, a Magistrate can let them keep their driver's licence. This option is not available for drink drivers. A plea of guilty will result in a finding of guilt, so check the mandatory minimum periods in the top table once more to find out if you still want to plead guilty.

It is NOT possible for drivers to avoid licence loss by pleading guilty - unless it is your first drink driving offence in the past 10 years and your reading is under 0.05% and you hold a full licence.

Because the mandatory sentences for drink driving are already quite severe, there are hardly any advantages to pleading guilty to drink driving. If your priority is to avoid a conviction being recorded then you might be better off pleading guilty rather than trying to fight and win. Some people feel that avoiding a conviction is more important than trying to get an acquittal. And if you are at risk of prison or have been involved a serious accident, then pleading guilty can help avoid jail or keep the penalty to a minimum. Pleading guilty can also save you time, money and stress. Pleading guilty is extremely unlikely to save your licence, or save you from fines or interlocks or zero alcohol conditions.

 

Work Licences and Conditional licences.

Drink Drivers can not get a "drive for work" licence or restricted licence in Victoria. These options have never existed here. Your friends who suggested this option to you have been watching too much TV. Victorians who claim they had a drive for work licence are lying to you. They were in fact driving unlawfully but didn't want to tell you. Generally the only way to keep your licence is by pleading not guilty.

 

Pleading Not Guilty to save your licence:

Every accused is entitled to plead not guilty. This does not mean the accused must prove they are innocent. The court already presumes that to be the case so an accused has absolutely nothing they need to prove. What it means is the police need to prove all facts and other matters necessary to support a finding of guilt. In most drink driving cases, the police case needs to be put to the test if you wish to avoid licence loss. All the accused needs to do is turn up to put the police case to the test. In mandatory licence loss cases, if you do not want to test the prosecution case and you have no defence of your own, there is almost no chance of avoiding licence loss. So if you want to avoid mandatory license loss you must go to court and in most cases you must plead not guilty.

 

Interstate and overseas licence holders.

Your interstate or overseas licence can not be cancelled or suspended by any Victorian law, court or authority.  This means you can continue to use your interstate licence outside of Victoria even if you are ineligible to drive in Victoria. If you are disqualified from obtaining a Victorian licence this means it is illegal to drive in Victoria even if you hold a licence issued in another jurisdiction.  Interstate licence holders may find that their home-state licencing authority has the power to cancel or suspend their interstate drivers licence if they become disqualified from driving in Victoria. You are entitled to use your interstate licence anywhere outside of Victoria for so long as it has not been cancelled or suspended by your state licencing authority.  Driving in Victoria during a period of disqualification is an offence punishable by imprisonment. Victorian law can not prevent you from using a non-Victorian licence in other states, i.e. Victorian courts can not stop you using your NSW or UK licence in other states and they have no power to take away your interstate licence. Also, the police can not give a notice of immediate licence suspension to a person who does not hold a Victorian licence. A person who holds a licence issued in another state is not eligible to do any of the re-licensing steps in order to be permitted to drive in Victoria at the completion of their disqualification period. This means they do not need to apply to a Magistrates Court or complete a drink driving education program before resuming driving in Victoria.


Related Pages:

Relicensing applications
Interlock conditions
Immediate Licence Suspensions
Breath Tests
Fines
Court Process
 

 

 

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