What are the laws around drinking and driving in Victoria?

What are the laws around drinking and driving in Victoria?
Source: Kasia Bialasiewicz, Bigstock

If you want to have a drink with dinner and then drive home in Victoria, you need to be careful or you will face potentially severe penalties. While drink driving is illegal around most of the developed world, Victorian laws are very specific about what is and isn’t allowed, and the punishments are very harsh. If you are caught you will need to contact a good defence lawyer, like Andrew Papadimitropoulos from Papa Hughes.

What is drink driving?

Drink driving is defined as either drinking alcohol while driving or while under the influence of alcohol. In Australia, having a blood alcohol content above 0.05% (which means 0.05 grams of alcohol in every 100mL of blood) is the point at which someone is classified as affected by alcohol. It is a crime to drive with a BAC above 0.05 anywhere in Australia.

Someone on a learner or provisional licence must have a BAC of 0, as does anyone with a Z condition on their licence (or any other legal requirement to have no alcohol in their blood while driving).

What are the penalties for drink driving?

Victoria has some of the strictest penalties in the country for drink driving. Even first time low-level offenders will automatically receive a fine, lose their licence, be forced to undergo a program designed to help them change their behaviour and need to have an alcohol interlock installed on their car when they get their licence back. They will also need to have a Z condition on their licence for at least 3 years when they get it back.

If the BAC is less than 0.05 but the person caught is required to have a BAC of 0, the suspension will just be for 3 months. It is illegal for anyone to drive when they are over 0.05.

Penalty factors

Low level drink driving is defined in Victoria as having a BAC between 0.05 and 0.069. In this range penalties are less severe, but all of the penalties will still apply – just for a shorter time.

For drivers with a learner or provisional licence, or who have a Z condition, or who are under 26, the driving suspension will be at least 6 months. For drivers on a full licence who are at least 26 the suspension will only be for three months, if they accept a traffic infringement notice.

For BAC above 0.07, the penalties become harsher the more alcohol there is. At a high level (above 0.15) the minimum suspension is 15-24 months, and can be longer. The required behavioural change program is also more intensive.

Second offences are also more severely punished. Refusing a breath test is, again, treated very severely. In both of these situations you will also need to go to court. Holders of Victorian licences who are caught/convicted of drink driving in other states are subject to Victorian penalties – which are much harsher than most jurisdictions.

What do you do if you are caught?

If you are caught drink driving all you can really do is try to reduce the amount of time that you will be suspended and then have the alcohol interlock device and Z condition. A good lawyer in Melbourne can present your case in a way that will give you the best chance at getting the minimum penalty, which will mean you have as little impact on your life as possible.

What do you think about it?