Drink driving

Drink driving

It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle if the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in your breath is higher than the prescribed amount. The prescribed amount is under 0.05 per cent unless you are on a zero BAC licence.

Speak to a lawyer if you have been charged with:

  • driving under the influence 
  • driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • if you have been found guilty of a drink-driving or drug-driving offence before.

Going to court for a drink driving offence

For information about how to prepare for the court hearing read Going to court for traffic offences.

Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case. Look at the ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.

Often the police will lay two charges. The most common charges are:

  • providing a sample of blood or breath that exceeds the prescribed limit within 3 hours of driving (failing a blood or breath test)
  • driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle while the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the prescribed limit.

You can tell the court that you will plead guilty to one charge and then the police will withdraw the other charge.

The prosecution has to prove that you were driving a motor vehicle and that the alcohol reading was above the legal amount.

The police can use the outcome of the breath test as long as they used the right procedure in carrying out the test. To challenge this, you would need to show that the testing device was not working properly or was not used properly.

Possible defences

It is a defence if:

  • you were not the driver of the vehicle or
  • if the test for alcohol was taken more than three hours after you were driving.

It is not a defence to say that you thought you were under the limit.

Possible penalties for drink driving offences

Losing your licence

In most cases, the magistrate must cancel your licence and disqualify you from driving for a certain amount of time. The penalty will depend on your charge and when the offence happened. The law is getting tougher for drink drivers. All drivers who are caught drink driving after 29 April 2018 must have their licence or permit cancelled if they have one. 

If you are charged with your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding the prescribed limit the penalty will depend on your BAC.

If you are required to drive with zero alcohol (such as a P plate drivers or taxi driver)and your BAC was less than 0.05 the magistrate must cancel your licence and disqualify you from driving for at least three months.

If your reading was 0.070 per cent or more, they will cancel your licence and disqualify you from driving for at least:

  • 6 months if BAC 0.05 or more but less than 0.10
  • 10 months if BAC 0.10 or more but less than 0.11
  • 11 months if BAC 0.11 or more but less than 0.12
  • 12 months if BAC 0.12 or more but less than 0.13
  • 13 months if BAC 0.13 or more but less than 0.14
  • 14 months if BAC 0.14 or more but less than 0.15
  • 15 months if BAC 0.15 or more but less than 0.16
  • 16 months if BAC 0.16 or more but less than 0.17
  • 17 months if BAC 0.17 or more but less than 0.18
  • 18 months if BAC 0.18 or more but less than 0.19
  • 19 months if BAC 0.19 or more but less than 0.20
  • 20 months if BAC 0.20 or more but less than 0.21
  • 21 months if BAC 0.21 or more but less than 0.22
  • 22 months if BAC 0.22 or more but less than 0.23
  • 23 months if BAC 0.23 or more but less than 0.24
  • 24 months if BAC 0.24 or more.

The magistrate can extend the disqualification period but they cannot reduce it. If this is your second offence in 10 years, the minimum period of disqualification is double.

Behaviour change programs​

All drivers caught drink driving after 29 April 2018 will have to complete a behaviour change program before they can apply for another licence. Drivers who have already been disqualified will also have to complete these programs if they do not get a licence or permit before 30 April 2019.

These programs are different depending on how high the driver’s BAC was and whether they had been caught drink or drug driving before. Drivers will get a letter from VicRoads telling them the details of which program they must complete.

For more details read Getting your licence back.

Do not drive after you lose your licence​

You must not drive during the disqualification period. There are no special licences that allow you to drive some of the time.

Fines​

Usually the magistrate will give you a fine, up to 20 penalty units for your first offence.

Immobilising,​ impounding or confiscating your vehicle

If you are caught drink driving you may have your vehicle impounded if your BAC is 0.10 or more.

What else might happen if I am found guilty?

What happens in court may go on your criminal record as a driving conviction. This will usually appear on your VicRoads driving record but it may also go on your criminal record.

Read Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.

When the police can suspend your licence

The police can suspend your licence if you are:

  • on a full licence and your BAC reading was 0.10 per cent or more
  • a P-plate or learner driver and your BAC reading was 0.07 per cent or more.
  • charged with a refusal offence 
  • caught drink or drug driving before within the last 10 years.

This is called an 'immediate suspension' even though it is not always immediate. It could take up to 12 months for this to happen. The suspension lasts until the date in the suspension notice or until your case is heard in court.

If the magistrate cancels your licence and disqualifies you from driving, usually the disqualification will be back-dated to the date you got the immediate suspension notice.

How to get your licence back

All drivers caught drink driving after 29 April 2018 must have an alcohol interlock condition attached to their licence as a condition of being relicensed. Read Alcohol interlocks for more information about this and how to get a device removed.

Applying to Vic​Roads

If you were caught drink driving after 30 September 2014 you will have to go to VicRoads to apply to get your licence back if it was your first drink driving offence and you are a fully licensed driver and your BAC was less than 0.10.

In all other circumstances you will have to apply to court to be re-licensed.

Going to court to get your li​cence back

For information about going to court to get your licence back read Getting your licence back.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with traffic offences.

Was this helpful?