Victoria Legal Aid

It is no longer against the law to be intoxicated (affected by alcohol) in public in Victoria. Police cannot arrest or fine you for being intoxicated. A health-based model is now in place.

In the past, being affected by alcohol in public has been called ‘public drunkenness’ or ‘being drunk in public’. We are not using these terms as they contribute to negative stereotypes.

This page has information about being affected by alcohol in public. Other laws about drinking alcohol in public may still apply. For example, local council laws. Contact your local council for more information about its public alcohol laws. The VicCouncilsExternal Link website has the contact details of all local councils in Victoria.

To find out what can happen if you are drinking alcohol in public and police approach you, go to The role of policeExternal Link .

The health-based model

From 7 November 2023, a health-based model is in place if you are affected by alcohol in public and look like you need support. Workers and police can respond. Go to How workers can support youExternal Link and The role of policeExternal Link for information on what workers and police can do.

Are there services across Victoria?

The Department of Health’s New public intoxication health response servicesExternal Link webpage has details on where these services are available.

Do I have to agree to support?

Under the health-based model, workers and police can only support you if you agree. They may have translated information if you need this to help with your decision.

You do not have to agree to everything. For example, you may agree to getting support where you are but not to going somewhere else. You can change your mind at any time.

Generally, if you do not agree to getting support, or you change your mind, workers and police must respect your decision. However, if workers or police decide you need medical attention, they can call an ambulance, even if you do not agree.

How workers can support you

Workers may approach you if you are affected by alcohol in public and look like you need support. They may have been called out or already be in the area.

Workers will ask if you need support. If you agree, they can do things such as:

  • Support you where you are. This can include asking for information about you, giving you first aid, food and water, or charging your phone.
  • Find a place of safety for you with your family, carers or friends. They may contact your friends, family or carers, order a taxi or rideshare, or help you get public transport home. If you do not feel safe at home, you can tell the workers.
  • Take you to a sobering centre. If you are in metropolitan Melbourne and cannot go to a friend, family member or carer’s place, you can be referred to a sobering centre. Aboriginal-led organisations will also have on-demand places of safety in some regional areas.
  • Support you at a sobering centre or an on-demand place of safety. This can include giving you space to sleep, shower, eat or do laundry. Workers can monitor you. They may talk to you about follow-up services. For example, alcohol and drug services. You can leave at any time.

What if I am under 18?

If you are under 18 and affected by alcohol in public, workers may support you by contacting your parent, guardian or carer. They could also take you home or to a safe place.

Can workers call an ambulance or the police?

Workers can decide if you need medical attention. If so, they will call an ambulance.

If workers think there is a serious risk that you or others are about to be harmed, they can talk to you to calm the situation down. If this does not work, they can call the police.

The role of the police

When can police get involved?

If you are affected by alcohol in public, police can respond if they are:

  • on patrol in the area
  • called because a law is being broken
  • called because there is a serious risk that you or others are about to be harmed.

What can police do?

Police officers can approach you if you are affected by alcohol in public and appear to need support.

If police think you need medical attention, they can call an ambulance. If police do not think you need medical attention, police may try to talk to you and offer support.

If you agree, police officers can:

  • Place you in the care of family, a carer or a friend. This may include getting a family member or friend to come to get you. Police may ask a friend or family member to organise a taxi or rideshare. Police will check to see if it is safe for you to go home. If you do not feel safe at home, you can tell the police.
  • Contact workers about referring you to a sobering centre or on-demand place of safety. If you are in metropolitan Melbourne and cannot go to a friend, family member or carer’s place, you can be referred to a sobering centre. Aboriginal-led organisations will also have on-demand places of safety in some regional areas.
  • Transport you to a place of safety in very limited circumstances. Police must get your agreement and make it clear you are not under arrest. If you change your mind, police need to let you out as soon as they safely can.

Police officers can also leave you where you are. They may do this if you do not want help or if transport is on its way. Police should clearly tell you if they are doing this.

Under the health-based model, you do not have to agree to police help. If you do agree to help, you can change your mind at any time.

Do I have to give my name and address?

If you are affected by alcohol in public, you do not have to give your name and address to police. However, there may be another reason why police ask for your name and address. For example, if you have witnessed a crime, or police think you have broken the law. Go to speaking to police for information about when you must give your name and address.

Can police arrest me?

Public intoxication is no longer against the law. Police cannot arrest you just for being affected by alcohol in public.

If you break the law, police may:

  • arrest you
  • give you a fine
  • tell you to move on and stay away.

If you are affected by alcohol and breaking minor public behaviour laws, like using obscene language, police should try other options. They should try to talk with you, offer support or leave you where you are.

Talk to a lawyer if police arrest or fine you while you are affected by alcohol in public.

What if I was fined or charged before the law changed?

If police fined or charged you before the law changed on 7 November 2023, you may have to pay the fine or go to court.

Talk to a lawyer if you are in this situation. You can ask:

  • if you have to pay the fine
  • if you have to go to court
  • if a conviction for public intoxication will stay on your criminal record.

Go to Other support for your rights when it comes to police powers.

You can also find out more about Going to court for a criminal charge and Fines and infringements.

If you are unhappy with how you were treated

If you are unhappy about how workers or the police treated you when you were affected by alcohol, you can complain.

To complain about your treatment from a worker, or at a sobering centre, contact the Department of Health. Go to Feedback and complaintsExternal Link .

You can make a complaint about the police. Talk to a lawyer first, especially if you were fined or arrested while affected by alcohol in public. Go to Other support for your rights when it comes to police powers.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 08 January 2024

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