Drink Driving Penalties in Australia
06 July, 2023
Drink driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. It can have detrimental effects, including car collisions, accidents, injuries, and permanent disabilities. Hence, it is a serious offence in Australia with severe legal punishments. Drink driving penalties include fines, disqualifications, and jail time. The penalties may vary based on where you are located in Australia. These are set to discourage individuals from drinking and driving.
Law enforcement conducts a mandatory or random roadside screening to check drivers’ alcohol levels. Police officers use handheld breathalysers to check the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) through the breath. This determines the level of intoxication if a person has recently consumed alcohol. Therefore, BAC testing is the basis of the possible charges based on the severity. This article will cover the different penalties and alcohol limits for each Australian state and territory.
Drink Driving Penalties in Queensland and New South Wales
In Queensland, a person seized with driving while intoxicated by alcohol will be summoned to the nearest Magistrates Court where the driver was caught. From there on, the magistrate will decide on the drink driving penalty, which depends on the BAC level at the time of testing as well as their past road history.
First-time offenders can get license suspension for up to three to 12 months with fines between $2012 to $4025. Individuals with a zero alcohol limit can get up to nine months of disqualification, three-month prison terms, and minimum fines. For repeat offences, individuals may get immediate license suspension which will end after being dealt with in court.
In New South Wales, first-time offenders are subject to on-the-spot fines if their BAC does not exceed 0.079%. Novice, special and low range have suspensions for three to six months with fines of $2200. Furthermore, mid range offences have up to 12-month suspensions, $3300 fines and up to 12 months imprisonment. Lastly, $3300 to $5500 fines and 18 months to two years imprisonment for high range.
- 0.00: No limit. Individuals holding Learner Permits, Provisional, and Probationary licenses. In addition, drivers of oversized vehicles, carrying dangerous goods, and public transportation.
- 0.05 to 0.09: General limit
- 0.10 to 0.149: Middle limit
- 0.15 or higher: High limit
New South Wales
- 0.00: Novice range. Individuals holding Learner permits and Provisional licenses. Additionally, all visiting drivers or holding overseas or interstate equivalent licenses.
- 0.02: Drivers of “gross vehicle mass” (greater than 13.9 tonnes), carrying hazardous goods and public transportation.
- 0.02 to 0.049: Special range
- 0.05 to 0.079: Low range
- 0.08 to 0.149: Mid range
- 0.15 or higher: High range
Drink Driving Penalties in Australian Capital Territory and Victoria
In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the drink driving penalties are divided into the driver’s Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA). The first-time offence will get a fine of up to $2400 and up to nine months in prison, and license disqualification for up to three years. Additionally, subsequent offences may face a maximum fine of $3200, 12 months imprisonment, and license disqualification for up to five years.
In Victoria, as long as you hold a Victorian license, Victorian the penalties apply even if the offence occurs in a different state or territory. Furthermore, all offenders will receive fines, a six-month alcohol interlock, and must complete a Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program.
For learners, a BAC of below 0.05 will receive three months of suspension. For general license holders, they may get up to six months of suspension. Moreover, a BAC of 0.10 to 0.15% will have 10 to 14 months of suspension. Lastly, having a BAC of more than 0.15% will get up to 24 months of suspension. They may also be subjected to a zero BAC requirement for at least three years.
Blood Alcohol Limit
The alcohol driving limit between ACT and Victoria may vary slightly. In ACT, Level 1 PCA has a zero (0.00). Level 2 is 0.05 to 0.79; Level 3 is 0.08 to 0.149; and Level 4 is 0.15 or higher. Full license holders have an alcohol limit of under 0.05 BAC. Probationary and international licenses and drivers of GVM have zero BAC limit.
In Victoria, the BAC limit for fully licensed drivers is 0.05. Individuals holding a Learner, Probationary, public transportation, and GVM have a zero alcohol limit. Similarly, a person who had regained a driving license after a previous violation must maintain a zero BAC.
Drink Driving Penalties in Tasmania and the Northern Territory
In Tasmania, the drink driving penalties include two to 10 penalty units and three to 12 months suspension for first-time offenders. If the BAC is 0.05 to 0.10, police may issue an on-the-spot infringement fine and three months suspension. A BAC of 0.15 or higher may reach up to 30 penalty units and a disqualification of 12 to 36 months.
In Northern Territory, the penalties include five penalty units and a three-month suspension for the first offence and low PCA ranges. Medium to high range will also get 7.5 to 20 penalty units and six to 18 months of suspension. Moreover, the magistrate can order a prison term of 6 to 24 months for any offences.
Getting a license disqualification in Northern Territory will not allow an individual to get a special license for work. However, a lawyer may help persuade the court that a loss of license will cause hardship for the family and work. Instead, a judge may not suspend the license for longer than the minimum duration. Drivers may also opt for an alcohol interlock device during this period.
Tasmania’s drink driving laws and penalties also depend on the driver’s BAC level at the time of testing. The general BAC limit for fully licensed holders is 0.05% BAC. Harsh penalties increase with BAC ranges from 0.05 to 0.10, 0.10 to 0.15, and 0.15 BAC or higher.
In Northern Territory, drivers with learner and probationary licenses, public transportation, GVM, and carrying dangerous goods have a zero BAC limit. Low BAC ranges include 0.05 to 0.079%, whereas the medium range goes from 0.08 to 0.14%. Anything above 0.15% will be considered a high range with a maximum penalty of fines, suspension or imprisonment.
Drink driving is a dangerous and irresponsible act that puts lives at risk. Australia imposes a general alcohol limit of 0.05% and zero alcohol for drivers with a Learner Permit. Drink driving penalties include penalty fines, a minimum period of disqualification, imprisonment, and an alcohol interlock order. The court will look into the person’s traffic history, BAC level, and type of license when determining the appropriate sanctions. Moreover, negligent driving that causes bodily harm to others will have severe penalties.
Police officers conduct roadside breath testing to determine the BAC levels of suspected intoxicated drivers. Hence, it is crucial to know your alcohol limit to avoid getting a drink driving charge and its associated risks. An effective way to monitor alcohol is through a personal breathalyser. Devices like BACtrack from Breathalysers Australia can measure the BAC in seconds. Many people opt to take simple precautionary measures than deal with the penalties for drink driving.