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Drink Driving Penalties in Australia

Drink driving is one of the most significant causes of road trauma in Australia. No matter where you are in Australia, drink driving is treated as a serious offence and any person who is found to be operating a vehicle over the legal limit, may face penalties ranging from the suspension, disqualification or cancellation of their licence, fines, or imprisonment for more serious drink driving offences.

In all states of Australia, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers is below 0.05. Probationary drivers (P-platers), learner drivers (L-platers) and professional drivers (for vehicles such as heavy trucks, buses or taxis) must only drive with a zero BAC. Aperson who is accompanying a learner driver must also not be over 0.05 BAC. In addition to that, it’s also an offence for a person to refuse to undergo a breathalyzer test for either alcohol or drugs if requested by the police.

Below, we've summarised the list of penalties for drink driving in Australia for first time and repeat offenders. Click on a state in the map below to view the drink driving penalties for that state.

 

 

The sad reality is that a significant amount of road deaths in Australia is caused by drink driving, so it is essential that the penalties reflect the gravity of the offence This article hopes to cover the general penalties for a person driving over the limit in Australia to provide you with a snapshot of the types of penalties that may be imposed.

Do note that the laws in Australia are always changing and that the penalties listed below may have changed from the time this article was written. For accurate information, always refer to your local law enforcement website.

Remember that alcohol impairs one's ability to control a vehicle. Research suggests that at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%, the risk of being involved in a traffic crash is double that of a person who has not been drinking at all.

There’s no absolute safe level of alcohol consumption for competent driving. Even after a few drinks, your driving ability is affected. The more you drink, the higher your blood alcohol concentration, and the greater your chance of having an accident.


Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in the Australian Capital Territory

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC)  Maximum Fine Amount  Minimum Licence Disqualification  Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Level 1: Less than 0.05 * $700 1 month N/A
Level 2: 0.05 - 0.079 $700 2 months N/A
Level 30.08 - 0.149 $1,400  3 months  6 months 
Level 40.15 and over $2,100  6 months  9 months 
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)  $4,200  6 months  6 months 

* Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

 

The penalties for repeat drink driving offences can include

  • Having your licence disqualified for a minimum of 12 months for a high range offence
  • Being fined up to $4,200
  • Having your car fitted with an alcohol interlock device, or
  • Being sentence to a maximum imprisonment term of 12 months.

In the ACT, if a driver refuses a breath test, breath analysis or blood analysis, they can be fined up to $4,200 and be sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

Further, people convicted of drink driving are ordered to complete a mandatory alcohol awareness course.

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in New South Wales

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC)  Maximum Fine Amount  Minimum Licence Disqualification  Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Novice: Less than 0.02* $1,100 6 months N/A
Special Range: 0.02 - 0.049* $1,100  6 months N/A
Low Range: 0.05 - 0.079 $1,100  6 months  N/A 
Mid Range: 0.08 - 0.149 $2,200  Unlimited (minimum 6 months)  9 months 
High Range: 0.15 and over $3,300  Unlimited (minimum 12 months)  18 months 

* Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

 

The penalties for repeat drink driving offences can include

  • Having your licence disqualified for a minimum of  2 years for a high range offence
  • Being fined up to $5,500
  • Having your car fitted with an alcohol interlock device, or
  • Being sentence to a maximum imprisonment term of 2 years

In NSW, if a driver refuses a breath test, they can be fined up to $1,100. For refusing a breath analysis or wilfully altering their BAC, they can be fined up to $5,500 and be sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Additionally, drink drivers charged with any of the offences below will have their licence immediately suspended if:

  • They are charged with a mid-range of high range drink driving offence (0.08 %BAC or over) or
  • They fail to provide police with a specimen of breath or blood when requested.
The immediate suspension will end when the drink driving charge has been dealt with by the court, is withdrawn or discontinued.

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in the Northern Territory

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC)  Maximum Fine Amount  Minimum Licence Disqualification  Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Less than 0.05 * $650 N/A  3 months
Low Range: 0.05 - 0.079 $650  N/A  3 months 
Medium Range: 0.08 - 0.149 $975  Unlimited (minimum 6 months)  6 months 
High Range: 0.15 and over $1,300  Unlimited (minimum 12 months) 12 months 
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)  $1,300  Unlimited (minimum 12 months)  12 months 

* Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

 

Drivers who have had a licence suspended or cancelled on a drink driving charge must complete drink driver training courses before reapplying for their licence. These courses are not imposed by the court, but are required by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to confirm that the driver is fit to hold a licence again. An outcome evaluation in 1998 of the drivers who complete the program suggests there a re-offending rate of 12.8% within two years following re-licensing.

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in Queensland

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Maximum Fine Amount Minimum Licence Disqualification  Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Less than 0.05 * $1,594 9 months 3 months
0.05 - 0.099 $1,594  9 months  3 months 
0.10 - 0.149 $2,227 12 months  6 months 
0.15 and over $3,188  Magistrate's decision (minimum 6 months)  9 months 

* Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

 

The penalties for repeat drink driving offences can include

  • Having your car impounded (if you have a BAC of 0.15 and over or fail to provide a breath or blood specimen) or having your car impounded or confiscated for high range drinking
  • Having your licence disqualified for up to 2 years
  • Being fined up to $6,600
  • Being sentence to a term of imprisonment determined by the court.

In Queensland, drivers charged with drink driving and over the no alcohol (0.00) limit or general alcohol limit (0.05) but under the high alcohol limit (0.15) will have their licence suspended for at least 24 hours from the time BAC is confirmed as having exceeded the limit.

Also, drink drivers charged with any of the offence listed below will have their licence immediately suspended if:

  • They are charged with a low range drink driving offence (over 0.0 but under 0.10 BAC) while an earlier drink driving charge is still pending or were holding a replacement licence ordered by the court
  • They are charged with a mid-range or high-range drink driving offence (0.10 BAC or over)
  • Fail to provide police with a specimen of blood or breath when requested
  • They are charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence.
The immediate suspension will end when the drink driving charge has been dealt with by the court, is withdrawn or discontinued.

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in South Australia

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC)  Maximum Fine Amount Minimum Licence Disqualification / Demerit Points Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Category 1: 0.05 - 0.079 $1,100  3 months / 4 points N/A
Category 2: 0.08 - 0.149 $1,300  6 months / 5 points  N/A 
Category 3: 0.15 and over $1,600  12 months / 6 points  N/A 
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)  $1,600  12 months / 6 points  3 months 

* If a driver is alleged to have committed a Category 1 offence that is a first offence, they are given the opportunity to expiate the offence in accordance with the 'Expiation of Offences Act 1996'. Expiation imposes a penalty of an on-the-spot fine, 4 demerit points and no licence disqualification.

 

The penalties for repeat drink driving offences within three years for Category 1 offences and give years for all other offences can include

  • Having your licence disqualified for a minimum of 3 years for high range offences
  • Being fined up to $2,900
  • Being required to undertake an alcohol dependency assessment.

If a driver refuses a breath test, they can be fined up to $1,100, lose three demerit points and lose their licence for a minimum period of 12 months. Additionally, learner and provisional drivers face penalties for breaching their licence conditions in addition to drink driving charges.

Drink drivers charged with any of the offence listed below will have their licence immediately suspended if:

  • They are charged with Category 2 or 3 PCA offence (0.08 BAC and over)
  • They are charged with a DUI offence or
  • They fail to provide police with a specimen of breath or blood when requested.
The immediate suspension will end when the drink driving charge has been dealt with by the court, is withdrawn or discontinued.
 
After this disqualification period has been served, drivers who commit serious drink driving offences are required to have their car fitted with an alcohol interlock system for a period of time equivalent to their disqualification. This mandatory alcohol interlock scheme applies to drivers who have been charged with:
  • A second or subsequent category 2 offence within a five year period
  • A category 3 offence
  • A DUI offence, or
  • Failing to provide police with a specimen of breath or blood when requested.
Whilst subject to the alcohol interlock scheme, a driver can only drive a vehicle fitted with the device and the cost of fitting the interlock device will be the responsibility of the driver.

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in Tasmania

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Maximum Fine Amount Minimum Licence Disqualification Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Less than 0.05 * $1,300 12 months 3 months
0.05 - 0.099 $1,300  12 months  3 months 
0.10 - 0.149 $2,600 18 months  6 months 
0.15 and over $3,900  36 months  12 months 

* Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in Victoria

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC)  Maximum Fine Amount Maximum Licence Disqualification / Demerit Points Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Less than 0.05 * $352 10 points N/A
0.05 - 0.069 * $422  6 months  N/A
0.05 - 0.069 (full licence holders 26 years old and older) $422 10 points N/A
0.07 - 0.149 $599  14 months  N/A
0.15 and over Magistrate's decision  48 months N/A 
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)  $2,800  Unlimited (minimum 24 months)  3 months 

 * Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

Penalties that may apply for a first time drink driving offence in Western Australia

Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Maximum Fine Amount Maximum Licence Disqualification / Demerit Points Maximum Term of Imprisonment
Less than 0.02 * $300 3 points N/A
0.02 - 0.049 * $300 3 months N/A
0.05 - 0.059 $500 3 points  N/A
0.06 - 0.069 $500 4 points  N/A 
0.07 - 0.079 $500 5 points  N/A 
0.08 - 0.089 $1,500 6 months N/A 
0.09 - 0.109 $1,500 7 months N/A 
0.11 - 0.129 $1,500 8 months N/A 
0.13 - 0.149 $1,500 9 months N/A 
0.15 and over $2,500 10 months N/A 

 * Learner, probationary or provisional licenses, and drivers of particular motor vehicles

View References