DRINK DRIVING LAW AMENDMENT -VICTORIA
Victorian magistrates take drink driving matters very seriously. So do County Court and Supreme Court judges dealing with culpable driving leading to death or serious injury due to drink driving. This is because drink drivers pose a danger not only to themselves, but also to other road users and the broader community.
If you have been charged with drink driving, several factors will determine how serious the consequences may be, should you be convicted. These include the level of alcohol detected in your bloodstream at the time of an accident or breath test, whether it was your first or subsequent offence, and whether other factors such as speed and narcotics were also involved. You could be facing considerable jail time if convicted.
If you have been charged and summonsed to appear in court, you should seek professional legal help immediately. Particularly if you have been charged in Victoria’s eastern suburbs, or are due to appear in courts such as Ringwood, Moorabbin, Dandenong or Frankston, you should contact one of our expert criminal defence lawyers at Dribbin & Brown. With specialist drink driving lawyers across all our offices, our team are well-equipped to help you with your drink driving matter.
Information gathered by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Victoria indicates that drink driving has generally been decreasing over the past 10 years. This is greatly attributed to increased drink and drug driver testing through the use of “booze buses” and random roadside breath tests over this period.
Since 1997, Victoria Police officers have breathalysed well over 20 million drivers, and have caught over 70,000 drink drivers in that time. That equates to approximately 3 in 1000 drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading over 0.05%, but statistics show that 1 in 4 drivers who are killed on Victorian roads have a BAC over 0.05%.
The proportion of drunk drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents has decreased over the last decade. While now the figures show approximately 25% of drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents were over 0.05% BAC, that number was closer to 40% just 10 years ago.
These statistics merely indicate that Victoria Police and the TAC are working harder to prevent drink driving, and to catch those people who continue to drive while drunk. While fatality and injury statistics have decreased, the courts will continue to punish those who drive while impaired by alcohol.
For Learner and Probationary drivers, as well as professional drivers, a 0.00% BAC rule applies. Further, for drivers who have previously been caught drink driving, the 0.00% BAC rules often also apply. For all other drivers, the BAC limit is 0.05%.
It is an offence to refuse a breath test or drug swab, even if you have been driving on private property, and even if you are no longer driving. Police may request a test up to 3 hours after you have stopped driving.
In the event of a positive reading, a number of things might happen. Penalties vary depending on the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream, the number of previous offences, speed, the presence of other drugs and whether you have caused an accident as a result of drink driving. As a useful reference, the following table is an indication of penalties you may expect for drink driving.
|BAC||Licence type||Fine||Licence action / points|
|Less than .05||Zero BAC licence (e.g. professional drivers, P licence, L permit)||2.5 penalty units||10 demerit points|
|.05 to less than .07||Zero BAC licence (e.g. professional drivers, P licence, L permit) and full licence (under 26 years)||3 penalty units||Cancellation of licence/permit and disqualification for 6 months|
|.05 to less than .07||Full licence (26 years or older)||3 penalty units||10 demerit points|
|.07 to less than .15||All drivers||3 to 4.25 penalty units||Cancellation of licence/permit and disqualification for 6-14 months depending on BAC|
|.15 or above;or for a subsequent offence||All drivers||Traffic infringement notices are not issued for BAC of .15 or above, or for subsequent offences. Charges are laid for the offence and the matter is dealt with at court.||Attend Magistrates’ Court|
If this is your first drink driving offence, the police may issue you with an infringement notice. The police also have the authority to summon you to court. If this is a subsequent offence, or your BAC exceeds 0.15, the police will lay charges and the matter will be taken to the Magistrates’ court.
What is considered a “first offence” is somewhat confusing. Section 48(2) of the Road Safety Act tells us that any prior offence, however old, will make the new offence a subsequent matter relevant to sentencing considerations per section 49 of the Road Safety Act.
However, when considering what is the minimum mandatory time off the road in relation to a drink driving offence that must be imposed by a Magistrate, section 50AA tells us that if the offence date of the new offence is 10 years after the finding of guilt in relation to the first offence then the new offence will not be a subsequent offence in respect of section 50 of the Road Safety Act.
Please be aware this only helps determine the minimum time that must be imposed. You can, and often do, have your license revoked for a longer period.
This area of the law is difficult and often confusing. It is important that if you have been charged with a drink driving offence in the Ringwood, Moorabbin, Dandenong or Frankston areas – particularly if this is not your first drink driving offence – you contact an expert drink driving lawyer immediately.
The court may impose a variety of penalties, including: demerit points, fines, suspension or cancellation of a licence, criminal conviction, the installation of an interlock device, and, in some circumstances of repeat offending, imprisonment.
As of 1 October 2014, Victoria has introduced more stringent interlock laws. Interlock devices are installed after a person’s licence has been reinstated following cancellation. Reinstated licences carry a special condition (the “l” condition), meaning the driver must have an interlock device fitted to any personal or work vehicle, including motorbikes.
A 0.00% BAC sample must be provided to the interlock device before every journey, and samples may also need to be given during the journey. Not only does the car not start without a 0.00% BAC sample, but new devices also take photographs of the person supplying the breath, so that others cannot provide the breath for the driver.
Statistics have found that interlocks reduce repeat drink driving by up to 64%, and the use of the interlock system has prevented over 250,000 repeat offences since its introduction.
Under the new laws, interlock devices are expected to be fitted for 10,000 drink drivers a year, up from 5,400 in previous years. The new laws operate in two stages.
- Stage one makes interlock devices mandatory for the following people:
- First offenders who have a probationary licence or learner permit, as well as novice motorbike riders subject to zero BAC
- Drivers recording a BAC of 0.07-0.15
- Drivers under 0.07BAC but whose licences have been cancelled
- Repeat offenders with a reading under 0.07 BAC
- Stage two includes all other drink drivers not currently subject to interlocks because their licences have not been cancelled.
These new rules are far stricter than the original rules, where interlock devices were usually only fitted for drink driving offenders with a BAC of 0.15 or more, or probationary/learner drivers with a BAC of 0.07 or more.
The driver also bears the burden of paying for the installation, regular service, and eventual removal of the interlock device, which adds up to approximately $1600 for a 6 month interlock period.
What this means for you
Not only can drink driving result in fines, loss of licence and a criminal record, but even once you have your licence reinstated you may be subject to further costs and restrictions. The new interlock laws may seem restrictive to the point of excess, however it is important to keep in mind that Victoria Police and the Victorian government have made it a high priority to reduce the number or road fatalities on Victorian roads. The interlock program is believed to reduce repeat drink driving significantly, and will likely continue to operate in years to come.
If you have been charged with drink driving either for the first time, or for a subsequent offence, you should call a specialist drink driving lawyer immediately. An expert criminal defence lawyer may be able to help you keep your licence, or avoid the fitting of an interlock device to your vehicle, saving you cost and inconvenience. However, it is important to note that the new rules make the interlock device mandatory in some cases, and only in special circumstances may you be able to avoid the installation of the device.
If you have been charged in the Melbourne CBD, Ringwood, Moorabbin, Dandenong, Geelong or Frankston areas, or you are due to appear in one of these courts to answer a charge for drink driving, do not take the matter lightly.
Contact one of our expert drink driving lawyers to assist you with your drink driving charge, and give yourself the best opportunity to achieve a favourable result.