Victoria, the toughest state on drink driving?

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Drink DrivingYou may have heard that harsher drink and drug driving laws have been introduced in Victoria and will take effect as of April 30 2018 (Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Act 2017 (Vic)).

Under the current laws a first- time drink drive offender with a low-range blood alcohol reading (0.05-0.07, generally) may escape severe punishment. However, these new laws determine that any full-licenced driver caught driving with a BAC between the range 0.05 and 0.069 will be penalised as follows:

  • Mandatory immediate licence loss for 6 months1
  • Interlock device fitted to their cars for 6 months2
  • Must complete a new behaviour change program before being eligible for licence restoration3.

A first time Learner or Probationary driver caught with a reading between 0 and 0.05 faces a 3-month automatic disqualification and any subsequent offenders face a mandatory 12-month suspension. All drivers must complete a 6-month interlock order and compulsory completion of the behaviour change program.

Any driver caught testing positive to traces of illegal drugs currently face a licence loss of 3 months, under the new laws disqualification is extended to a 6-month period4, plus compulsory attendance at a drug driver behaviour change program.

New regulations that came into effect from January 31st this year also sees Victorian drivers facing the same penalties should they be caught interstate.

These laws seemingly make Victorian penalties the strictest in Australia and may catch some drivers unaware.

There is a tightly-held misconception that once you have been caught driving while exceeding the prescribed amount of alcohol there is no possible defence and that engaging an expert drink-driving-lawyer is a waste of time and money.  As with any allegation of offending, having an experienced defence lawyer tell your story to the Court and providing a Magistrate with pertinent information can assist in getting you the best possible outcome. Naturally, mandatory sentencing laws give the judiciary little wiggle room, however, it is our experience that drink-driving charges are often only one of a set of offences a driver may be charged with at the time of offending. Additionally, many people are unaware that on top of licence cancellations, interlock devices and driver behaviour courses, repeat drink driving charges can lead to a term of imprisonment.

Although many people are told that a lawyer is not necessary for drink-driving charges, that the facts of the reading cannot be argued, there are defences. Furthermore, many unrepresented people fronting up to Court find themselves out of their depth, overwhelmed without the proper information a Magistrate needs to hear to sentence them appropriately. As with any offence there are frequently matters that can be argued in mitigation to achieve a lesser penalty.

1 Sections 50 and 13 of Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Act 2017.  Note however that where the BAC is 0.05 or more but less than 0.07, and the relevant person is 26 years or older, and section 52 of the RSA does not apply, then by operation of section 89C the period of disqualification is 3 months.
2 Section 23B (amended Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)
3 Section 31E (amended Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)
4 Section 50(1E) (amended Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)

Date Published: 25 April 2018

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