Driving Whilst Intoxicated (DWI) Penalties in Australia
There are a range of different drink driving offences in the different states and territories of Australia. This article sets out the offences that exist in each jurisdiction and the penalties that apply for them.
In Queensland there are four alcohol limits that affect the penalty determination for drink driving offences. These are:
- The no alcohol limit (blood alcohol concentration of 0.00);
- The general alcohol limit (blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to 0.09);
- The middle alcohol limit (blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 to 0.149); and
- The high alcohol limit (a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.15).
The penalties for drink driving offences in Queensland are governed by the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.
In Queensland, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 and below will attract an automatic 24-hour licence suspension. Higher penalties apply for people who are tested for more than 0.10 blood alcohol concentration. All offences attract fines of increasing severity and some will have prison sentences.
For all drink driving offences, police have the power to suspend a licence until the matter is finalised in court. Read Drink Driving Penalties in Queensland for more information.
New South Wales
In New South Wales there are five categories for drink driving offences. These are:
- The novice range (0.00 to 0.019);
- The special range (0.02 to 0.049);
- Low range (0.05 to 0.079);
- Mid range (0.08 to 0.149); and
- High range (0.15 and higher).
A different penalty and suspension period applies for each range. Penalties are also increased if you have been convicted of another major offence within five years of the drink driving charge.
Australian Capital Territory
In the Australian Capital Territory, there are four levels for of drink driving offences. These are:
- Level 1 (for special drivers who require a zero alcohol limit);
- Level 2 (prescribed concentration of alcohol of between 0.05 and 0.079);
- Level 3 (prescribed concentration of alcohol of between 0.08 and 0.149); and
- Level 4 (those who are tested for 0.15 or higher).
Drink driving offences in the ACT are governed by the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977. There are a number of sentencing options for first time drink driving offenders, with fines, disqualification periods of up to three months and terms of imprisonment. There is are also mandatory driving disqualification periods.
More information on drink driving offences in the ACT can be found in Drink Driving Penalties in the ACT.
Victoria has some of the strictest penalties for DWI offences in Australia. As with the other states, the penalties depend on the blood alcohol reading at the time of the offence. DWI penalties in Victoria are governed by the Road Safety Act 1986.
In Victoria, you must have a blood alcohol limit of 0.00 if you hold a learners permit. Should your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) be between 0.01 and 0.049 while driving, you will receive a fine and receive a mandatory licence disqualification of three months.
For full licence holders who do not hold age, vehicle or work conditions, a BAC of up to 0.05 is permitted while driving. If your blood alcohol concentration reads between 0.05 and 0.069, you will receive a licence disqualification of six months, a fine and require an alcohol interlock device for a minimum period.
More information on Victoria’s DWI penalties can be read in Drink Driving Penalties in Victoria.
In Tasmania police have the discretion to issue infringement notices to full licence holders who have a blood alcohol concentration reading of less than 0.10 and it is their first offence. The legislation that applies is the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970.
In Tasmania, there are three categories of drink driving offences:
- 0.05 and less than 0.10;
- 0.10 and less than 0.15; and
- 0.15 or higher.
More information about how the Tasmanian courts issue penalties for drink driving offences can be read in Penalties for Drink Driving in Tasmania.
Most DWI offences will result in the loss of a licence. As with most of the states and territories, the penalties range with the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the driver when the offence was committed.
The following BAC ranges apply in the Northern Territory:
- Low range – 0.05 to 0.079;
- Medium range – 0.08 to 0.149; and
- High range – 0.15 and higher.
Some drink driving offences in the NT will result in an immediate and automatic licence suspension. Drink Driving Penalties in the NT has more information about drink driving penalties in the Northern Territory.
In South Australia there are separate offences of exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) and driving under the influence (DUI). DUI is more serious as it means that a person was so intoxicated they could not control their vehicle.
DWI offences of exceeding PCA and DUI are governed by the Road Traffic Act 1961. Drink Driving and Penalties in South Australia contains more information about the specific ranges of PCA and penalties for offences.
In Western Australia the general limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving is 0.05 but many Western Australian drivers are on a 0.00 BAC limit for various reasons. Drink driving offences in WA and the penalties they attract are governed by the Road Traffic Act 1974.
In Western Australia, a BAC range between 0.05 and 0.079 will attract an infringement notice. A BAC of 0.08 or higher attracts an automatic disqualification until the matter is resolved in court.
Separate penalties apply for drivers who must maintain a zero alcohol limit whilst driving. Drink Driving Penalties in Western Australia has more information.
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