03 8622 8200

Can I go to jail for a driving offence?

In Victoria, there are a range of driving offences that can result in jail time. While many driving offences may seem minor, the penalties can be severe, especially if you have a history of similar offences. 

Many driving offences have mandatory licence suspension or disqualification provisions - as well as potential forfeiture or impoundment of motor vehicles.  

Some driving offences have presumptive sentences of imprisonment - including a standard sentence in relation to culpable driving causing death of 8 years imprisonment.  The penalties for driving offences range and there are a number of consequences that can arise that are not necessarily obvious to anyone without specialised knowledge and expertise.

Understanding which driving offences in Victoria can result in a prison sentence, will help you understand the seriousness for your offence and the potential penalties you may be facing if found guilty. If you're facing charges related to a driving offence, it's important to seek legal advice from an experienced criminal lawyer to help you get the best outcome.

Culpable Driving, Dangerous driving causing death or serious injury 

Culpable driving causing death is the most serious driving offence in the state of Victoria and in a number of ways is akin to negligent manslaughter. It is an offence made out if it is proven that a person has driven either recklessly or grossly negligently or intoxicated by drugs or alcohol to the extent they are incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. If found guilty an accused faces a standard sentence of 8 years imprisonment. 

Preparation is key in these matters including at the earliest possible stage - noting that much of the evidence relied upon from the prosecution will be from the scene of any collision. These cases are not simply serious; they are complex and require the highest levels of skill and expertise.

Dangerous driving causing death is a Catergory 2 offence for the purpose of sentence - which means a jail term must be imposed unless one of the specific exceptions is made out.  In short the starting position for this offence is imprisonment and overcoming the presumption of imprisonment is extremely difficult.  Care must be taken to ensure that these matters are properly defended and that evidence which may be relied on to demonstrate any possible exception is obtained and adduced in the most effective possible way.

While not attracting a legislative presumption of imprisonment, dangerous driving causing serious injury is an offence that is taken very seriously by the courts, and if you're found guilty you're likely to receive a significant prison sentence. The focus in these cases falls very much to the moral culpability involved in the offence. As such careful analysis is required of the various factors which go into an assessment of the level of moral culpability involved in any given offence.

Noting the seriousness of these offences if you are charged police may seek to have you remanded in custody  until your case goes to trial. In this instance, your lawyer can help you prepare a bail application. It is vitally important that the preparation work in relation to bail is done as early as possible - in such circumstances bail can sometimes be granted without the accused having to spend any great length of time in custody - and even without them having to be placed into the cells on rare occasions. Again the importance of early and specialised preparation is key.

Drink driving or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Victoria has some of the toughest penalties for drink driving and DUI offences. 

If you're caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over 0.05%, you could face significant fines, licence disqualification, and even imprisonment. If you’re a repeat offender or you have a particularly high reading you are likely to receive a harsher penalty than if you’re a first-time offender. 

Some further ramifications for drink driving offences can include having your vehicle impounded or destroyed, being required to attend Court to get your licence renewed, or being required to participate in courses to get your licence back as well as alcohol interlock devices. Drivers in Victoria are now required to complete a behavioural change program before they can apply for a new licence. 

The provisions for loss of licence are mandatory. You cannot get a provisional licence to drive only for the purpose of work and if an alcohol interlock device order is in force you cannot drive any vehicle not fitted with such a device.

Driving whilst disqualified

If you're caught driving whilst your licence is suspended or cancelled, you could face fines, a community correction order or imprisonment. You are also likely to have further suspensions placed on your licence. 

The severity of the penalty will depend on the circumstances of the offence, such as the reason for the suspension or cancellation and whether you have a history of similar offences. A first-time offender is likely to receive a fin - provided there are no significant aggravating features to the driving. However, repeat offenders will face harsher penalties that could include unpaid community work, immediate imprisonment and lengthy periods of suspension or disqualification. 

In addition vehicles can be impounded and forfeited.

To place this offence in context it was previously the only offence dealt with in the magistrates court that had a mandatory period of imprisonment applicable to a second or subsequent offence. While those laws were repealed it demonstrates the seriousness with which this offence is viewed by the court.

Further police now have registration plate recognition in their vehicles - which means if you are suspended or disqualified and you are driving a car registered in your name you can expect to be caught.

Getting expert legal advice for a driving offence

If you're facing charges related to a driving offence, it's important to seek legal advice from an experienced criminal lawyer. They can help you understand your options and develop a strong defence strategy.

It's also worth noting that even if you're not facing imprisonment, having a criminal charge laid against you for a driving offence can have long-term consequences. It may affect your ability to get a job, obtain a loan, or travel overseas. You may lose your licence for an extended period, may lose your car or face other consequences that you did not anticipate when first charged. That's why it's important to take any 

driving offence charges seriously and seek legal advice as soon as possible.

We have acted in countless driving matters at all levels of seriousness over many years. As such we have the skill, expertise and experience to deal with this complex and often misunderstood area of the criminal law.

Can I go to jail for a driving offence?

© 2023 Copyright Stary Norton Halphen.

Doyle's Guide First Tier Criminal Law firm (2020, 2021 and 2022).