If I’m a first time drink driving offender, will the court be lenient?

Being caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding the legal limit is a very common offence in Victoria.

If you are a first-time offender, over the age of 26 and your BAC is more than .05 but less than .069 the police have a discretion to issue a traffic infringement notice and cancel your licence for a period of three months.

Generally speaking, though, when you are caught driving with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit you will be required to go to Court.  The legal limit for learner and probationary drivers is .00. For most other drivers it is .05.

In Victoria, if you are a first-time offender charged with drink driving and required to go to Court the maximum penalty you will be facing is a fine. You will also be facing a mandatory loss of licence. The mandatory minimum period of licence loss you will be facing will depend on your BAC. 

The mandatory minimum for those with a reading between .05 and .099 is 6 months. The mandatory minimum for those with a reading between .10 and .149 is between 10 and 14 months. The mandatory minimum for those with a reading of .15 or more is between 15 and 24 months.

If it is not your first offence, the mandatory minimum periods are doubled.

It is important to note that where there is a mandatory minimum loss of licence, the Court has no choice, no matter how negative the impact will be on you, but to take away your licence. The only choice the Court has is to take away your licence for a longer period than the mandatory minimum.

If you have been caught drink driving in Victoria you should contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A good criminal lawyer will not only be able to identify whether you have a defence to the charge but also what you are facing both in terms of a penalty and licence loss and, if you lose your licence, what is required of you to get it back. 


What you could be charged with 

Generally, when a person is above the legal limit and intercepted by police or required to participate in a breath-test at a Booze Bus they will be charged with drink driving.

However, there are other offences which the police can charge you with if you are driving your car and the police believe you have consumed alcohol.

You can be charged with refusing to participate in a breath-test when you are required to do so by the police and you do not. In the event you are charged with this offence and you are found guilty of it you will lose your licence for at least 24 months, perhaps more. Needless to say, it is not a prudent idea to refuse to participate in a breath test if you are required to do so by the police.  If you are charged with this offence it is important that you seek advice from a criminal lawyer as to whether you have a worthwhile defence, because a successful defence is the only way you will avoid losing your licence for at least 24 months (or 48 months for a subsequent offence).

You can also be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), if the police form the view that you were incapable of having proper control of your vehicle owing to the influence of drugs or alcohol. Again, the mandatory minimum loss of licence is 24 months. Again it is important that you seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer as to whether you have a defence to this charge, particularly given that you will not necessarily have failed a breath test when it is laid such that the police will need to have sufficient evidence from another avenue to prove you are guilty of this charge at Court. They often do not have such evidence.

To avoid doubt, both refusing a breath test and DUI carry mandatory minimums of 24-months licence cancellation for first time offenders. And while the maximum penalty is a financial one for both charges, the length of the licence loss that flows means that it is important that you consider whether you have a defence before pleading guilty to either charge.

Penalties for drink driving

As set out above, first-time offenders face fines and a mandatory loss of licence for drink driving. The higher the reading the longer the mandatory minimum cancellation period is.

Beyond any mandatory period of licence loss,  a first time offender will need to complete a drink driver behaviour change program to have their licence reinstated and when it is reinstated they will be subject to a zero BAC requirement and be required to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle for a period of time.  Again, the higher the BAC reading the longer that period will be.

What if it is not my first offence?

If you commit a drink driving offence for a second (or third, etc) time, then the penalties can include not just fines but also community correction orders and imprisonment. If you are facing a drink driving charge that is not your first offence, you should obtain legal advice from a specialist criminal lawyer.

Finding Criminal Lawyers in Melbourne for Drink Driving Cases

Regardless of whether you are facing your first drink driving offence or subsequent drink driving offence, a good lawyer will help you understand the process, whether you have a defence, if you do how strong that defence is, the penalties you are facing (including loss of licence) and if your licence is going to be cancelled what is required of you to get your licence back and the type of licence you will have when your licence is reinstated. 

Here at Stary Norton Halphen, our team of experienced criminal lawyers will assist you with all of these matters and most importantly will help you achieve the best possible outcome having regard to the circumstances of your case.