In the few instances where most ordinary Australians do have to interact with the system, chances are that it’s a traffic offence such as speeding or running a red light.

We all know what these offences involve – in most cases, an on-the-spot fine and a couple of demerit points.

However, those aren’t the only types of traffic offences.

Today, we’re going to cover drink driving – one of the more serious traffic offences – as well as what can happen if you’re charged with this type of crime.

What are the penalties for drink driving?

Unlike speeding or other minor traffic offences, drink driving is a serious offence which is treated very seriously under Victorian law.

Rather than an on-the-spot fine, most individuals charged with drink driving stand to face much higher penalties, including…

Greater fines

Under Victorian law, the maximum penalty for drink driving is also 20 penalty units (currently set at $165.22), making for a $3304 fine.

And that’s for a first offence (albeit one where you’re considerably over 0.05 BAC). Repeated offences don’t just result in additional fines, but they may also result in the value of the fine going up as well!

Licence suspension

Unlike all other traffic offences in Victoria, a drink driving charge doesn’t just result in demerit points being applied to your licence – changes to Victoria’s laws mean that all drink driving offences since April 2018 skip straight to licence suspension.

In the most extreme circumstances (that’s to say, a BAC of 0.24 or more) you can end up getting your licence suspended for 2 years, with a minimum cancellation period of 3 months.

Note how we said “suspended”, and not cancelled – it’s an important difference, and one we’ll talk about in a moment.

Community corrections orders (CCOs)

While once an option, the 2018 reform of drink driving laws in Australia means that suspended sentences are unfortunately no longer offered for charges of drink driving, meaning that our drink driving lawyers in Melbourne can no longer argue for these.

These Orders may require you to perform community service, or attend counselling.

Bear in mind that any counselling required by a CCO is distinct from…

Behavioural change programs

In addition to having your licence suspended, the majority of drink driving cases will also require you to attend behavioural change programs

Introduced with the 2018 reforms to Victoria’s drink driving laws, these programs are designed to help you understand the underlying reasons for your drink driving, and hopefully, identify ways for you to avoid a repeat offence in the future.

The exact type of program will depend on the offence – no matter how severe, you will need to complete your assigned program before you can reapply for a licence.


In some cases, Magistrates may require an interlock to be installed in your vehicle.

This is a device that’s hooked up to a breathalyser device. The interlock locks your car, preventing you from driving until you blow into the device to prove that your BAC is under the threshold.


Typically, this is only the most severe cases, with the most common ones involving repeated drink driving offences.

Other cases where prison time might be used are situations where there are other factors at play, including:

  • Damage caused
  • Negligent and dangerous driving
  • Whether anyone was harmed as a result

If you have been charged with a prison sentence as a result of a drink driving charge, we strongly recommend getting in touch with a criminal defence lawyer.

The right legal advice and representation can be key to ensuring that your drink driving charge doesn’t result in you being sentenced to a stint in prison.

Our criminal law firms in Melbourne work hard to ensure that you get the best outcome, presenting your case and working hard to minimise the penalty as much as possible.

Reasons for a reduction in penalty

A criminal defence lawyer has one goal: to get the best outcome for you given the circumstances.

Ideally, that means arguing your innocence, and helping you avoid a penalty for drink driving.

Our criminal lawyers can try to find a way to minimise your sentence by as much as possible.

To do that, we can argue a number of different factors, such as:

  • Your personal circumstances
  • Prior offences
  • The circumstances
  • Your BAC level

drink driving lawyers in Melbourne

Suspended vs. cancelled licence

As mentioned, Victorian law now requires all drink driving cases to result in your licence being suspended.

While they may sound similar, when it comes to drink driving offences, a suspended licence is different from a cancelled one.

By contrast, a cancelled licence is essentially “torn up” completely. If you are cancelled and disqualified, you’ll have to go back to court to become re-licensed. A magistrate or judicial registrar has to make an order that you can be re-licensed, at which point you’ll need to go to VicRroads and apply for a brand new license.

As part of the process, you will have to show the court you have undertaken and completed all the required courses to become re-licensed. Depending on the charge, you may get an interlock fitted to your car (see above).

And that’s even if you’re allowed to – in many cases, a licence cancellation is accompanied by a disqualification from applying for a new license altogether!

On the other hand, a suspended licence is still valid – just not for the period of time set out as part of your sentence.

Once that period is over and you’ve completed the mandatory driver education course however, you’ll be able to drive again using that licence.

How our criminal lawyers help you when you’ve been charged with drink driving

If you’ve been charged with drink driving, it’s crucial that you get in touch with a legal professional.

It’s especially important if your drink driving charge carries with it a potential gaol sentence!

Our Victoria legal aid lawyer in Melbourne offers subsidised legal representation in cases where you’re appealing a traffic conviction that carries with it the penalty of gaol, fighting to help you avoid such an outcome.

Regardless of what penalties are on the table, when it comes to legal representation, you need to choose one that specialises in drink driving cases.

Choose one that works in a different area of criminal law or worse, self-represent, and you might find yourself being sentenced to a harsher penalty than you would otherwise.

As specialists in all areas of criminal law including drink driving cases, our criminal solicitors in Melbourne can help you at every step of the process:

Whether it’s your first offence, you’re appealing a previous ruling or you simply want advice, our team is ready to help – all you need to do is give our team a call on (03) 9781 4900, or click here to make contact online.