Magistrates don’t usually go beyond the statutory minimum periods of licence disqualification for drink-driving offences on a plea of guilty. This makes penalties for drink-driving more consistent and predictable than other sentences, unless the circumstances are particularly serious. But it isn’t easy to work out if, and for how long, a driver can expect to be be put off the road when their reading is low.
Here’s a simplified version of that table:
|Reading||First offence||Subsequent offence|
|less than .07||6 months||12 months|
|.07 or more but less than .08||6 months||14 months|
|.08 or more but less than .09||6 months||16 months|
|.09 or more but less than .10||6 months||18 months|
|.10 or more but less than .11||10 months||20 months|
|.11 or more but less than .12||11 months||22 months|
|.12 or more but less than .13||12 months||24 months|
|.13 or more but less than .14||13 months||26 months|
|.14 or more but less than .15||14 months||28 months|
|.15 or more but less than .16||15 months||30 months|
|.16 or more but less than .17||16 months||32 months|
|.17 or more but less than .18||17 months||34 months|
|.18 or more but less than .19||18 months||36 months|
|.19 or more but less than .20||19 months||38 months|
|.20 or more but less than .21||20 months||40 months|
|.21 or more but less than .22||21 months||42 months|
|.22 or more but less than .23||22 months||44 months|
|.23 or more but less than .24||23 months||46 months|
|.24 or more||24 months||48 months|
For most drivers where an alcohol concentration reading has been recorded this table shows how long their minimum disqualification period will be.
(6) In an Act or subordinate instrument, unless the contrary intention
(a) a reference to midnight, in relation to a particular day, shall be construed as a reference to the point of time at which that day ends;
(b) a reference to a month shall be construed as a reference to a calendar month;
(c) a reference, without qualification, to a year shall be construed as a reference to a period of twelve months;
(d) a reference to a financial year shall be construed as a reference to the period of twelve months ending at midnight on 30 June; and
(e) a reference to a calendar year shall be construed as a reference to the period of twelve months ending at midnight on 31 December.
The table says that a reading below .07 is punishable by a minimum 6 months disqualification as a first offence and 12 months for a subsequent offence, but that’s not always true. Sometimes it’s necessary to look at s 50 for the exceptions to the general rule.
Under s 52 a driver must have an alcohol concentration of .00% when behind the wheel if they are any of the following:
* not the holder of a full licence (except where the they have merely failed to renew an otherwise valid Victorian licence); * driving a large vehicle; * taxi drivers; * driving instructors; * a probationary driver; * a driver who, in the last 3 years, has had their licence restored to them after previously losing it for drink-driving.
If a first-time offender goes before the Court for a reading below .05% (because they are a ‘P’ plater, driving instructor, etc) the Court may disqualify them from obtaining a licence for up to 6 months, but isn’t obliged to. If a first-time offender has a reading below .07 and is aged 26 or over the Court is not required to cancel a driver licence or permit or disqualify the offender from obtaining one unless it proceeds to conviction: s 50(1AB)(b).
If not a first-time offender, that discretion isn’t available and the Court must disqualify the driver’s licence in accordance with Schedule 1 unless the reading was below .05 and the Court decides not to proceed to conviction: s 50(1AB)(1). (This is available to drivers under 26).
Trying to persuade a magistrate not to award a conviction for a second drink-driving offence can sometimes be difficult, but is not impossible.
That’s not the end of the story. Drink-driving with a low reading is a relevant offence carrying 10 demerit points. These are applied whether an infringement notice is paid or the charge is proved at Court (but only if the licence is not cancelled.)
Drivers who exceed their demerit points are served a notice by VicRoads. This notice requires a driver to accept the suspension of their licence, or to elect to drive for a year with only a single point, risking a loss of licence for a longer period. Section 25(3) of the Road Safety Act 1986 states,
(3) The Corporation must serve a notice (a demerit point option notice)
containing the prescribed particulars on-
(a) the holder of a full driver licence if he or she incurs 12 or more demerit points within any 3 year period; and
(b) the holder of a learner permit or probationary driver licence if he or she incurs-
(i) 5 or more demerit points within any 1 year period; or
(ii) 12 or more demerit points within any 3 year period.
Since probationary and learner drivers only have 5 demerit points to lose they will always receive a demerit point option notice. For drivers who have already taken their option a suspension of their licence is unavoidable.