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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Drink Driving & DUI Offences Driving Whilst Intoxicated (DWI) Penalties across Australia

    Driving Whilst Intoxicated (DWI) Penalties across Australia

    Driving while intoxicated is one of the major causes of road accidents across Australia. A driver who is under the influence not only puts themself in danger but also other road users.

    As such, driving while intoxicated is an offence that comes with several penalties, irrespective of the state. The penalties for driving while intoxicated can be slightly different in each state. Still, these penalties are stiff and are evident in the legislation of different states.

    In this write-up, we will be considering the different DWI penalties of various states in Australia. But first, we need to understand what it means to drive while intoxicated.

    If an individual is convicted in a court for a DWI offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national police check. The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme.

    Meaning of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

    Driving while intoxicated refers to when a person operates a vehicle after the intake of alcohol or any substance capable of causing physical and mental impairment.

    Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is also the same as driving under the influence (DUI).

    DWI Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Driving while intoxicated in NSW is an offence under the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). Anyone guilty of this offence is likely to face several penalties. Some of these penalties include the loss of license, imprisonment, fines e.t.c, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

    In light of current events, the NSW legislation has included issuing on the spot fines for some exceptional cases of driving while intoxicated. In most cases, the alcohol level of the driver determines the severity of the offence. Also, the number of times the driver has committed the crime can influence the punishment that follows.

    If you get a conviction for a DWI offence in a NSW court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in NSW.


    Different Level of Offences for Driving While Intoxicated and their Penalties in NSW

    There are different levels of offences when it comes to driving while intoxicated in NSW. Some offences are mild, while some are pretty serious, depending on various factors. These factors include prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA), uncooperativeness of the driver and the number of times the driver has committed the offence. Here are the different ranges of DWI offences in NSW:


    #1. Low, Novice or Special Range Offence and Penalties

    Generally, this category is for a BAC that is below 0.08. A driver who has a BAC of 0.08 is guilty of an offence. First-time offenders might face immediate license suspension, a maximum court fine of $2,200 or a penalty notice fine of $581.

    The penalty notice fine allows the police to issue a fine of $581 on the spot. Also, they could face disqualification, which is a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 6 months. If the police issue the punishment on the spot, the maximum penalty will be six months.

    If it is a second-time offender or a subsequent offender, the penalties can be more severe. The offender is likely to face the penalty of immediate license suspension or disqualification for a maximum of 12 months.

    Also, the court can issue a fine of $3,300 or disqualify the offender. This disqualification has a minimum of 6 months without a maximum period. In a case where the disqualification is on the spot, the maximum period for this would be 12 months. Furthermore, a person could get an alcohol interlock order.


    #2. Mid Range Offence

    This offence pertains to a situation where a driver has a BAC that is more than 0.08 but less than 0.15. Having this level of alcohol in the blood is an offence. A person who commits this offence for the first time can serve a maximum of 9 months imprisonment or pay a maximum court imposed fine of $2,200.

    Also, an individual can have their license suspended immediately or face a minimum of 6 months disqualification. However, a case of automatic disqualification carries a maximum of 12 months. Furthermore, a person can be subject to an alcohol interlock order.

    A second or subsequent mid-range offence can result in a court-imposed fine of $3300, a maximum of 12 months imprisonment or an immediate license suspension. Also, the court can disqualify a guilty driver for a minimum of 12 months, while outside the court, the disqualification is three years. Additionally, the court could give an alcohol interlock order.


    #3. High Range Offence

    Having a BAC of 0.15 and above while driving is a serious offence. A driver who commits this offence for the first time may have to pay a court-imposed fine of $3300.

    Also, they may face a maximum of 18 months imprisonment, a minimum disqualification of 12 months or an automatic disqualification of 3 years. Furthermore, they may be subject to an alcohol interlock order or have their license suspended immediately.

    If a person commits a high range offence for a second time, they may serve a maximum of 3 years imprisonment or pay a fine of $5,500. Also, the court may come to a verdict of giving a minimum of 2 years' disqualification. However, outside the court, automatic disqualification is five years.

    Furthermore, a second-time offender may receive the order to get an alcohol interlock or an immediate license suspension.


    #4. Driving While Intoxicated with a Substance

    A driver in NSW might not be under the influence of alcohol but an intoxicating substance. It is a crime to drive after using an intoxicating substance.

    Anybody who commits this crime for the first time may receive a fine of $3,300 fine or a maximum prison term of 18 months. Also, in court, the individual could face a minimum of 12 months of disqualification. But outside the court, the disqualification is three years.

    Committing the crime the second time or subsequently can attract a fine of $5,500 or a maximum of 2 years imprisonment. Furthermore, it could lead to a minimum of 2 years disqualification if the court gives the verdict. An automatic disqualification outside the court is often five years.

    DWI Penalties in Queensland (QLD)

    Driving while intoxicated in Queensland is an offence under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld). Anybody who carries out a DWI offence in QLD will have to appear before a Magistrates court. The court may issue any penalty depending on the BAC level of the offender and the number of times an individual has committed the crime.

    If there you get a conviction for a DWI offence in a QLD court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in QLD.

    There are penalties for the first DWI offence and a repeated DWI offence.


    #1. Penalties for First Time DWI Offence

    Before the court issues a penalty for a first time DWI offence, they will consider the amount of BAC. A driver (Learners or probationary drivers) who commits the crime of having a BAC of over 0.00 to 0.05 may have to pay a fine of $1,929 or serve a maximum of 3 months imprisonment.

    Also, they could have their license disqualified from a period of 3 to 9 months. For a BAC above 0.05 but below 0.10, this can attract a fine of $1,929 or a maximum of 3 months imprisonment.

    While in the case of a BAC that is over 0.10 but below 0.15, the driver could spend a maximum of 6 months in prison or pay a fine of $2,757. Additionally, they may face a license disqualification of 3 to 12 months.

    Lastly, a BAC that is 0.15 carries a maximum of 9 months imprisonment or a fine of $3,859. Also, this offence could come along with a penalty of license disqualification for a minimum of 6 months.


    #2. Penalties for Repeated Drinking While Intoxicated Offence

    A person who faces charges for a repeated offence of driving DWI could have their car impounded if their BAC is over 0.15.

    Furthermore, the court can sentence them to a term of imprisonment or ask the individual to pay a fine of $8,271. Additionally, the court might order a two years license disqualification.

    DWI Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    According to Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA), an individual must not drive or operate a car or vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating substance. If a person commits the crime of a DWI in SA for the first time, then the individual may have to pay a fine of between $1,100 and $1,600.

    Also, they may face a maximum of 3 months imprisonment, or the court may disqualify the offender from holding or getting a driver's license for a minimum of 12 months.

    A second DWI offence in South Australia can attract a maximum of 6 months imprisonment or a fine, not more than $2,900. Also, a subsequent DWI offence can result in a license disqualification for not less than three years.

    A conviction for a DWI offence in South Australia will show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in SA.

    DWI Penalties in Victoria (Vic)

    The offence of driving while intoxicated is evident in Section 49 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic). This legislation in Victoria states that an individual is guilty of a crime if they operate or are in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any drug.

    This substance must be sufficient enough to make the driver incapable of operating a vehicle.

    In Victoria, it is a crime to drive while having a BAC that is below 0.05. In fact, the government advises that BAC should be at zero.


    #1. Penalties for First Time Offence

    Any individual who commits the crime of having a BAC below 0.05 for the first time is likely to receive a fine or have their licence or learner permit cancelled. Also, they could face disqualification for a minimum of 3 months.

    The court could also order the convict to complete a behaviour change program or have an alcohol interlock for at least six months. Additionally, they may receive an order to have a zero BAC for a minimum of 3 years.

    If a person is guilty of having a BAC between 0.05 to 0.069, they may receive a fine and have their license cancelled. They could also get a traffic infringement notice. A traffic infringement notice disqualifies a person automatically for three months.

    Furthermore, the court can issue 6 months of disqualification, and they might receive an order to complete a behaviour change program. The offender might also have an alcohol interlock for a minimum of 6 months, and they may also need to have a zero BAC for a minimum of three years.

    A blood alcohol concentration between 0.07 to 0.10 attracts a fine or cancellation of a driver license or permit. This BAC could also result in a person's disqualification for at least six months.

    Also, the guilty driver may have to undergo a behaviour change program or get an alcohol interlock for a minimum of 6 months. Lastly, the offender may receive an order to maintain a zero level of BAC for a minimum of 3 years.

    An individual with a BAC of more than 0.10 but less than 0.15 will likely receive a fine and have their license or permit cancelled. They may also face disqualification for about 10 to 14 months or complete a behaviour change program. Furthermore, they could have an alcohol interlock for a minimum of 6 months or be made to maintain a zero BAC for a minimum of three years.

    Having a BAC beyond 0.15 is a serious offence that carries the penalties of a fine and disqualification of 15 to 24 months. Also, they may receive an alcohol interlock order for at least six months or get a license or permit cancellation. Furthermore, the offender may have to pass through an intensive Behaviour Change Program and maintain a BAC of zero for three years.


    #2. Second or Subsequent offence

    Being guilty of a DWI offence for a second time can result in penalties such as:

    • Fine.
    • Cancellation of permit or license.
    • Disqualification lasts for 12 to 28 months when the BAC is less than 0.15.
    • Disqualification of 30 to 48 months if the BAC is higher than 0.15.
    • Getting an alcohol interlock from 12 months to 4 years.
    • Zero BAC for a minimum of three years.

    A conviction for a DWI offence in the state of Victoria will show up on a criminal history check in Victoria.

    DWI Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

    Generally, in Western Australia, it is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) for a person to drive a vehicle after consuming alcohol or any intoxicating substance. However, there are different penalties that come with disobeying the rule against driving while intoxicated. In most cases, the severity of the penalties depends on the level of BAC.

    General Penalties For Driving While Intoxicated

    Here are the general penalties that come with driving while intoxicated for the first time:

    • Different range of fines depending on the level of BAC
    • Disqualification and suspension of license or permit
    • Imprisonment
    • Interlock order

    A court conviction for a DWI offence in WA will get disclosed on a criminal history check in WA.

    DWI Penalties in Tasmania (Tas)

    Operating a car or vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence that carries severe penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. However, the severity of the penalties depends on the level of BAC and the number of times a person has committed the crime. The rules regarding this offence are present in the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas).

    Different Ranges of BAC and their Penalties

    Here are the different categories of BACs:


    #1. BAC Less than 0.05 and BAC of 0.05-0.099

    Having this BAC may result in a driver receiving a fine of $1,300 or a minimum license disqualification of 12 months. Furthermore, they could get a maximum of 3 months imprisonment.


    #2. BAC Ranging from 0.10 to 0.149

    Under this category, a driver can get a maximum fine of $2,600 or serve a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. In addition, they could also face disqualification for six months.


    #3. BAC of More Than 0.15

    A blood alcohol concentration over 0.15 in Tasmania can lead to a maximum fine of $3,900 or a disqualification lasting for 36 months. It could also result in a maximum of 12 months imprisonment.

    DWI Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    In NT, there are several penalties that come with DWI offences under the Traffic Act 1987 (NT). One of the most common penalties is a person losing their license. The BAC level and the number of times a person has committed an offence usually influence the type of penalty a person may get.

    For a BAC which is less than 0.05 and the one that is within 0.05 to 0.079, the maximum fine would be $650 or a maximum of 3 months imprisonment. While a BAC within the range of 0.08 to 0.149 can result in a fine of $975 or imprisonment of 6 months. Furthermore, it could lead to a minimum disqualification of 6 months.

    Lastly, for a BAC above 0.15, the offender may have to pay a fine of $1,300 or disqualification of more than 12 months. Additionally, they may serve a maximum of 12 months imprisonment.

    A conviction for a DWI offence in the NT will show up on a criminal history check in the NT.

    DWI Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    Driving while intoxicated is an offence that is not taken lightly in the ACT. As such, the penalties for committing this offence are evident in the Road Transport Act 1977 (ACT). There are different categories of BAC, and each of these categories comes with its penalties. The categories include:

    • BAC that is less than 0.05g
    • BAC that is more than 0.05g but less than 0.08g
    • BAC more than 0.08g but less than 0.15g
    • BAC higher than 0.15g

    Generally, the penalties of DWI includes the following:

    • Thirty units for a first-time offender and 50 units for a subsequent offender.
    • Six months of imprisonment
    • A maximum of 3 years license disqualification for first-time offenders and a maximum of 5 years imprisonment for subsequent offenders.

    A court conviction for a DWI offence in the ACT will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a criminal history check in the ACT.

    Bottom Line

    Driving while intoxicated can generally result in a person being convicted for a DUI offence. Apart from convictions, the crime of DWI reflects on a person's police criminal record history. Consequently, this might be a disadvantage when trying to travel or apply for certain job positions.

    As such, it may be essential for anyone facing DWI charges to hire the services of a lawyer.

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