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Drink Driving and DUI Penalties in South Australia (SA)

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.


There is only a limited/illusory control one can ever have when controlling/handling machinery while drunk. And this often leads to accidents and lots of catastrophic ends.

Drink driving offences in South Australia are some of the heaviest offences against the Road Traffic Act 1961 (Section 47B). And that is why defaulters or offenders get serious punishments from an official or in court.

There are two categories of drink driving offences in South Australia;

  • Exceeding the PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Blood Alcohol)
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)

The kind of drink driving punishments you get depends on which of these categories you default from.

  1. Exceeding PCA
  2. The Prescribed Concentration of Blood Alcohol is the stipulated amount of alcohol in the blood that disqualifies a person from handling a car. It makes no difference whether the person “felt drunk” or not, or if it “affected their handling”.

    The law is not flexible or accommodating to the amount of alcohol in the blood before/during driving.

    Full license holders PCA is below 0.05, or face stiff penalties.

    Learners, probationary, provisional, commercial drivers or holders of special licenses must drive without any Blood Alcohol concentration (BAC)

    There are generally three categories for the Exceeding PCA drink driving offence;

    • Category 1; PCA (0.05 – 0.079)
    • Category 2; PCA (0.08 – 0.149)
    • Category 3; PAC (greater than 0.15)
  3. Driving under the Influence
  4. DUI offences are more serious road offences, and usually require the Police or Traffic official to prove that the driver was incapable of controlling the vehicle. Some of the proofs include;

    • Slurred speech
    • Swaying while standing
    • The strong smell of alcohol on your breath
    • Dangerous swerving of the car
    • Improper road usage

    This offence is distinct from exceeding a PCA, and the police may not have to submit a Blood Alcohol reading to prove the case. The Driver will be charged with a DUI offence even before they step into a vehicle depending on the official's observations.

    The court can charge those guilty of this offence (but not convict) with an exceeding PCA offence especially if it involves;

    • Over speeding,
    • Manslaughter.
    • Accident,
    • Destruction to properties or municipalities

What are the Penalties for a Drink Driving offence?

Convictions and punishments for drink driving offences are much severe. The court imposes at least the minimum disqualification (and can give longer ones).

There are no grounds for ameliorating a disqualification period for a drink driving offence. It also precludes issuing a restricted license, or license for work purposes; such license disqualification is complete. These kinds of offences show up as a driving offence on a background check.

Depending on the severity of the drink driving offences, including factors like;

  • Repeat offences
  • Aggravating circumstances; DUI with a child, hit and run, police chase
  • PCA levels
  • Driving while on license disqualification,
  • Related offences from Drink driving, and so on

Considering any of the above factors, the Magistrate may also impose an imprisonment term in addition to;

  • Fines
  • License demerit points
  • License disqualification

Penalties for the various levels of Drink Driving offences in Australia;

The number of previous offences influences the severity of the punishments.

First offenders;

Drivers without prior Drink driving offences within the last 5 years or ever are First offenders.


Category 1; (0.05-0.079) PCA

This category of offenders get;

  • An expiation notice
  • On-the-spot minimum fines of around $600,
  • 4 demerit points to their license

However, the offender can elect to challenge the matter in court. If they fail their appeal, the court imposes;

  • 3 months minimum disqualification period
  • Fines of $1100

Category 2; (0.08 – 0.149) PCA

Attempting or being caught driving at such PCA levels attracts punishments of;

  • Minimum of 6 months disqualification period
  • Fines between $900 and $1300
  • 5 demerit point loss to your license

Category 3; above 0.15 PCA

The court imposes stiffer penalties on those caught driving at such levels;

  • Minimum of 12 months license disqualification
  • Fines of $1100 - $1600
  • 6 demerit points to your license

Having a child in the vehicle for any of the above Drink driving offences (Category 1-3) will attract extra punishments in addition to the ones detailed above. Such offences make for aggravating circumstances of a drink driving offence.

DUI with Child present;

Having a child in the car provides ground for an “aggravated” drink driving offence. The court imposes punishments of;

  • 12-month license disqualification
  • Fines of $1100 - $1600
  • 6 demerit point loss to your license

For second, third and subsequent offences;

The Magistrate considers previous related offences when handling a drink driving charge, where there is a recent previous drink driving offence, the person will be handled as a subsequent drink driving offender.

  • A subsequent offender is;
  • Convicted of a category1 offence within the last 3 years
  • Convicted of a category 2 or 3 offence within the last 5 years

A second Drink Driving offence for Category 1 attracts;

  • Fines of up to $1100
  • Minimum license disqualification of 6 months.
  • It increases to 9 months for third offences and 12 months for subsequent charges

Second Drink Driving offence for Category 2 attracts;

  • Fines of $1100 - $1600
  • 12 months minimum license disqualification period

Third and subsequent offenders;

  • $1500 to $2200 fines
  • Minimum of 2 years disqualification

Second, Third and Subsequent Drink driving offence for Category 3 attracts;

  • Fines in the range of $1600 - $2900
  • Minimum disqualification period of 3 years
  • An extra 4-6 demerit points will also be recorded on your license depending on the PCA offence.

Penalties for non-BAC related drink driving offences

Some offences will not be handled under the “exceeding PCA” or DUI drink driving offences, but they still affect the Road and Traffic laws of South Australia, Some of these offences are;

Penalties for additional offences are;

A driver who refuses to provide a breath test at the office or resists testing will receive penalties of;

  • $1100 -$1600 fines
  • 12 months disqualification period
  • 6 demerit point loss to their Drivers license

The Police have the powers and can legitimately flag your vehicle for a Drivers PCA test. Most Police vehicles these days are equipped with BAC testing devices.

Anyone who refuses a Blood Test is guilty of the offence, except on the plea of having a medical condition. However, you can only challenge the result of a Breath test in court with substantial evidence of a blood test obtained immediately. The accused can challenge the veracity of the Police breath test over the Blood test.

Alcohol Interlock Scheme

All those who commit a serious drink driving offence are required by the court to install an alcohol interlock device in their vehicle equal to their disqualification.

It applies mostly to;

  • PCA levels of over 0.15
  • Second offence exceed PCA (0.08 – 0.149)
  • All those who refuse a blood test
  • The mandatory interlock program commences immediately after your disqualification period.

Wrapping Up

Having a Drink Driving offence is something every road user should avoid. These records can be damaging to your future records, as they appear on the result of a police check.

The Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check is a required document for most work application processes.

Source

Section 47(B) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/rta1961111/s47b.html

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