An alcohol interlock is essentially a breath test that is wired to the ignition of your vehicle.
When it is in place, your car, truck, or motorcycle will not start unless you submit a breath sample that is free of alcohol. You submit the breath sample by blowing into a tube that is connected to the interlock device.
Alcohol interlocks are often required for drivers who want to be relicensed after being convicted of a drink driving offence. This article will help you understand when they are required in Victoria.
Who must use an ignition interlock?
If you do not drive, you do not need an ignition interlock. If you want to be relicensed after finishing your disqualification period after a drink driving conviction, you might be required to use an ignition interlock as a condition of regaining your licence.
An interlock condition is imposed by the Magistrate’s Court at the time you are sentenced. In some cases, the alcohol interlock is mandatory. In other cases, the Magistrate can impose an interlock condition in his or her discretion.
Following conviction of a first drink driving offence, the use of an alcohol interlock for at least six months is a mandatory condition of relicensing if:
- You are a full licence holder, at least 26 years old, and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.15 percent or higher.
- You are under the age of 26 or have a probationary licence and your BAC was 0.07 or higher.
- You were convicted of a drink driving offence that was not based on a BAC. Examples include driving under the influence (DUI) or refusing to take a chemical test.
The use of an alcohol interlock for at least six months can be imposed as a relicensing condition in the Magistrate’s discretion if you are a full licence holder, at least 26 years old, and your BAC was less than 0.15.
Following conviction of a second drink driving offence, the use of an ignition interlock for at least 12 months is a mandatory condition of relicensing if your BAC was under 0.15. The use of an ignition interlock for at least 4 years is a mandatory condition of relicensing if your BAC was 0.15 or higher or if you were convicted of a drink driving offence that was not based on a BAC.
Third or subsequent offence
Following conviction of a third or subsequent drink driving offence, the use of an ignition interlock for at least 4 years is a mandatory condition of relicensing regardless of your BAC.
The law may soon change
Proposed legislation, if enacted, will require all persons in Victoria convicted of driving with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.07 to obtain an interlock as a condition of relicensing.
When can an interlock be removed?
A few weeks before your interlock period ends, you will need to schedule a hearing with the Magistrate to request a removal order. You will need to supply the Magistrate with an alcohol assessment to convince the Magistrate that you no longer need the interlock. You will also need to provide a report from the interlock provider showing that you did not try to defeat the interlock and did not repeatedly fail to start your car due to alcohol consumption.
Demerit Points and Novice Drivers
Learner and probationary drivers have a demerit point threshold of five demerit points within 12 months (in addition to the standard 12-point threshold within three years). This means an offence attracting ten demerit points will result in an automatic four-month licence suspension unless the driver takes the ‘double or nothing’ option and incurs no more demerit points within the next 12 months.
The Spot Suspension
Authorities can suspend your licence or learner permit in certain situations immediately. Examples include learner or probationary drivers with a BAC of .07 or more, full licence holders with a BAC of .10 or more, and repeat offenders. The length of suspension depends on the circumstances – for example, it could last until the charges have been decided in court.
The Choice to Appear in Court
If you choose to have your case heard in court (or if the matter is dealt with by charges instead of an infringement notice) and the court finds you guilty, the court may fine you and cancel your licence or learner permit for up to six months (for offences with a BAC under .05), or for at least six months (for offences where the BAC is at least .05 but less than .07). For a BAC of .07 or more (.05 or more for subsequent offences), the court must cancel your licence or learner permit for at least six months (first offence)/14 months (subsequent offences).
Compulsory Court Appearance
For offences with a BAC of .15 or more, where the case must be heard by the Magistrates’ Court, if found guilty, your licence or learner permit will be cancelled for at least 15 to 48 months, and higher financial penalties will apply. Those committing the most serious offences and repeat offenders face possible imprisonment.
The penalties for repeat drink driving offenders have been substantially increased with the maximum penalty now 18 months in prison. Offenders in these categories may have an alcohol interlock licence condition imposed when they are relicensed.