Our team of specialist defence lawyers in Melbourne are often asked “will I lose my job for drink driving?”. However, the answer is not straightforward. It depends on the nature of your job and your employment contract.
If you have a Victorian licence and you are caught drink driving, either in Victoria or interstate, you will face a period of mandatory disqualification from driving. Your disqualification period may last anywhere from 3 months to 4 years, depending on how serious your drink driving charge is. If driving is an essential part of your job, disqualification may result in you being unable to perform your work properly. This can in turn lead to you losing your position.
It is also likely that you will receive a criminal conviction and a fine. Certain careers (such as police officer) require that you have not been found guilty of drink driving in the last 5-10 years.
A drink driving lawyer may be able to strengthen your defence case and mitigate the penalties that you will receive if found guilty. If you have been charged with DUI in Melbourne or regional Victoria, our team of specialist drink driving lawyers are highly experienced in these matters and here to help.
The Penalties for Drink Driving in Victoria
In Victoria, there are three common drink driving offences that carry mandatory disqualification periods:
- Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor (DUI) (s49(1)(a) Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic));
- Driving Whilst Meeting or Exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) (s49(1)(b) Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)); and
- Returning a breath test meeting or exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) (s 49(1)(f) Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)).
Each of these offences are slightly different and carry different penalties. To charge you with DUI, the police must prove that you were under the influence of intoxicating liquor to the extent you were incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. But to charge you with a PCA offence, the police must prove that you had the or more than the prescribed PCA (0.05% for a full licence holder) present in your breath or blood.
If you are found guilty of DUI, you will face the following mandatory disqualification periods:
(a) in the case of a first offence, 2 years; and
(b) in the case of a subsequent offence, 4 years (s50(1B) Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)).
If you are convicted of a PCA drink driving offence, your mandatory disqualification period will depend on:
- Whether or not it was your first offence; and
- The PCA reading that you recorded at the time of the offence.
Depending on these factors, your mandatory disqualification period may last anywhere from 3 months to 4 years. If you have committed a PCA drink driving offence, you can find out how long your minimum disqualification period will be by looking at Schedule 1 of the Road Safety Act 1986.
As well as a mandatory disqualification period, you will likely also receive a fine if you are found guilty of drink driving in Victoria. In the most serious drink driving cases, the court may impose a prison sentence.
Further, anyone convicted of drink driving in Victoria must also complete a mandatory Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program. This is a six-hour course that can be completed over two sessions.
Finally, you will also be ordered to install and use an alcohol interlock device in your vehicle if you are convicted of drink driving in Victoria. Once your disqualification period is over and you begin driving again, this device will prevent you from starting the vehicle if there is alcohol present in your breath. You will be subject to a zero BAC condition for a number of years once you resume driving.
Will a Drink Driving Conviction Affect My Job?
If you have been disqualified from driving in Victoria, there is no “special license” that you can attain in order to get to and from work. There is a common myth in the community that you can apply for a “drive-to-work” licence or a “daytime driving” licence. This is false. In Victoria, you either have a license or you don’t.
Therefore, whether or not you will lose your job due to a drink driving conviction depends on the:
- Nature of your job; and
- Your contract with your employer.
If driving is an essential part of your job, your employer could potentially consider reassigning you to a non-driving role. However, your employer is under no obligation to do so. If your employer believes there is no alternative role available for you, they have the right to terminate your contract in a fair and equitable manner. It may be worth looking at your employment contract to check the conditions of your employment. Does your employer require you to hold a valid drivers license?
If driving is not an essential part of your job, it is unlikely that a drink driving conviction will affect your employment. You may simply have to find another way to get to and from work, such as public transport.
Getting a Job with a Drink Driving Conviction
If you are found guilty of drink driving in Victoria, a conviction will be recorded on your criminal record. Similarly, if you pay an infringement notice for a drink driving charge, this is treated as an admission of guilt and a conviction will be recorded on your criminal record.
Sometimes when you apply for a job in Australia, the employer will perform a police check as part of the hiring process. If your potential employer does so, it is likely that they will see the drink driving conviction listed on your record.
If you were 18 or older at the time that you were sentenced for drink driving, your conviction will remain on your criminal record check for 10 years. If you were younger than 18 at the time of being sentenced for drink driving, your conviction will remain on your criminal record check for 5 years.
In Australia, it is illegal for businesses to discriminate against a potential employee based on their criminal record unless their criminal convictions directly relate to and are relevant to the job. Therefore, businesses have some discretion in deciding whether your drink driving conviction is “relevant” to the job.
Drink Driving Convictions and a Career in the Victorian Public Sector
Most jobs in the Victorian public sector will require you to undergo a criminal history check. If you have been found guilty of drink driving within the last 10 years, the hiring government agency will likely see that conviction. Some public sector bodies can obtain your criminal record beyond the normal 10 year period when criminal convictions can be disclosed. If they find that the conviction relates directly to the job you are applying for, they might deem you unsuitable for employment in that role.
Often we have people ask us whether a drink driving conviction will prevent them from becoming a teacher or join the police force.
You can be a teacher if you have a drink driving conviction in Victoria. However, to register as a teacher with the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT), you have to undergo a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check (NCCHC). The VIT must refuse your registration application if you have been convicted of certain crimes (e.g. sex offences involving children). Drink driving is not one of these offences and is unlikely to affect your application to become a registered teacher.
You can also join the police if you have a drink driving conviction in Victoria, however, it is much more difficult. The police perform thorough background checks for all applicants. If you have been found guilty of drink driving and want to join the police, you may have to wait a number of years before you are eligible to apply. The Victorian Police Guidelines state that:
- Applicants convicted of exceeding the blood alcohol level (PCA) with a reading of 0.1% or more: may be eligible to apply 10 years after the date of the offence.
- Applicants convicted of exceeding the blood alcohol level (PCA) with a reading of less than 0.1%: may be eligible to apply 5 years after the date of the offence.
- Applicants convicted of driving under the influence (DUI): may be eligible to apply 10 years after the date of the offence.
Will a Specialist Drink Driving Lawyer Benefit My Case?
If you have been charged with drink driving in Melbourne or Regional Victoria, hiring a lawyer who specialises in drink driving offences will help you to attain the best possible outcome. For example, a specialist DUI lawyer can investigate whether the police followed all the necessary procedure when charging you and present mitigating factors to the court on your behalf.
Please contact Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately if you have been charged with drink driving in Melbourne or regional Victoria. We are here to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your matter.
Our team of specialist defence lawyers is extensively experienced in drink and drug driving matters. We frequently advise and represent clients in all kinds of criminal driving cases before the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
We are available 24/7 and offer free consultations by way of Zoom, Facetime or in person at our Melbourne and Moorabbin offices.