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What is an alcohol interlock condition?
An alcohol interlock condition is a special stipulation added to a person’s driver licence following certain alcohol-related offences. An alcohol interlock condition means an individual can only operate a motor vehicle fitted with an alcohol interlock device. An interlock device measures the alcohol concentration in the driver’s breath and prevents the vehicle from operating when alcohol is detected.
An alcohol interlock condition may be imposed following convictions for drink driving, drug driving, or other offences committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A breach of these conditions is taken seriously, with penalties including fines and possible imprisonment.
Offence for breaching an alcohol interlock condition
In Victoria, breaching an alcohol interlock condition is a serious offence under section 50AAD(1) of the Road Safety Act 1986.
Breaches can occur in several ways, such as removing the device from your vehicle or attempting to circumvent the device by having someone else provide a breath sample.
S 50AAD – Offence to breach an alcohol interlock condition
(1) A person whose driver licence or learner permit is subject to an alcohol interlock condition is guilty of an offence if—
(a) the person breaches that condition; or
(b) the person drives a motor vehicle with an approved alcohol interlock in accordance with that condition but the motor vehicle has been started—
(i) with the approved alcohol interlock disengaged; or
(ii) in a way that does not comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for the use of the approved alcohol interlock; or
(iii) in a way other than by the person blowing directly into the appropriate part of the approved alcohol interlock.
(1A) An interstate licence or permit holder who is subject to an interstate alcohol interlock requirement is guilty of an offence if—
(a) the person breaches that requirement; or
(b) the person drives a motor vehicle with an alcohol interlock but the motor vehicle has been started—
(i) with the alcohol interlock disengaged; or
(ii) in a way that does not comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for the use of the alcohol interlock; or
(iii) in a way other than by the person blowing directly into the appropriate part of the alcohol interlock.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence against subsection (1) or (1A) is liable to a penalty not exceeding 240 penalty units or to imprisonment for not more than 2 years.
Defences and exceptions
A person may have a defence to an offence under section 50AAD(1) and (1A) in circumstances of a sudden emergency, necessity, duress, or in cases of factual dispute due to inaccuracies in the prosecution’s case.
Under s50AAD(3B), a person who holds a driver licence or learner permit that is subject to an alcohol interlock condition does not commit an offence under s50AAD(1) if—
(a) the person drives a motor vehicle that is not fitted with an alcohol interlock while—
(i) undergoing a driving assessment; or
(ii) under the supervision of a driving instructor; and
(b) the person drives the vehicle in accordance with any regulations.
Penalties for alcohol interlock condition breaches
Breaching an alcohol interlock condition can result in penalties, including a fine of up to 240 penalty units or 2 years’ imprisonment. The court may also impose further penalties relating to driver’s licence disqualification.
If a person subject to an alcohol interlock condition drives a vehicle in breach of alcohol interlock conditions, the motor vehicle concerned may be immobilised (whether by wheel clamps or any other means) for a period specified of up to 12 months (s50AAD(4)).
A court order for vehicle immobilisation may also be made if the vehicle is owned by a person other than the offender.
A decision by a Magistrate can be appealed to a higher court if you believe that the Magistrate has not correctly used their discretion. For more on appealing a Magistrates’ decision, see ‘Appeals to the County Court’.
If you are convicted for breaching an alcohol interlock condition at the Magistrates’ Court you have the right to appeal to the County Court against the conviction or sentence or both (Criminal Procedure Act s254).
Before considering an appeal, talking to an experienced appeals lawyer for advice and representation is always important.
The Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program
Being required to have an approved alcohol interlock device installed in your vehicle and having your driver’s licence reissued with an interlock licence condition means that you are a participant in the Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program.
Under the Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program, an ‘I’ condition is added to your licence. This means you can only drive a vehicle fitted with an approved alcohol interlock device, and you must have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of zero.
Only alcohol interlock devices approved by VicRoads are permitted in the Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program, and approved suppliers must install these devices. Approved alcohol interlock devices can be fitted in most vehicles equipped with an ignition, including motorcycles.
See VicRoads for more information about the Alcohol Interlock Program.
Changes to alcohol interlock laws
As of 1 December 2019, significant changes to the laws surrounding alcohol interlocks in Victoria were implemented, including the following:
- Licence Eligibility Orders (LEOs) are no longer required for certain alcohol-related offences.
- Alcohol interlocks must be installed before your licence can be reissued.
- The Magistrates’ Court no longer holds Interlock Condition Removal Order (ICRO) hearings.
- You can apply directly to VicRoads to remove the ‘I’ (interlock) condition from your licence.
Alcohol interlock rules Victoria
The rules that apply to alcohol interlock device use and removal depend on the date of your most recent offence. From 2 December 2020 all Alcohol Interlock Program participants will be assessed under the full program rules. A complete overview of the program and relevant rules for the full Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program can be found on the VicRoads website.
How long will I need to have an alcohol interlock?
The duration of an alcohol interlock condition depends on your driving history. First-time offenders may face a minimum period of 6 months. The duration for repeat offenders will depend on how many driving convictions they have received in the previous 10 years.
Alcohol interlock exemptions
In Victoria, the only exemption to the use of an alcohol interlock is an exemption on medical grounds (Road Safety Act 1986 s 50AAAD). An exemption from, or removal of, a device on medical grounds may be granted if the applicant has a medical condition preventing them from using an interlock.
If you believe you have a medical condition that prevents you from providing a breath sample into an alcohol interlock device, you may be eligible. See an experienced traffic offence lawyer to assist you in applying for an excemption.
To apply for an exemption under section 50AAAD, you must:
- Try all interlock types available, including any special attachments or modifications that may assist. Details of accredited alcohol interlock suppliers and service agents throughout Victoria are available from VicRoads; and
- Request each alcohol interlock supplier, or their services agents, to complete a report that outlines the interlocks trialled, your incapacity to use them and send the reports to VicRoads; and
- Complete a VicRoads application, including the applicant declaration; and
- Request a specialist health practitioner to complete part of the application form, including the declaration stating that you are unable to use an interlock, providing particulars of your lung capacity; and
- Send all documentation, including all relevant personal details, supporting documentation, information about your drink-driving offence(s) (if applicable) and specialist medical practitioner report to VicRoads. It’s advisable to keep copies of everything you submit for your records; and
- Await a Response. After submitting your application, VicRoads will review the information and consult with a medical review panel or seek further information from you.
It is important to be aware that you may be subject to a fitness-to-drive assessment as a result of notifying VicRoads of any medical conditions that may affect your fitness to drive.
If an exemption is granted by VicRoads and you are exempted from the ‘I’ condition, you will still be required to have a zero blood alcohol concentration when driving. This will be displayed on your Victorian licence with a ‘Z’ condition. VicRoads will advise of the next steps and any conditions or requirements.
If your application is declined, VicRoads will provide reasons for the decision. You may apply for an internal review of the decision or seek further advice.
It’s essential to comply with any conditions set by VicRoads, whether your application is approved or denied. Non-compliance can result in further penalties or conditions on your driving.
Regulations, procedures, and policies change over time, so it is important to contact VicRoads directly or consult an experienced traffic offence lawyer for current and accurate guidance.
Having the alcohol interlock condition removed
Upon completion of the alcohol interlock program, you can apply to VicRoads to have the ‘I’ condition removed, and you will receive a new licence. In deciding whether to remove the condition, VicRoads assesses interlock data and usage, considering any violations recorded.
A violation of the interlock condition is recorded on the interlock device if you:
- Record a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 or more.
- Refuse to take a breath test when required.
- Tamper or disengage the interlock.
Before considering withdrawal of the condition, there must be a minimum number of months of alcohol interlock usage data. If a failed reading or violation is recorded, at least five violation-free months must be recorded.
If an application to remove the condition is rejected, VicRoads will provide the reasons for the decision.
Requesting a VicRoads Internal Review
If you believe you have fulfilled all the necessary requirements and are dissatisfied with VicRoads’ decision, you have the option to submit a formal request to VicRoads for an internal review within 28 days of the decision.
Applying to the Magistrates’ Court for a direction hearing
If VicRoads doesn’t remove your alcohol interlock condition, you may be able to make an application to a Magistrates’ Court for a direction hearing.
This application for direction can be made to the Magistrates’ Court if you need a determination regarding the responsible driver at the time of the alcohol interlock violations. This process is applicable only if you have an alcohol interlock equipped with a camera.
It’s important to note that the court’s role in this matter is not to decide whether the alcohol interlock condition should be removed from your license; it is to determine if you were the individual responsible for any failed breath tests. VicRoads will inform you of any changes to your alcohol interlock condition resulting from the court’s decision.
Behaviour Change Programs
Behaviour Change Programs are designed to help offenders understand why they committed an offence and to reduce the risk of reoffending. A participant may be required to complete such a program before alcohol interlock devices can be removed.
Contact our driving offence lawyers
The state of Victoria treats drink-driving offences very seriously, and implementing alcohol interlock conditions is part of this rigorous approach. Understanding these conditions and the severe consequences of breaching them is crucial for anyone facing these penalties. Having an interlock installed can have serious implications, and those accused of a breach are strongly advised to seek advice from experienced traffic offence lawyers.
How many alcohol interlock violations can you have?
To apply to have the interlock condition removed at the completion of the alcohol interlock program, your most recent five months of interlock usage must be violation-free.
You won’t be penalised during the first month, intended as a ‘learning month’ to let you get used to the alcohol interlock. However, the learning month does not apply if you’ve moved to Victoria with an existing ‘I’ condition from interstate.
The following violations will lead to a delay in the removal of your alcohol interlock condition (unless you can demonstrate that you were not responsible for the violation):
- Failing the initial breath test to start the vehicle, meaning your BAC reading was .02 or higher, and you did not successfully re-test within 60 minutes.
- Failing a breath test or refusing to take one while driving without successful re-testing within 15 minutes.
- Leaving the car running unattended when the alcohol interlock requests a test, which goes unnoticed and results in a refused re-test. Failure to re-test within 15 minutes constitutes a violation.
- If a breath test is requested, but instead of taking the test, you switch off the ignition. A violation will be recorded if you do not re-test within 15 minutes.
- Disconnecting your vehicle’s battery for 20 minutes or longer.
- Attempting to tamper with the alcohol interlock device.
If any violation is recorded, you’ll need to collect at least another five violation-free months.
Are there any alcohol interlock exemptions?
In Victoria, the only exemption to the use of an alcohol interlock is an exemption on medical grounds (Road Safety Act 1986 s 50AAAD). An exemption may be granted if you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to use an interlock.
What does an alcohol interlock cost?
Determining the cost of an Alcohol Interlock Device can be difficult as there are different fees depending on the provider, type of vehicle and duration of the program.
The alcohol interlock supplier imposes fees for various services, including installation, monthly leasing, maintenance, and removal of the device. The supplier is also required to collect the government cost recovery fee.
This fee is required to recover the costs of delivering the Alcohol Interlock Program and is separate from fees charged by the alcohol interlock service agent.
There are no exemptions available for this cost recovery fee, and VicRoads does not have any discretion to waive this fee. Participating drivers who hold certain concession cards may be eligible for reduced fees.
For further information about the current government cost recovery fee amount, concessions and eligible concession cards relating to the Alcohol Interlock Program, see vicroads.vic.gov.au.
Can I drive a work vehicle without an alcohol interlock?
No, if you have an interlock condition on your licence, you can only drive a vehicle that has an alcohol interlock device installed. If you drive a work vehicle, it is essential to notify your employer about your interlock condition.
In some cases, employers might choose to install an interlock device in the work vehicle to accommodate your situation. However, there is no obligation for an employer to do so.
Driving without an interlock device when you have an interlock condition can result in significant penalties, including fines, further driving restrictions or even imprisonment. Given the potential legal implications and the seriousness of the condition, it’s crucial to follow all the rules and conditions.
For further information about the rules, see vicroads.vic.gov.au.