Penalties – Drink Driving

Drink Driving PenaltiesContact lawyer Alistair Haskett free on 0800 DRINK DRIVE (0800 374653) or 021 920031

Drink driving penalties:

Penalties for drink driving

The maximum penalty for a first or second conviction for excess breath alcohol (BrAC over 400) or excess blood alcohol (BAC over 80) is 3 months imprisonment or a fine up to $4,500.00, and mandatory disqualification for at least 6 months (unless special reasons or certain other provisions apply).

On a third or subsequent conviction for excess breath or blood alcohol the maximum penalty increases to 2 years imprisonment or a fine up to $6,000.00, with mandatory disqualification of more than 1 year (unless special reasons or certain other provisions apply).

The penalties are the same for refusing to do a blood test, and there are similar penalties for other drink drive related offences.

Some offences attract demerit points, including careless driving; failing to accompany; failing to stop; driving contrary to licence conditions; failing to produce a zero alcohol licence; exceeding the zero alcohol limit as a youth; and exceeding the new adult alcohol limits from 1 December 2014 for breath alcohol (BrAC over 250 but not over 400) and blood alcohol (BAC over 50 but not over 80).

In some circumstances indefinite disqualification, zero alcohol licence orders and permanent confiscation of your car may apply.

The law also allows the court to order different sentences to those above, such as community work, supervision, intensive supervision, judicial monitoring, community detention and home detention.


Is drink driving a criminal offence?

This is a question we are often asked.  The answer is yes for offences involving excess breath alcohol over 400, excess blood alcohol over 80, refusing blood, failing to accompany, some youth level offences and many other related offences.  If a conviction is entered on those types of offences you will have a criminal record.


Adult excess alcohol infringement offences

If you pay an infringement fee relating to the new adult limits for breath alcohol (BrAC over 250 but not over 400) and blood alcohol (BAC over 50 but not over 80) you will be deemed to have committed an infringement offence.  These drink driving infringement offences attract 50 demerit points and may have adverse consequences in terms of your drivers licence, employment, insurance, travel and immigration.  Excess alcohol infringement offences are also likely to be relevant to any other court matters that arise in the future.

We recommend you consider the possibility of keeping your record clear of these types of infringement offences.  There are many possible defences to an excess alcohol infringement offence and there may also be options for seeking a discharge or dismissal on it.


Have you considered all the potential consequences of a conviction?

The consequences of a criminal conviction are likely to depend on the seriousness of the offending, such as the level of intoxication and nature of driving, whether it is your first or subsequent offence, whether and when a guilty plea is entered, your personal circumstances and other relevant factors.

Depending on the circumstances of a particular case the consequences of a conviction for excess breath alcohol (BrAC over 400) or excess blood alcohol (BAC over 80) may include:

  • Penalty ranging from a fine, community work, community detention, home detention to imprisonment, although in some cases a discharge with or without conviction or an order to come up for sentence is made.
  • Supervision or intensive supervision orders as part of some sentences, typically for bad cases, repeat offenders or where addictions are apparent – these orders typically require completion of alcohol or drug counselling.
  • Mandatory disqualification from driving for a minimum of 6 months for a first or second conviction and more than 1 year for a third or subsequent offence, although there are limited exceptions to this.
  • Indefinite disqualification from driving in specified circumstances, which also results in the inability to apply for a limited licence and permanent loss of the benefit of the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004.
  • A 3 year zero alcohol licence order in some cases, which means you must have no alcohol in your system when driving.
  • A 28 day stand down period after disqualification before a limited licence can be applied for and the possibility that a limited licence would not be granted if the threshold test cannot be met.
  • Inability to apply for a limited licence in other specified circumstances, which includes having previous convictions for specified types of traffic offences committed within five years of the date of the current offence.
  • Confiscation and sale of the car in some circumstances.
  • Employment difficulties ranging from an inability to perform a current job to missing prospective jobs because of a conviction.
  • International travel difficulties ranging from exclusion from visa waiver programmes to total prohibition on entry to other countries.
  • Insurance difficulties ranging from increased premiums to insurance being declined.
  • Family difficulties arising from a conviction, the inability to drive or restricted scope of driving under a limited licence.

See our pages on offences and defences.

Or call Alistair Haskett now on 0800 DRINK DRIVE LAWYER (0800 374653) or 021 920031, or email your enquiry to