Do Drink Driving Offences Show Up on My Police Check?
Drink driving offences, sometimes referred to as Driving Under Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offences, are serious crimes that often carry a heavy penalty in Australia.
Any drink driving charge will remain on an individual’s driving record for life. Under many circumstances, it will also be displayed on their Police Check, though it may be eligible for expungement after a certain amount of time.
If you have a drink driving offence on your criminal record, this can have implications for future job prospects, visa applications and other purposes. Below, you will find everything you need to know about drink driving offences and Police Checks.
What Constitutes a Drink Driving Offence?
A drink driving offence involves driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. Generally, this means the driver has been found to have more than 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) whilst operating the vehicle.
This constitutes a serious offence in the eyes of the law. If the driver is found to be over the limit during a roadside breath test, they face severe penalties. These could be a fine, demerit points, vehicle impoundment, automatic license suspension or even imprisonment.
The nature of the punishment ultimately depends on the state where the drink driving offence was committed and the extent to which the driver was over the limit.
Drink driving legislation in many states stipulates that drivers with a probationary license must have a BAC of 0. Refusal to undergo a breathalyser test can also constitute an offence.
How is a Drink Driving Offence Handled by the Law?
When an individual is caught by police drink driving, the results of the BAC breath test are used to determine the degree of the offence and the severity of the penalty.
The offender is then charged with the crime. If they are convicted, they will face the penalties imposed on them. The penalty could range anywhere from a fine to a prison sentence. They vary from state to state, and may also depend on several factors such as:
- The individual’s age at the time of the offence
- Whether it was the individual’s first offence
- When the offence was committed
In addition, the drink driving charge is recorded on the individual’s traffic history with the relevant state traffic authority. Because drink driving is considered a serious offence, the individual will also receive a criminal record upon conviction which will appear on future Criminal Background Checks.
Is the Penalty for a Drink Driving Offence the Same Across Australia?
No, each Australian state and territory has its own legislation regarding drink driving. Whilst a BAC of 0.05 is considered the minimum threshold for criminality anywhere in Australia, the penalties that result from exceeding this figure vary.
New South Wales, for example, has three tiers of drink driving offences:
- Low range PCA (prescribed concentration alcohol): BCA of 0.05 but less than 0.08
- Mid range PCA: BCA of 0.08 but less than 0.15
- High range PCA: BCA of 0.15 or more
Alternatively, Victoria uses the following system:
- BAC between 0.05 and 0.69
- BAC between 0.07 and less than 0.10
- BAC between 0.10 and less than 0.15
- BAC of 0.15 or more
With each passing tier in both of these states, the severity of the penalties also increases.
Information about the specific legislation of each state can be found on the relevant state traffic authority websites.
Do Drink Driving Offences Show Up on a Police Check?
If the offender has been convicted, then yes, the drink driving offence will appear on their National Police Check as a Disclosable Court Outcome (DCO).
Across all states, drink driving is considered a serious offence and will be charged as such in a court of law. If the accused is found guilty, they will be convicted of the crime and it will be displayed on their criminal record in future.
In very rare cases, the accused may be able to appeal the charges against them and avoid the conviction. If the appeal is successful, then they are acquitted and the offence will not appear on a Criminal History Check.
After a certain number of years and only once specific conditions are satisfied, a drink driving conviction may be eligible for removal from a Police Check as part of the spent convictions scheme.
Do All Drink Driving Offences Qualify for the Spent Convictions Scheme?
If you have been convicted of a drink driving offence, it will not necessarily stay on your Police Check for life. Under the spent convictions scheme, a drink driving offence may no longer have to be disclosed on a National Police Check.
Although the spent convictions scheme varies slightly from state to state, the basic conditions are more or less the same across Australia. Less serious offences can generally be expunged from the results of a Police Check under the following conditions:
- 10 years have passed since the date of the conviction (5 years for juvenile offenders)
- The person has not reoffended during the 10 years (or 5 for juvenile offenders)
If these terms are satisfied, then the individual can apply for the spent conviction scheme with their relevant state criminal justice body. Once the application is accepted, the individual is no longer obliged to disclose the charge as part of National Police Clearance.
However, exclusions apply. Spent convictions may still be included on Police Checks for specific purposes. These include but are not limited to applications for certain professions, visa applications and firearms licensing.
In addition, more serious convictions may still be released on a Police Check. Generally, these are charges where a prison sentence has been imposed. For example, the following drink driving-related offences are punishable by imprisonment and therefore may never be eligible to be spent:
- High range PCA drink driving offences
- Repeat drink driving offences
- Manslaughter or serious injury arising from drink driving
- Dangerous driving while pursued by police arising from drink driving
In most cases, these serious offences will always remain on a Criminal Record Check.
What Other Traffic Offences Appear on a Police Check?
Drink driving offences are one of many traffic offences that may be recorded on a Police Check. Traffic offences are any offences linked to illegal motoring or road usage.
Unlike most drink driving offences, some less serious traffic offences do not lead to a conviction. A minor speeding offence resulting only in a fine and demerit points is an example of this. Although this would be recorded on the offender’s traffic history, it would never be released as part of Police Clearance.
However, several serious traffic offences are likely to result in a conviction and are therefore disclosed on a Police Check. These include:
- Reckless driving that endangers others
- Hit and run
- Evading police
- Serious overspeeding of 45km/h or more
The above offences are also highly unlikely to be eligible for the spent convictions scheme due to their severity.
What Else Appears on a Police Check?
Any Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check is returned with one of the two following outcomes:
- No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCOs)
- Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCOs)
An NDCO result means that the applicant has no criminal history, or no prior records deemed relevant to the post that they are applying to with their Police Check.
A DCO result means that the applicant has a criminal record on file and certain offences have been disclosed. The Police Check will then list the charges that have been released. These can include:
- Traffic offences
- Suspended sentences
- Sexual charges
- Corporate crimes
- Court appearances
- Findings of guilt
What are the Implications of Having a Drink Driving Offence on a Police Check?
Even if a past drink driving offence is recorded on your National Criminal History Check, this doesn’t necessarily put you at a disadvantage when applying to a new job or submitting other types of applications.
For many people, a drink driving offence will only pose problems when applying to roles or posts that explicitly involve driving. In most other spaces, the offence won’t be held against the applicant if they can demonstrate that it isn’t representative of their character.
Employment Police Checks
Legally, employers cannot discriminate against applicants based on their criminal records. That’s not to say that it can’t happen, but in most cases, a drink driving offence shouldn’t be a barrier to gaining employment in a non-driving role.
At the same time, employers are permitted to evaluate criminal history if previous offences are deemed relevant to the post that is being applied to. As such, a drink driving conviction is likely to be a barrier to employment in the following roles:
- Taxi driver
- Ride-hailing driver for services such as Uber or Lyft
- Truck driver
- Public transport driver
Employers in the above fields are known to take driving offences seriously. In most cases, they will only select candidates with clean driving records.
There are many other job roles that require employees to hold a full driving license. Workers in these positions may be expected to travel regularly and/or be trusted with a company car. It’s also possible that candidates with a clean traffic history would be favoured to those with past drink driving offences on record in these roles.
Visa Police Checks
In most cases, having a drink driving offence on your Background Check won’t prevent you from entering another country. However, in certain countries with stringent visa policies, it may delay the process or restrict your accessibility within the country.
Countries known to be strict with drink driving offences during the visa process include:
Generally, the more time that has passed since the drink driving offence was committed, the fewer problems it will pose during visa applications.
How Can I Check if a Drink Driving Offence Will Appear on my Police Check?
If you have a previous charge for drink driving and are planning on applying to a new job or registering for a visa, you might want to know if the offence will appear on your Police Check.
To obtain this information, you can contact the relevant state police agency where the offence took place.
Alternatively, you can apply for a Police Check Online through any ACIC-accredited body. For many people, this option is more convenient.
Any registered body, such as Crime Check Australia, will be able to provide a full-scale Police Check that discloses your past offences and is fit for employment, visa, citizenship and other purposes.
Unless you were able to successfully appeal the drink driving charge, it will show up on your Police Check. This is because a drink driving offence is considered to be a very serious offence in Australia. Offenders are liable to convictions, which result in a criminal record.
A past drink driving conviction generally doesn’t affect a person’s ability to gain employment or be successful in other applications that require Police Checks. Only under certain circumstances will it be potentially damaging, such as when applying to driving jobs.
That said, some drink driving offences become spent after 10 years, provided that the person has not reoffended in that time and that the original offence did not result in a hefty prison sentence.