Each Australian state and territory has laws that regulate the consumption of alcohol and our behaviour when we are under the influence of alcohol.
We all know that if you drink and drive with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.05 you are breaking the law. In most states, learner drivers, P-platers and commercial drivers (such as bus drivers) must have a BAC of nil.
In Tasmania, WA, the ACT and Queensland, drinking a "roadie" on your way home, even if you are not over the limit, can lead to a fine.
Leaving the car at home and riding your pushbike – or your horse – to the local pub may seem like a good idea but this is also illegal in most states.
A Queensland woman found this out the hard way when she was arrested for allegedly riding her horse through a drive-through bottle shop while four times over the legal limit.
The laws in Victoria make being drunk while in charge of a “carriage” an offence, a hang-over from the days of a horse and cart, whereas other states such as NSW and Tasmania consider a bicycle to be a vehicle, and WA and Queensland have laws that specifically relate to being under the influence while riding a bike.
The same blood alcohol limits apply to the skippers of boats in most states.
Penalties for drink-driving, boating or riding can include heavy fines, loss of licence, impoundment of vehicles and community-based orders or imprisonment, depending on the nature and seriousness of the charge.
Drinking in public is another charge that can often catch revellers by surprise.
In some local council areas, enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine at a local park can lead to a fine.
Most local councils have restrictions on where and when alcohol can be consumed in public, with some imposing permanent alcohol-free zones (such most public roads, footpaths and also Melbourne’s CBD) or at certain times of the year (Australia Day or New Year’s Eve).
Interestingly, there are no laws that make it an offence for a person under 18 to drink alcohol in a private home with parental consent and supervision.
The offences around under-age drinking relate to selling alcohol to a minor, and a minor drinking at licensed premises or in a public place.
Alison and Jillian Barrett are both principals at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The Queensland sisters are experienced lawyers and passionate social justice campaigners. Alison juggles motherhood, as well as heading up a major legal practice area. Younger sister Jillian also leads a team of lawyers and sports a double degree in Law and Journalism.
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