SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- In Victoria, there are alcohol laws governing drinking in a public place, underage drinking, liquor licensing and drink driving.
- Breaches of the law carry penalties, such as fines, imprisonment and loss of licence.
- Victoria’s alcohol laws aim to minimise harm from alcohol.
On this page
- How alcohol affects our health
- Reasons for alcohol laws
- Alcohol laws in Victoria
- Public drunkenness in Victoria
- Alcohol-related violence trouble spots
- Barring problem customers from licensed premises
- Victoria’s laws for underage drinking
- Penalties for underage drinking
- Victoria’s liquor licensing laws
- Drink driving laws in Victoria
- Breath testing
- Drink driving penalties in Victoria
- Where to get help
How alcohol affects our health
Alcohol is Australia’s most widely used drug. Drinking alcohol can affect the way our body functions. It can also cause significant harm within the community – especially when it is consumed at risky levels.
Drinking can increase your risk of alcohol-related illness and injury, including:
- bowel, breast, throat and mouth cancer
- liver disease
- cardiovascular disease (CVD) (such as heart disease and stroke)
- accidents and falls (such as motor vehicle crashes and alcohol poisoning)
The Australian Drinking Guidelines recommend that to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury:
- healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
An Australian standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (12.5ml of pure alcohol) – and one serving of alcohol is usually more than one ‘standard drink’ as different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol.
The less you drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option.
Reasons for alcohol laws
Every Australian state and territory has laws governing the use and service of alcohol – and these may differ depending on the state or territory you are in.
Laws can help to minimise the harmful effects of alcohol on our health and well-being and protect the community from risky behaviour caused by alcohol use.
Alcohol laws in Victoria
Within Victoria, alcohol laws have consequences (such as fines, imprisonment or disqualification from driving) to deter people from risky behaviour.
In Victoria, there are alcohol laws and consequences relating to:
- drinking in a public place
- underage drinking (including secondary supply)
- liquor licensing
- drink driving.
You are breaking the law anywhere in Australia if you drink and drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.05.
Public drunkenness in Victoria
Under Victoria’s Summary Offences Act 1966, there are a few ways you can get in trouble with the law while drinking alcohol in a public place.
If you’re drunk in a public place, there are 3 offences you can be arrested and charged with. Police may also place you in custody until you are sober.
If you’re convicted of one of these offences, the following penalties apply:
A penalty unit is how a fine is calculated. The amount of one penalty unit is indexed and increases each year on 1 July. Currently, one penalty unit is over $180.
Victoria Legal Aid has more information about current penalty unit rates. However, this offense is set to be decriminalised in Victoria in 2023.
Alcohol-related violence trouble spots
Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, certain areas shown to have a greater tendency for alcohol related violence and antisocial behaviour can be classified as ‘designated areas’. This determination is made by the Victorian Liquor Commission (VLC) in consultation with the Chief Commissioner of Police.
Once an area has been ‘designated’ Victoria Police has the power to ban people from that area for up to 72 hours for various offences (including drunkenness, physical assault, destroying or damaging property and failure to leave licensed premises. Repeat offenders can be banned for up to 12 months.
Barring problem customers from licensed premises
There are 3 ways problem customers can be barred or banned from licensed premises:
- General powers to refuse entry – every licensee can refuse entry or ask a person to leave (as long as this refusal is non-discriminatory)
- Ban entry under a liquor accord – licensees can join or sign a ‘liquor accord agreement’ to ban troublesome people.
- Issue a Barring Order Victoria Police, licensees or ‘responsible persons’ can issue an order that is enforced by Victoria Police.
When someone is served with a Barring Order, they must leave the venue and its vicinity (the area within 20 metres of the venue). They cannot return until the Barring Order expires.
If you do not comply with the requirements of a Barring Order, police may issue an on-the-spot fine.
Barring can be for up to 1 month (for a first order). If you’ve been barred more than once, you can be barred for up to 6 months.
Victoria’s laws for underage drinking
The legal drinking age in Victoria is 18. If you’re under 18, there are several ways you can get in trouble with the law if you buy or drink alcohol.
If you’re under 18, you’re not allowed to buy alcohol, even if you’re buying it for an adult (someone over the age of 18).
If you’re an adult who supplies alcohol for someone who is under 18, this is known as secondary supply.
If you’re under 18 and you ask someone over 18 to buy alcohol for you they can get fined. Secondary supply is completely prohibited in a licensed venue. In a private residence, alcohol can be supplied by a parent or guardian of the minor, or by a responsible adult who has explicit permission from the parent or guardian.
These laws and penalties also apply to online alcohol orders and deliveries.
Places that are licenced to supply alcohol and delivery companies need to check identification (IDs) and make sure they do not give alcohol to anyone who is already intoxicated.
Going to a pub, bar or other licensed premises
If you are under 18, you are not allowed to be in a licensed place (such as a bar or pub) where alcohol is served unless you are:
- with a responsible adult
- having a meal
- a resident of the licensed place
- employed by the licensed venue but not involved in the supply of alcohol
- completing an approved training program in hospitality.
You, the person who is serving you, and the owner of the licensed place, can be fined if you’re caught and do not satisfy one or more of the above categories.
A liquor licensee can receive hefty fines (in the thousands) for selling alcohol to a minor (anyone under 18).
Proof of age
You may be asked for proof of age in a licensed place or when ordering alcohol online.
People selling alcohol in licensed places can be fined if they serve alcohol to someone who is under the legal drinking age (under 18).
It’s an offence to give a false name and address, or to refuse to show proof of age, and you can be fined.
A driver’s licence is the best proof of age, but if you don’t have one, you can get a proof of age card which is recognised across Australia. Application forms are available at some VicRoads and Australia Post offices and the Victorian Liquor Commission.
Underage drinking in private homes
The Liquor Control Reform Act requires adults supplying alcohol to anyone under 18 in their home to demonstrate responsible supervision of the supply of liquor. The following laws apply:
- parents or guardians may allow their children (under 18) to drink in their own home
- you cannot supply alcohol to any other children (under 18) in your home without consent from their parent or guardian. Hefty fines apply.
If you are organising a party or social event for anyone under 18 you need to get written consent from their parents or guardians.
Authorities consider certain factors to determine whether responsible supervision has been demonstrated. This includes:
- age of the young person and whether they are intoxicated (drunk)
- whether the adult supplying the liquor is intoxicated
- whether the young person consumes food with the alcohol
- whether the adult who supplies the alcohol provides adequate supervision of the young person who is drinking
- the quantity and type of alcohol supplied
- how long the alcohol is supplied.
Penalties for underage drinking
Penalties are in place to help minimise the risks of drinking for anyone under 18. One penalty unit is nearly $190 – the maximum is 60 penalty units.
The following penalties apply in Victoria:
| ||60 units (maximum)|
up to 10 units
| ||up to 5 units|
Victoria’s liquor licensing laws
Every state and territory has liquor licensing laws. Liquor licences regulate:
- who supplies alcohol
- who it can be supplied to
- when it can supplied or consumed
- where it can be supplied or consumed
- how it is supplied.
In Victoria, the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 controls the sale and supply of alcohol. One of its objectives is to minimise alcohol-related harm.
The VLC administers Victoria’s liquor licensing laws. It’s an independent statutory authority responsible for:
- administering liquor licences
- undertaking disciplinary action where necessary
- promoting awareness of and voluntary compliance with the State’s liquor laws.
Generally, anyone who intends to sell or provide liquor in Victoria must have a liquor licence from the VLC. However, there are a number of exemptions for smaller businesses whose primary service is not liquor-related.
People in the community have the right to object to an application for a liquor licence. More information is available from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation's community hub.
Breaches of a liquor licence carry penalties.
Drink driving laws in Victoria
Alcohol is a major factor in road deaths in Victoria.
According to the Transport Accident Commission around 1 in 5 drivers and riders killed each year in Victoria had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.05.
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit
The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for fully licensed drivers in Victoria, and all other states and territories, is 0.05.
In Victoria, you must have a zero (0.00) BAC if you are:
- on a learner permit (L plates)
- on a probationary licence (P1 or P2 plates)
- a bus or taxi driver
- drive a truck over 4.5 tonnes GVM
- a restricted motorcycle rider (shown as an ‘E’ condition)
- a driver who has been relicensed after a drink-driving or drug-driving cancellation
- a driving instructor.
Factors that influence blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
The only way to accurately measure your BAC is by using a fully calibrated testing machine.
A lot of factors can influence your BAC. These include:
- the amount and type of alcohol consumed
- the rate of drinking and time since the last drink
- the amount of alcohol remaining in the stomach
- other foods or liquids in the stomach
- the amount of alcohol already metabolised by the liver
- your general health
- the condition of your liver
- your metabolic rate
- physical factors (such as body size and lean tissue to body fat ratio)
- volume of water in body tissues – can be affected by things such as medication, illness and your menstrual cycle.
As everyone’s BAC can be different, the only way to be sure is to not drink alcohol if you are going to drive.
Victoria Police carries out extensive roadside breath testing, screening millions of drivers for the presence of alcohol each year.
The procedure is straightforward. The driver is instructed to blow into a hand-held device until deep lung air is exhaled. The BAC reading is given on the digital display.
Refusing a breath test is a serious offence with severe penalties. A driver who does not cooperate is likely to be fined and disqualified from driving.
Drink driving penalties in Victoria
In Victoria, the penalties for drink driving depend on factors such as:
- your BAC level
- type of offence and when it happened
- your age
- driver’s licence or permit held
- whether you have prior drink-driving offences.
If you are convicted of drink driving in Victoria you may:
- lose your licence
- face fines
- have your vehicle impounded or immobilised
- complete a Behaviour Change Program
- need to install a VicRoads approved alcohol interlock to any vehicle you drive – this is a requirement to have your licence or permit reissued
- face possible imprisonment.
It is also an offence to drink alcohol while driving a car, or while sitting beside someone who is learning to drive, even if there is no alcohol detected in the driver's blood or breath.
Significant penalties also apply in Victoria to drivers who are caught driving with a combination of illicit drugs in their system and a blood or BAC reading over the legal limit.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- DrugInfo Tel. 1300 85 85 84
- Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) Tel. 1300 660 068
- Alcohol and other drug treatment services
- DirectLine Tel. 1800 888 236
- Your local community health service
- Victorian Liquor Commission Tel. 1300 182 457
- Victoria Legal Aid – for free information about the law, and how VLA can help you Tel. 1300 792 387, 8.45 am to 5.15 pm, Monday to Friday
- VicRoads Tel. 13 11 71 (Monday to Friday 8am-5.30pm, Saturday 8.30am-12.30pm)
- Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, 2019, National Health and Medical Research Council.
- Alcohol, 2020, Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
- Alcohol, Department of Health, Australian Government.
- Alcohol and other drugs, VicRoads, Victorian Government.
- Public drunkenness, Victoria Legal Aid, Victorian Government
- Barring powers – liquor licensing fact sheet, Victorian Liquor Commission
- Victoria - liquor licensing, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia