What to do if you are pulled over at a Booze Bus or Police Car in Melbourne Victoria

There are a number of obligations that drivers should be aware of when approaching a Booze Bus.

Victoria Police may set up a booze Bus in the vicinity of any highway in Victoria. Any police officer, who is on duty and wearing a uniform, can request or signal ANY person driving a vehicle to stop and remain stopped at the booze bus.

There is a general requirement that people stopped at a booze bus, not be stopped “any longer than is necessary”, this means as long as is required to complete a preliminary breath test or 3 hours, whichever is sooner.

Therefore, if police signal you to stop at a booze bus, it can be an offence to disobey a lawful direction (max fine of about $600). It can be a defence to the charge if the police officer was not in uniform and you didn’t recognise them as a police officer.

If requested to give a sample of breath into a breathalyser, you must comply with that request. If you refuse, this can be an offence of “refusing a preliminary breath test” which carries with it serious penalties including fines and a mandatory 2 year loss of licence, even for a first offence.

Generally, the police won’t tell you your reading on the breathalyser, but if you are over 0.05 (or 0.00 for a P-plater or Learner) you will be asked to accompany them to the booze bus or a police station for an ‘evidentiary test‘. If you refuse, this can again be an offence of “refusing a preliminary breath test” which carries with it serious penalties including fines and a mandatory 2 year loss of licence, even for a first offence.

While you wait for the evidentiary breath test, police have a form that they are required to fill out and will ask you a number of questions. Your answers will be written down. The questions will include “How many drinks have you had?” and “what type of alcohol were you drinking?” etc. You do not need to answer these questions. Anything you say can AND WILL be used against you in court if you are charged with an offence. You can say NO COMMENT to these questions. Remember, you have the right to remain silent.

Once the evidentiary breath test is conducted in the booze bus, you will be told your reading. If you are over the prescribed limit, you will be cautioned. This means that police will tell you about your right to remain silent and anything you say or do can be used in court as evidence against you. Police will take notes about anything you say and will use it in evidence against you. You do not have to say anything other than to state your name and address.

Once the Police have determined that you are over the limit, they can immediately suspend your licence on the spot under the following circumstances (s51):
• If you are fully licenced and you blow 0.10 or over
• It is not your first offence (second, third, etc – even if you only blow 0.051)
• If you hold a probationary licence or learner permit and blow 0.07 or over
• If you refuse to provide a sample

If you are served with a section 51 Notice of Immediate Suspension, you cannot drive your car until your court matter is finalised. The only way that you can try to keep your licence until your matter is finalised in court is to appeal the licence suspension under section 51(10) of the Road Safety Act. You must spell out your grounds/reasons for appeal, give 14 days’ notice to the police and prosecution of your appeal and serve documents; then your matter will be listed in the Magistrates Court for hearing. You cannot drive during this 14 day notice period. At the appeal hearing, you must demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” as to why your licence should not be cancelled until your court case is heard (This is a very high standard, eg: the case against you is weak and you have a real chance of winning). You may want to consider getting a lawyer to assist you with this appeal process.

Even if you are not served with a s51 notice, Police will not permit you to drive your car home after you have blown over the limit. You will be required to arrange a taxi or a lift with someone. Sometimes police will confiscate your keys if they believe that you intend to drive the car. If you refuse, you can be charged with an offence (max fine of about $600). They are only allowed to keep your keys for as “long as necessary” to make sure you don’t drive drunk.

The next steps
Police have up to 12 months to charge you with an offence. You should expect to receive a ‘Summons‘ in the mail from the police. A summons is a document where police allege an offence against you (a ‘charge‘) and tells you which police officer has charged you as well as the date and location that your case is listed at Court.

If you choose not to appeal, or are unsuccessful in appealing the s51 immediate suspension notice, you cannot drive until your court case is finalised. However, any time spent off the road will be credited towards any licence suspension you receive at the end of your case.

If you drive during this period of suspension and are caught, you can be charged with another criminal offence “driving whilst suspended”. These charges can carry maximum penalties of large fines, further licence suspension and even jail.