Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions for Drink & Drug Driving in Victoria

  • BAC – An initialism of the words Blood Alcohol Concentration. Your BAC is the measurement of the amount of alcohol in your body and is measured in grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. To get a limit of 0.05, this means that you have less than 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
  • PCA – An initialism of the words Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol. The PCA is a legal term which designates the amount of alcohol permitted in the body when driving. In the case of most fully licenced drivers, they must be under 0.05 and in the case of Learners, Probationary drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers, this level is designated as 0.00.
  • PBT – An initialism of the words Preliminary Breath Test. The PBT is administered by police with hand-held breathalyser device.  If the PBT indicates that you have alcohol on your breath, you will be required to undertake an Evidentiary Breath Test.
  • Evidentiary Breath Test  An Evidentiary Breath Test is usually administered at a booze bus or back at a police station using an approved breath analysing instrument. The Evidentiary Breath Test is the reading that is used in Court to prove your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
  • Alcohol interlock – A device that is capable of (a) analysing a breath sample for the presence of alcohol; and (b) if it detects more than a certain concentration of alcohol, prevents the motor vehicle from being started.
  • Full drivers licence – A drivers licence, other than a probationary or learner drivers licence.
  • Charge – This is the formal, written way that police allege an offence against you.
  • Summons – A document where police allege an offence against you (‘charge‘) and tells you which police officer has charged you as well as the date and location that your case is listed at Court.
  • Bail – The temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court. An accused may be released on bail on a drink driving case if they have lots of prior convictions or the police want to make sure you attend court. You will have to sign a document promising to attend court. Other conditions can also be attached to bail including a residential address, reporting to police, curfew, not attending certain premises or not contacting certain people. Most of these conditions of bail won’t apply to a drink driving case.
  • Accused – A term used to describe a person charged with a criminal offence.
  • Informant – The term used to describe a person who brings a charge before the court (usually the police officer who charged you).
  • Summary offence A less serious charge that must be heard in the Magistrates Court (eg: drink driving, drug driving, driving suspended).
  • Mention – A type of hearing when your case is listed at Court.
  • First Mention  The first time your case is listed in Court.
  • Further Mention A second or subsequent listing of your matter, after an ‘adjournment’.
  • Adjournment When your case is postponed to another date.
  • Case Conference – When your case is listed at Court and where your lawyer and the police talk, without the presence of a Magistrate, about the charges to try and find middle ground. This occurs before your matter is adjourned for a Contest Mention.
  • Contest Mention When you have indicated to the Court at a ‘Mention’ that you intend to contest the charge, your case gets adjourned to a Contest Mention date. On this date, you (or your lawyer) and the police prosecutor will discuss the issues in the case before a Magistrate and whether it can resolve into a plea or will proceed to a Not Guilty Contested Hearing.
  • Contested Hearing Where you plead Not Guilty to the charge(s) and evidence is called by the police to try to prove the charge against you. This is the date that you can call witnesses or other evidence in your defence (if you want to). A Magistrate decides whether the charges are proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no jury.
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt  The term used to describe the test applied by a Court to the evidence in criminal cases before a finding of guilt may be made. This is a very high standard and can be contrasted with civil cases which only require evidence to be proved ‘on the balance of probabilities’.
  • Acquittal When a Magistrate finds you not guilty of the charges.
  • Plea When you have been found guilty or decided to plead guilty to the charge, you have the opportunity to address the Magistrate about the sentence they should impose.
  • Conviction – A Magistrate can impose a non-custodial (no jail) sentence with or without conviction. This depends on the seriousness of the offence and any prior criminal or driving you have. A conviction may affect future job or travel opportunities.
  • Appeal – There are two types of appeals: Appeals against Conviction and Appeals against Sentence. An Appeal against Conviction is where, if found guilty, you can send your case up one level to the County Court to have a rehearing of the evidence in front of a Judge. An Appeal against Sentence is when you agree that you are guilty of the charge, but you send your case up one level to the County Court to argue for a lesser sentence than the one you received from the Magistrate.
  • Ex Parte Hearing When a court case is heard in the accused’s absence (ex parte = without the party).
  • Warrant  A document issued by a court that authorises the police to arrest a person or search a premises.
  • Oath – A solemn promise to tell the truth, often based on a holy book of the witnesses choice (Bible, Quran, etc). Stated as follows: “I swear (or I promise) by Almighty God (or any other God) that the evidence I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
  • Affirmation – A solemn promise to tell the truth, but not based on a holy book. Stated as follows: “I solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

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