COVID-19 response

If you are looking for the latest legal information relating current Coronavirus laws in New Zealand, check out our new section: Coronavirus and the Law.

Communtity Law Manual | Driving & traffic law | Alcohol: The drink-driving offences

Drink/drug driving

Alcohol: The drink-driving offences

Driving while over the alcohol limits

Adults driving over the alcohol limits

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 11, 11A, 12, 58(1)(b)

If you’re 20 or older, you must not drive, or try to drive, a vehicle while:

  • your breath-alcohol level is more than 250 micrograms per litre, as shown by an evidential breath test, or
  • your blood-alcohol level is more than 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres, as shown by a blood test.

There are two levels of penalties, depending on how far over the limits you are:

  • Land Transport Act 1998, s 56

    Infringement notice if under 400 mcg / 80 mg – If your breath-alcohol level is between 250 and 400 micrograms, or if your blood-alcohol level is between 50 and 80 milligrams, you can be given a $200 on-the-spot infringement notice. This is similar to a speeding ticket, in that you don’t have to go to court and you don’t get a criminal record (see “Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with” in this chapter). You’ll also get demerit points.

  • Criminal charges if over 400 mcg / 80 mg – If your breath-alcohol level is more than 400 micrograms, or your blood-alcohol level is more than 80 milligrams, you can be prosecuted through the courts and, if convicted, can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500. You’ll also be automatically disqualified for at least six months. If it’s your first offence, you’ll typically have to pay a fine in proportion to how far over the limit you are. For being over the breath-alcohol limit, the dollar amount of the fine will usually be the same as your breath-alcohol level – for example, for breath-alcohol of 500 mcg (100 mcg over the limit), you’ll be fined $500, for 600 mcg you’ll be fined $600, and so on. For being over the blood-alcohol limit, typical fines for a first offender work in the same way, but multiplied by five – for example, if your blood-alcohol level is 100 mg (10 mg over the limit), you’ll be fined $500, for 120 mg you’ll be fined $600, and so on. As well as the fine you’ll usually have to pay court costs. For a second drink-driving offence, likely sentences can depend on, for example, how soon after the first offence it is. For a third offence, the maximum penalties are much more serious: see “Repeated or serious drink/drug driving: Heavier penalties” in this chapter.

Under-20s driving over the alcohol limit

Land Transport Act 1998, s 11(c)

If you’re under 20, the breath-alcohol and blood-alcohol limits are zero. So if you have any alcohol at all in your breath or blood, you can be fined and given demerit points.

There are three levels of penalties for driving over the breath- or blood-alcohol limits when you’re under 20, depending on how far over the limits you are:

  • Land Transport Act 1998, ss 56, 57

    Infringement notice if under 150 mcg / 30 mg – If your breath-alcohol level is between zero and 150 micrograms, or your blood-alcohol level is between zero and 30 milligrams, you can be given an $200 on-the-spot infringement notice, and you’ll also get demerit points. You don’t get a criminal record for this.

  • Criminal charges if over 150 mcg / 30 mg – If your breath-alcohol level is between 150 and 400 micrograms, or your blood-alcohol level is between 30 and 80 milligrams, you can be prosecuted through the courts and, if convicted, can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $2,250. You’ll also be automatically disqualified for at least three months, and you’ll get demerit points.
  • Heavier criminal penalties if over 400 mcg / 80 mg – If your breath-alcohol level is more than 400 micrograms, or your blood-alcohol level is more than 80 milligrams, you can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500, and you’ll be automatically disqualified for at least six months. Those penalties are the same as for adult drivers (see above, “Adults driving over the alcohol limits”).

    Note: If you hold an alcohol interlock licence or a zero-alcohol licence, the legal limit for you is zero alcohol.

    Land Transport Act 1998, s 11(d)

Driving while affected by alcohol

Offence to drive when incapable of control because of alcohol

Land Transport Act 1998, s 12

It’s an offence to drive, or try to drive, while you’re under the influence of alcohol so that you can’t properly control your vehicle.

For a first or second conviction, you can be jailed up to three months or fined up to $4,500, and you’ll be automatically disqualified for at least six months.

back to top
Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out LoudPress Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out LoudPress Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out LoudScreen Reader Support