Alcohol laws

In Australia, alcohol is a legal drug. However, laws restricting its manufacture, supply, sale, promotion and consumption do apply. If you break these laws, you are likely to have legal action taken against you.

Drink driving

Throughout Australia, it is an offence to drive or attempt to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This includes:

  • cyclists
  • people on skateboards and rollerblades
  • riders of animals
  • drivers of vehicles drawn by animals
  • passengers acting as a qualified supervising driver for a learner driver.

Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol

A person can be charged with driving while exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit according to the type of licence they hold.

To be charged with driving while exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol, it is not necessary to show that the driver is affected by alcohol, merely that they are over the legal limit.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) (PDF 125KB) is a measure of the amount of alcohol in the body in grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (g%).

Driving under the influence

Someone who is driving while affected by alcohol can be convicted of an offence even though their BAC is less than the limit specified in the relevant state or territory. 'Driving Under the Influence' is the legal name for this offence under the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA).

Learner/probationary drivers

It is against the law for learner/probationary drivers to drive with any alcohol in their body as it is a breach of their learner/probationary conditions. Drink driving provisions also apply to someone acting as a qualified passenger for a learner driver.

Alcotests and breathalysers

Any driver/rider can be required to submit to an alcohol (a breath screening test that indicates the approximate level of alcohol in the blood) by the police.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) it is an offence to refuse to submit to an alcotest.

Drink driving penalties

There are a range of penalties that apply to drink driving, depending on the seriousness of the offence, and whether the person has a conviction for a prior drink driving offence.

Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme

An alcohol interlock device is a breath testing device fitted to a motor vehicle that requires a person to pass a breath alcohol test before they can start their motor vehicle or continue to operate the vehicle. This requirement may apply in serious drink driving offences.

Alcohol and boating

Under section 70 of the Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) it is an offence for a person operating a vessel* or a crew member with responsibility for running a vessel (eg the driver of a recreational vessel and, if a ski boat, the observer; or an employee on a commercial vessel, such as skipper, engineer or navigator) to carry out their responsibilities while affected by alcohol.

*A vessel means any boat, ship, air-cushioned water vehicle, surfboard, wind surfboard, motorised jet ski, water ski or device on which a person rides through water, and also includes any structure designed to float in water and used for commercial, industrial or scientific purposes.

The sale and consumption of alcohol

In South Australia, the legislation that controls the sale and consumption of alcohol is the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (the Act). The principal aim of the Act is to minimise the harm associated with the consumption of alcohol in the community of South Australia.

There are a number of licence categories available and each licence category has a number of requirements, which are detailed in the Act.

It is the responsibility of the licensee and their staff to ensure acceptable standards are maintained and that premises function with due regard to responsible serving of alcohol principles and the Liquor Licensing Act 1997.

In South Australia, there is also a mandatory Code of Practice that prohibits licensees from promoting the irresponsible consumption of alcohol. Penalties exist for licensees who do not comply with this code.

For further information on liquor licensing legislation, please contact Consumer and Business Services, phone 131 882.

Intoxication on licensed premises

Under section 108 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, it is an offence for anyone to supply or sell liquor on a licensed premises to an intoxicated person.

Intoxication guidelines.

Complaints against licensed premises

South Australia Police and the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner are responsible for enforcing the Liquor Licensing Act 1997. Complaints should be directed to the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner (Consumer and Business Services) in the first instance.

Laws relating to minors

Supply of liquor to minors:

The law changed on 18 December 2017 to introduce new penalties for people who illegally supply alcohol to anyone under 18. Read more on the Consumer and Business Services website.

There are several provisions under the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 which relate to minors, primarily in Part 7 (pg 78).

Distillation of alcohol

It is illegal to use a still (of any capacity) to distil alcohol, for example spirits, without an excise manufacturer licence.

Penalties of up to $85,000 or more or two years jail can apply for distilling alcohol without a licence.

It is also illegal to buy, make, possess, or sell a still without permission from the Australian Taxation Office if it has a capacity more than five litres.

For more information, visit the Australian Taxation Office website or contact:

Telephone: 1300 137 290
Fax: 1300 130 916

Alcohol and work

There are laws relating to the consumption of alcohol at work, which may pose a safety risk.

Intoxication in a public place

A 'public place' is defined as anywhere to which the general public has access. While it is not a criminal offence to be intoxicated in a public place, the Public Intoxication Act 1984 (SA) provides for police to take intoxicated people into protective custody and take them to one of the following safe places:

  • the person's home
  • a sobering-up unit
  • a place proclaimed by the Minister
  • a police station.

Dry areas

In South Australia, there are designated dry areas as part of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, which sees public areas such as reserves, main shopping precincts, car parks and foreshores remain free from alcohol.

Aboriginal communities

Legislation relating to the supply and consumption of alcohol on Aboriginal lands includes the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 and the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013.

Under these laws some Aboriginal communities and areas, including the APY Lands and Yalata, have banned the possession, consumption, sale or supply of alcohol on their land.

For further information:

Drinking and public transport

There are laws relating to intoxication on public transport.

Further information

The State Library, corner Kintore Ave and North Terrace, Adelaide SA 
Telephone: (08) 8207 7250


Telephone Legal Advice (free)
Legal Services Commission
Telephone: 1300 366 424

Drink driving laws and penalties

Traffic Training and Promotion Section (SA Police)
Telephone: (08) 8207 6586

Liquor licensing

Consumer and Business Services
Telephone: 131 882

Alcohol advertising

Advertising Standards Board (Ad Standards)
Telephone: (02) 6172 1500

Alcohol or other drugs

Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
(Confidential telephone information and counselling)
Telephone: 1300 13 1340 (South Australian callers - local call fee)
Available from 8.30 am to 10.00 pm every day