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You’re charged with drink driving: do you need to notify Ahpra?

Dr Victoria Phan BMed MD MClinUS DCH FPAA Cert, Risk Adviser, Avant Risk Advisory Services

Rachel Knauer LLB BBus, Senior Associate, Professional Conduct, Avant Law

Monday, 19 February 2024

Policeman conducting random breath test

Its 6.48 pm, your last discharge summary has been finalised and it’s the first time that you have actually managed to finish before 7.00pm. It also marks the last day of your latest clinical rotation and you feel a real sense of achievement.

Now it’s time to let off a little steam at the end-of-term party. You arrive at the bar and the party is in full swing. It feels good to be around other people who understand how challenging these early years of training can be. 

The following day, you’re not rostered on, but you get a call at 6am from the hospital who need you to work a weekend afterhours shift, as sick relief cover.

You had your last drink at midnight, so you don’t believe you are over the legal drink driving limit and decide to drive to the hospital.

Five minutes into your journey you see flashing red and blue lights ahead and realise the police are conducting random breath tests.

You are pulled over and your blood alcohol count (BAC) is above the legal limit, and is deemed a low-range prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) offence.

Thoughts go racing through your mind: How will I get to work if I lose my licence? What does this offence mean for my Ahpra registration? Will I still get a training position?

Consequences of drink driving

Drink driving is one of the most common offences in Australia and whether your BAC is low, mid or high range, you have still committed a criminal offence. Different laws apply in different states and territories of Australia in relation to DUI offences. Penalties can vary, with a range of fines and/or licence disqualification periods, or even prison terms, depending on the nature of your offence and factors such as whether it is a first or subsequent offence. 

If you are charged with, plead guilty to, or are convicted of a DUI offence you may have an obligation to notify Ahpra within 7 days.  We therefore recommend that if you are charged with a DUI offence you promptly seek further information and advice from Avant’s Medico-legal Advisory Service by calling 1800 128 268.

Your Ahpra registration   

When you first apply for your registration with the Ahpra, the National Board requires you to declare your criminal history in all countries, including Australia. This includes:

  • Every conviction of a person for an offence.
  • Every plea of guilty or finding of guilt by a court of the person for an offence, whether or not a conviction is recorded for the offence.
  • Every charge made against the person for an offence.

Once registered, you must inform Ahpra if specified ‘relevant events’ occur and this notification must be made within seven days of you becoming aware that the ‘relevant event’ has occurred. Fines may be imposed for failing to notify Ahpra under your professional obligations pursuant to section 130 of the National Law.

‘Relevant events’ in relation to drink driving include being:

  • charged with an offence punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more; or 
  • convicted or found guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment in Australia and/or overseas1.

Ahpra conducts an Australian criminal history screening on every registration applicant and if applicable, an international criminal history check may also be required. It’s important to note that your application will be significantly delayed if you do not declare your criminal history in your application and a criminal history is found during the screening process.

While every case is decided on an individual basis, your criminal history will be considered based on a number of factors, such as the nature and gravity of the offence or alleged offence, and its relevance to health practice. For more information, view the criminal history registration standard.

Your cover with Avant

Our indemnity insurance policies provide cover for defending a complaint or investigation brought before a registration board.

Useful resources

AHPRA – registration

References:

  1. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Criminal history checks

Disclaimers

Professional indemnity insurance products are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. Please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording, available at avant.org.au/interns-rmo1-indemnity-insurance before deciding whether to acquire, or continue to hold the product.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published.

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