The Liquor Control Act 1988 outlines a number of offences that apply to what is commonly referred to as "street drinking". The aim of this fact sheet is to dispel some of the myths that exist when it comes to legal issues surrounding the consumption of alcohol in public places.
Note the below examples do not apply to private residences.
Public roads and private vehicles
It is an offence (except where a permit or licence applies) to drink liquor on any public road or street. This includes drinking in a motor vehicle on any public road or street.
Parks and other public places
It is an offence for a person to consume liquor in any public place without the consent of the owner (or controlling authority). This includes areas such as streets, parks, reserves, car parks, beaches and so on.
An offence is committed if liquor is consumed within 400 metres of a public hall during the conduct of any entertainment in that hall to which the public is permitted to have access.
Any person found on unlicensed public premises where liquor is being unlawfully provided or consumed is committing an offence and may be issued with an infringement notice or prosecuted. However, if a person can prove they were not involved, they will not be liable for prosecution or an infringement notice.
Sports grounds and stadiums
A person is committing an offence if they consume or bring liquor into any sports ground, stadium or similar. However, this does not apply if:
- It is an event in which the participants take part for their own recreation (i.e. not by way of public exhibition);
- A licence or permit has been permitted which allows the possession and sale of liquor; and
- The event is a private function where liquor is supplied free of charge (eg a wedding reception).
Powers of the police in relation to public drinking
Under section 155 of the Act, a police officer may seize and dispose of any opened container of liquor that is in the possession of a person in a public place. As far as unopened containers are concerned, a police officer may seize the liquor where it is suspected that it will be unlawfully consumed in a public place. Unopened liquor will be taken as evidence.
For example: A person is observed street-drinking by a police officer. The person has in his possession an open stubby of beer and a number of unopened stubbies. The officer has the right to dispose of the opened liquor and seize (as evidence) the unopened bottles.
Where an event is declared a "special event" (by the Minister for Racing and Gaming) under section 126 of the Act, such as the January 26 Skyshow, police have the power to seize and dispose of both opened and unopened liquor.
The discretion to exercise this power rests entirely with the Police.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this fact sheet is general in nature – for full details, reference should be made to the Liquor Control Act 1988.