Drink Driving

IN NSW, Drink Driving offences fall within two distinct categories:

Driving with the prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA)

Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or other drug (DUI)

The Courts treat Drink Driving matters as “Major Offences” which can attract heavy fines, periods of licence disqualification and terms of imprisonment. For a second or subsequent drink driving offence within 5 years, the sentences increase significantly.

In certain circumstances, the court will dismiss a PCA matter pursuant to Section 10. This means you will receive no conviction, fine or disqualification.

The majority of drink driving matters before courts are PCA offences where a precise blood-alcohol reading is obtained. There are five distinct categories:

Novice Range PCA means a concentration of more than zero grams but less than 0.02 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – this range only applies to holders of learner or provisional licences. The legal limit for learner and provisional licences is 0.00.

Special Range PCA means a concentration of 0.02 grams or more, but less than 0.05 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – this range only applies to a special category of driver.

Low range PCA means a concentration of 0.05 grams or more but less than 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

Middle range PCA means a concentration of 0.08 grams or more but less than 0.15 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

High range PCA means a concentration of 0.15 grams or more of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

All of the PCA categories carry mandatory disqualification periods upon conviction. These automatic periods can be reduced to minimum periods if the court can be persuaded it is appropriate in the circumstances.

If you have had three or more relevant offences within five years, you will be declared to be a habitual traffic offender. The declaration is made by the RMS regardless of whether the Magistrate addresses the issue. The automatic period of disqualification is five years in addition to any disqualification period that may be imposed by the court. The court has the power to quash the habitual traffic offender declaration completely, if adding a further five years to the existing disqualification would be a disproportionate and unjust consequence in the circumstances.

The Traffic Offender Programs (TOP) is a course to re-educate drivers on the dangers of drink driving and speeding. There are a numerous TOP’s in operation and people are generally referred to the programs before being sentenced. A successful completion of TOP can help you achieve a better result when your matter is finalised in court.

The Interlock Program is another sentencing option that uses an electronic interlock device that is wired to your ignition. The potential benefit of participating in an interlock program is that you may serve a shorter licence disqualification period. The interlock program is voluntary and is available as a option for those who have committed certain alcohol related driving offence. People who wish to enter the program must pay for the cost of the installation of the device.

Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) allows a court to find a person guilty of an offence, but discharge the person without recording a conviction. In drink driving matters, a Section 10 means that the mandatory licence disqualification periods set by traffic legislation do not apply.

The mandatory licence disqualification periods only apply if you are convicted. An order under Section 10 may be granted either unconditionally or on condition that you enter into a good behaviour bond for a specified period. A Section 10 is not available if you have had the benefit of a Section 10 for another relevant offence in the previous five (5) years. (s203 RTA)

When being sentenced for drink driving matters, the Court looks closely at the circumstances surrounding the offence as well as any aggravating or mitigating factors. Aggravating features may include having a previous drink driving conviction or being involved in a crash while intoxicated. Mitigating factors include a good driving history or strong prospects for rehabilitation. The court will also take into consideration your individual circumstances before deciding on any disqualification period or term of imprisonment.

The outcome will ultimately depend on how well your case is prepared and presented to the Magistrate when you appear in Court.

For more information contact Newcastle Courts Lawyers to arrange a free first consultation.