Drink Driving

Drink driving is often considered to be a trivial matter. However, this is not the case. Drink driving, even for a first offender, will very likely result in the recording of a criminal conviction, a fine and a period of licence disqualification. For mid and high range offenders, a sentence of imprisonment is not out of range, depending on the circumstances in which the offence occurred.

Novice Range Drink Driving
Broadly speaking, this offence will usually apply to persons who have a special licence such as a learner’s licence, P1 licence or P2 licence. The charge also applies to persons driving without a valid licence, including suspended and disqualified drivers.

The offence of Novice Range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.00 and up to 0.019. The maximum penalty for this charge depends on whether a person is a first offender or repeat offender. In either case, the starting point in sentencing would be for a criminal conviction to be recorded, a fine to be imposed and the offender’s licence disqualified for six months.

Low Range Drink Driving
The offence of Low Range PCA is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.05 to 0.079. The maximum penalty for this charge depends on whether a person is a first offender or repeat offender. In either case, the starting point in sentencing would be for a criminal conviction to be recorded, a fine to be imposed and the offender’s licence disqualified for six months.

Mid-Range Drink Driving
The offence of mid-range PCA is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.149. Following the recording of a criminal conviction the maximum penalty for a first offender is imprisonment for 9 months, a fine of 20 penalty units and automatic licence disqualification for 12 months. The maximum penalty for a repeat offender following the recording of a criminal conviction is imprisonment for 12 months, a fine of 30 penalty units and automatic licence disqualification for three years.

High Range Drink Driving
The offence of high range PCA is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.150 or above. The maximum penalty for a first offender is the recording of a criminal conviction, imprisonment for 18 months, a fine of 30 penalty units and an automatic licence disqualification for 3 years. The maximum penalty for a repeat offender is the recording of a criminal conviction, imprisonment for 2 years, a fine of 50 penalty units and an automatic licence disqualification for 5 years.

Sentencing for high range drink driving matters is also regulated by the NSW Guideline Judgement for high range drink driving matters. Under these guidelines, a s10 cannot be granted.

Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program

From 1 February 2015, courts will order offenders convicted of high range, repeat and other serious drink driving offences to complete:

A minimum licence disqualification period, and
A period of participation in the interlock program (at least 12 months).

What is an interlock?

Interlocks are electronic breath testing devices linked to the ignition system of cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles.

Drivers must provide a breath sample that the interlock analyses for the presence of alcohol before the vehicle will start. If a positive sample is detected, the vehicle will not start. Randomly timed breath tests must also be passed during a journey.

Who is required to participate in the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program?

All drivers convicted of a repeat or serious drink driving offence committed on or after 1 February 2015 will receive an interlock order that requires them to participate in the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program (unless the court determines an exemption applies).

It is compulsory for High Range Drink Driving Offenders and two-time Mid-Range Drink Driving Offenders to participate in an Interlock Program.

A person who receives an interlock order and does not enter the interlock program will be disqualified from holding a licence (other than a learner or interlock licence) for a period of five years from the date of their conviction.

Interlock installation and servicing

Participants in the interlock program will be required to have an interlock device installed by an accredited interlock service provider. Participants will also be required to ensure their device is regularly serviced by an accredited interlock service provider during their time on the program.

Program costs

Costs associated with installing and servicing alcohol interlocks must be paid by the participant. It is estimated that the standard costs to participants will include interlock device installation, monthly device leasing, regular device servicing (monthly or bi monthly) and device removal at the end of the mandatory interlock period. These standard costs are estimated to be about $2,200 a year.

Medical consultation

General Practitioners (GP) have a critical role to play in the alcohol interlock program. There are up to three stages at which participants in the interlock program may need to visit their GP:

Stage 1: All participants must visit their GP before they enter the program.

Stage 2: Some participants may be asked to see their GP at certain stages of the program because of ongoing attempts to drive after drinking alcohol indicating ongoing risky behaviour or alcohol dependence.

Stage 3: Some participants may also be required to see their GP before completing the program, to have their fitness to drive a vehicle assessed.

Call us at our Sydney CBD office on 02 9635 3777 or Parramatta office on 02 9635 3777 for a confidential discussion, or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch with you shortly.