Criminal Law: Drink Driving Charges
Drink driving is not smart. It’s an act that could prove fatal to you and others. You should always consider how many drinks you’ve had or alternative transport if you’ve been drinking. With this in mind, the police are often about randomly breath testing drivers, in an attempt to keep the roads safer. It’s a serious offense and if you are charged it will be treated as such. If you have misjudged your suitability to drive and are caught it’s important to understand the charges and process that lies before you.
In NSW the blood alcohol limit for open license holders is 0.05. Learners permit and provisional license holders must have a 0.00 blood alcohol concentration. The severity of fines, license suspension/disqualification and potential jail time, vary depending on how far above the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) you are and how many offenses you have had before.
A low PCA is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to less than 0.08 (for open license holders). For a first offense, the maximum fine that can be applied is $1100, no jail time will be served and license disqualification is between 3-6 months. Second of further offenses incur a maximum $2200 fine, again no jail time and a license disqualification of at least 6 months, with an unlimited maximum period if the Magistrate determines so. Automatic disqualification is for 6 months for first offenders and 12 months for subsequent offenses. Disqualification can only be reduced to the minimums by the Magistrate. Low PCA offenders are not subject to immediate license suspension. The Magistrate also has the discretion to provide a Section 10. This dismisses the charge and as such any criminal record. An offender is more likely to obtain a Section 10 for a low-range PCA and it may be subject to conditions. As well as the particulars of the offense, factors like criminal records or driving history may influence getting a Section 10.
If the blood alcohol concentration of the driver is 0.08 to less than 0.15, the charge is for a mid-range PCA. The penalties increase for a mid-range PCA, with first offenders being fined a maximum of $2200 and potentially serving up to 9 months jail time. The minimum license disqualification period is 6 months. For second or subsequent offenses the potential fine and jail time increase to a maximum of $3300 and 12 months and the minimum license disqualification time increases to 12 months. The automatic disqualification for first offenders is 12 months, while for repeat offenders it is 3 years.
The most severe penalties are incurred for offenders with a high-range PCA. This is for drivers with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15. It is also important to note that any driver that refuses to provide a sample, is found to alter a sample, or hinders sample collection will also be considered to be a high-range PCA offender. Penalties for first offenders include a maximum $3300 fine as well as maximum jail term of 18 months as well as a minimum 12-month license disqualification. For second or further offenses the penalty is a maximum $5500 fine, a maximum 2-year jail term and a minimum of 2-year license disqualification. Automatic license disqualification periods are 3 years for first offenders and 5 years for repeat offenders.
A drink driving charge can not only be embarrassing but a little frightening when faced with the possible penalties. Self-representation may not give the best results, even for minor charges. If you have been charged with a drink driving offense and need legal help to navigate the process, our Team at CM lawyers can help. Our experience will help you get the best outcome in the shortest time possible. Our solicitors will also explain the process and ensure you have realistic expectations about the outcomes. Contact us to find out how we can help.