Drink
Driving

Being charged with a drink driving offence can be a very stressful experience. For many people the loss of their license means not only huge inconvenience but the loss of a means to make a livelihood.

There are a number of ways that drink driving offences can potentially be fought, however the reality is that most people end up pleading guilty. The focus then becomes obtaining the best outcome possible when the court comes to impose sentence. This is where it is essential to have a skilled and experienced court room advocate by your side. 

The principal factor that effects the seriousness of a drink driving offence is the amount of alcohol in your system at the time you are tested. This is effected by factors including the amount of alcohol you consumed, the rate of consumption, whether you had eaten and the speed of your metabolism. Alcohol levels are calculated in grams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath. Another significant factor that impacts on the seriousness of an offence is whether it is a ‘first’ or ‘subsequent’ offence. An offence is defined as ‘subsequent’ if at any time before it is committed you have been convicted of a ‘major’ driving offence. In the case of subsequent offences both the maximum sentence (e.g. fine / gaol) and the applicable period of license disqualification increases. For more serious, or subsequent drink driving offences you may also be required to complete the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program. For details see the bottom of this page.
 

For less serious drink driving offences, the Courts can often be convinced to impose a penalty that does not involve conviction or disqualification. This is known as a section 10. Your chances of getting a section 10 are greatly increased upon referral and completion of the Traffic Offenders Program. This process can be explained to you by your lawyer.

LOW RANGE PCA

Low range applies to breath alcohol readings between 0.05 – <0.08 grams of alcohol in 210 litres of breath. If it is you first offence, there is a good prospect that a skilled lawyer will be able to convince the court to impose a section 10. If you are convicted the relevant disqualification periods are as follow:
 

  • First offence: automatic 6 months / minimum 3 months

  • Second offence: automatic 12 months /minimum 6 months
     

Maximum penalty: $1100 fine
Maximum penalty (2nd offence): $2200 fine

MEDIUM RANGE PCA

Medium range applies to breath alcohol readings between 0.08 – <0.15 grams of alcohol in 210 litres of breath. It is significantly more serious than a low range offence, and convictions with disqualification are routinely imposed. If it is your first offence it is still possible that the Court will be convinced to deal with your matter by way of section 10. In order to maximise your chances a request can be made for the court to refer you to the Traffic Offenders Program. This is an educational course run by the PCYC. If you successfully complete the program the Court will take this into account favorably when deciding what penalty to impose.
 

If you are convicted the relevant disqualification periods are as follow:
 

  • First offence: automatic 12 months / minimum 6 months

  • Second offence: automatic 3 years /minimum 12 months

     

Maximum penalty: 9 months imprisonment / $2200 fine
Maximum penalty (2nd offence): 12 months imprisonment / $3300 fine

HIGH RANGE PCA

High range applies to any breath alcohol reading above 0.15 grams of alcohol in 210 litres of breath. It is the most serious of the drink driving offences and only in the most exceptional cases will a court consider not imposing conviction and disqualification. Where a high range drink driving offence is accompanied by a crash, the court must begin considering gaol terms. Given the severe consequences that apply for high range drink driving, it is strongly recommended that you obtain legal advice as early as possible in order to ensure you get the best outcome possible.

Upon conviction for a high range drink driving offence heavy periods of disqualification follow:

 

  • First offence: automatic 3 years / minimum 12 months

  • Second offence: automatic 5 years / minimum 2 years


Maximum penalty: 18 months imprisonment / $3300 fine
Maximum penalty (2nd offence): 24 months imprisonment / $5500 fine

NOVICE RANGE PCA

The applicable prescribed range for novice range PCA is >0.00 – 0.02 grams of alcohol in 210 litres of breath. A ‘novice’ driver includes the following categories of driver:
 

  • Learner license holders

  • Provisional license holders

  • Persons on the interlock program

  • Persons who have been refused any of the above three licenses

  • Persons who have had any of the above category of license cancelled, suspended, disqualified or expired

  • Persons who have never obtained any drivers license


For people falling into this category there is zero tolerance for alcohol. While the maximum sentence is limited to a financial penalty, if you are convicted the court must still impose a period of disqualification as follows:
 

  • First offence: automatic 6 months / minimum 3 months

  • Second offence: automatic 12 months /minimum 6 months


The only way to avoid a period of disqualification is if the Court deals with your matter under section 10. This is a penalty that does not involve conviction. Sentencing arguments need to be carefully crafted by a skilled lawyer in order to give you the best chance of obtaining this outcome.

Maximum penalty: $1100 fine
Maximum penalty (2nd offence): $2200 fine

SPECIAL RANGE PCA

The applicable prescribed range for special range PCA is 0.02 – 0.05 grams of alcohol in 210 litres of breath. A ‘special category’ driver includes (among others) the following:
 

  • Learner license holders

  • Provisional license holders

  • Persons on the interlock program

  • Persons who have been refused any of the above three licenses

  • Persons who have had any of the above category of license cancelled,
    suspended or expired

  • Persons who are disqualified from driving

  • Persons who have never obtained any drivers license


For people falling into this category there is a very low tolerance for alcohol. While the maximum sentence is limited to a financial penalty, if you are convicted the court must still impose a period of disqualification as follows:
 

  • First offence: automatic 12 months / minimum 3 months

  • Second offence: automatic 6 months /minimum 3 months


The only way to avoid a period of disqualification is if the Court deals with your matter under section 10. This is a penalty that does not involve conviction. Sentencing arguments need to be carefully crafted by a skilled lawyer in order to give you the best chance of obtaining this outcome.

Maximum penalty: $1100 fine
Maximum penalty (2nd offence): $2200 fine

MANDATORY ALCOHOL
INTERLOCK PROGRAM

The Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program is a Court ordered program which seeks to reduce the risk of people engaging in repeat drink driving. In a practical sense it involves the installation of an alcohol detecting device to the ignition of your motor vehicle. A breath sample with no alcohol must be delivered into the device before the vehicle can be started. Subsequent samples will then be required during a journey of any length.

If you plead guilty or are found guilty of certain serious driving offences, the Court must impose an interlock order in addition to the sentence (e.g. fine or bond) and any period of disqualification. The order requires that at the expiration of specified disqualification period, you do a number of things in order to qualify for entry to the program:

 

  • Obtain a medical certificate from a doctor (addressing health and alcohol issues)

  • Have an interlock device installed in your vehicle by an authorised installer

  • Obtain an interlock license


If an interlock order is made and you fail to enter the program, you will be disqualified from driving for a total of 5 years. The minimum period of an interlock order is 12 months, with the maximum 4 years. The applicable period depends on the nature of the offence as set out below:


Mid Range PCA 2nd Offence
Minimum disqualification: 6 months
Maximum disqualification: 9 months
Minimum interlock period: 24 months



High Range PCA 1st Offence
Minimum disqualification: 6 months
Maximum disqualification: 9 months
Minimum interlock period: 24 months



High Range PCA 2nd Offence
Minimum disqualification: 9 months
Maximum disqualification: 12 months
Minimum interlock period: 48 months



DUI (2nd Offence)
Minimum disqualification: 6 months
Maximum disqualification: 9 months
Minimum interlock period: 24 months

Novice/Special/Low Range PCA
(2nd Offence)

Minimum disqualification: 1 month
Maximum disqualification: 3 months
Minimum interlock period: 12 months


Refuse to Provide Breath Sample
(1st Offence)

Minimum disqualification: 6 months
Maximum disqualification: 9 months
Minimum interlock period: 24 months

 


Refuse to Provide Breath Sample
(2nd Offence)

Minimum disqualification: 9 months
Maximum disqualification: 12 months
Minimum interlock period: 48 months

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