In NSW, all drink driving cases are serious, and even low range drink driving penalties mean that you could end up before a magistrate facing a range of potential penalties.
Drink driving is a factor in one out of every five fatal crashes according to the RMS, and costs the community millions of dollars every year.
It is one of the most common offences heard in local courts, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR).
In fact, around one in five cases heard in the local courts are drink driving cases.
Three in ten were there for low-range PCA offence – which is when a driver’s blood alcohol level is somewhere in the range of 0.05 and 0.079.
Magistrates often want to send a strong message out that drink driving is socially unacceptable.
Courts can give a variety of different penalties for drink driving offences, but the most common are a fine, licence disqualification and good behaviour bond, unless it is a repeat or very serious and dangerous incident in which case there is a very real possibility of prison.
The low range drink driving penalties in NSW are significantly less serious than those for mid or high range.
But even low range drink driving can have an impact in your life.
The maximum penalties for a first-time offence are:
- A maximum fine of $1,100; and
- Six months disqualification from driving.
The period of automatic disqualification applies if you have not been convicted of another major traffic offence in the last five years.
The magistrate can also decide to reduce the six months disqualification to as low as three months if there are good reasons to do so; for example, if you otherwise have a good driving record and have a strong need for a driver licence.
The penalties increase if you were convicted of another major traffic offence within the previous five years.
In that case, the disqualification period goes up to twelve months and the maximum fine increases to $2,200 – although a magistrate can reduce the disqualification down to six months.
In 2012, just under 60% of people convicted drink-drivers got a fine and disqualification, according to BOCSAR.
The average fine for low range drink drivers was $470.
While the fines may not seem very high, low range drink driving is a criminal offence and if you are convicted you will get a criminal record – which could have potential implications for your career.
The good news is that there is a way to avoid a criminal conviction.
If your lawyer is able to persuade the magistrate to award you a non conviction order, you will avoid a conviction altogether. You will also avoid a licence disqualification and a fine.
A non conviction order is the best outcome if you wish to plead guilty to drink driving.
According to BOSCAR, about 20% of drink drivers received a non conviction order, but this percentage rose to 41% for those who had a low range PCA offence.
There are two main types of non conviction orders.
The most common is a section 10 good behaviour bond (now conditional release order without conviction) – which is a bond for up to two years.
If you breach this bond by committing another offence, you will need to go back to court and be resentenced for the original offence that you got the non conviction order for.
This may mean that your bond will be revoked and you will get a harsher penalty.
The second main type of non conviction order is called a ‘section 10 dismissal’ – which is when the case is dismissed without even a good behaviour bond.
The statistics suggest that the overwhelming majority of drink drivers had no prior criminal convictions.
If this is you, the thought of ending up with a criminal record may be alarming.
However, if you are a first time offender, getting legal advice from an experienced traffic lawyer could ensure that you remain conviction free.
Collecting character references as well as undertaking a ‘traffic offender program’, or even writing an apology letter, can be highly effective when you are facing low range drink driving charge penalties in NSW.