What is an Alcohol Interlock Program?

Key Takeaways

The alcohol interlock program is a court ordered sentence for convicted drink driving offenders. The interlock device must be installed into your vehicle, which won’t allow your vehicle to start unless the device detects zero alcohol in your system after blowing into the device. The interlock device period must be completed after the mandatory disqualification period is completed. The disqualification and interlock periods range from 3 months to 4 years and largely depends on the type of drink driving offence, and whether it’s your first or second offence.

If you’re looking for specific guidance after being charged for drink driving, it is strongly recommended to speak to an expert. Call now to speak to one of our drink driving lawyers Sydney team.

The NSW interlock program or drink driving interlock is a court-imposed interlock order requiring certain convicted drink driving offenders to first be subjected to a mandatory disqualification period, and then be allowed to drive under a restricted interlock licence during an interlock period. An interlock device must be installed and used during the interlock period restricting how and when the vehicle can be used. The disqualification and interlock period depend on the type of drink driving offence.

How Does the Alcohol Interlock Program Work?

After being convicted for certain drink driving offences, the law requires you to undergo the mandatory interlock program, which requires you to comply with the mandatory interlock order. The court imposes the order, requiring you to install an interlock device into your motor vehicle. The interlock device will not allow the vehicle to start unless it first returns a zero alcohol reading after blowing into it. Under the program, you will first undergo a mandatory disqualification period before being allowed to drive under an interlock driver licence period with the interlock device fitted into your car. You can go back to your normal licence after completing this.

The mandatory interlock order disqualifies you from driving for a minimum disqualification period, and then allows you to drive under an interlock licence for at least the minimum interlock period under the interlock program according to section 211 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). These periods will vary depending on whether it is your first or second offence.

The only way to not have to undergo the mandatory interlock program is if you receive a sentence involving a non-conviction (section 10 or CRO). Other ways to avoid doing the interlock program are if you qualify to be exempt from undertaking the interlock program or if you are found not guilty by the court for the drink driving offence.

A section 10 or conditional release order non-conviction sentence will mean that you won’t be disqualification at all, and the interlock program won’t apply.

Interlock Driver License

After completing the mandatory disqualification period under the interlock program, you must then complete the interlock period under an interlock driver licence with an interlock device fitted in to your vehicle. Before commencing the interlock period, you must first attend to the following:

  1. Attend a medical consultation to get an alcohol interlock program medical consultation certificate completed,
  2. Get an interlock device installed on your vehicle and get the interlock installation certificate completed,
  3. Visit a service NSW centre and apply for a NSW interlock driver licence. You will need your identification details, pay the licence fee, completed licence application form, completed interlock driver licence statement and privacy declaration, completed interlock installation certificate by you and your accredited interlock service provider, and medical consultation certificate completed by you and your doctor (you must see your doctor within 28 days before applying for the licence).

Alcohol Interlock Device

Define interlock? And What is an interlock device in NSW? It is a device designed to analyse a breath sample for the presence of alcohol and prevent a motor vehicle from being started if it detects more than a certain concentration of alcohol, according to section 44 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

An interlock device or an ignition interlock is an electronic breath-testing device which links to the ignition system of the motor vehicle, including car, motorbike or heavy vehicle. The interlock has a camera that takes a photo of you blowing into the device. If the device detects alcohol in your body, the vehicle won’t start. Random breath tests will also be conducted during your journey in the vehicle.

An interlock device must be an “approved interlock device” which means an interlock device of a type approved by Transport for NSW by order published in the Gazette.

What is an “accredited interlock service provider”?

Transport for NSW May accredit an interlock provider called an “accredited interlock service provider” to exercise functions with respect to the provision of interlock services, including pricing, setting and maintaining service standards about installing, maintaining and removing interlock devices and delivery of services, and sharing and protection of recorded data on interlock devices.

How Long is my Alcohol Interlock Program?

The alcohol interlock program period commences with a mandatory disqualification period before the participant is required to then complete the interlock period. The period depends on the type of drink driving offence and whether it is your first or your second or subsequent offence.

It will be considered your second or subsequent drink driving offence if you have been convicted for a drink driving offence in the last five years from the date of your current drink driving conviction.

Interlock Disqualifications and Penalties

Offence  Disqualification period

(not allowed to drive)

Interlock Period

(allowed to drive with interlock device)

Disqualification period

(if interlock exemption order applies)

Max Penalty

(fine and jail)

 

Low range, novice or special range PCA

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

 

Min: 1 month

Max: 2 months

 

1 year

 

Automatic: 1 year

Min: 6 months

 

Fine: $3,300

No jail

 

Mid range PCA

(first offence)

 

Min: 3 months

Max: 6 months

 

1 year

 

Automatic: 1 year

Min: 6 months

 

Fine: $2,200

Jail: 9 months

 

Mid range PCA

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

 

 

Min: 6 months

Max: 9 months

 

 

2 years

 

Automatic: 3 years

Min: 1 year

 

Fine: $3,300

Jail: 1 year

 

High range PCA

(first offence)

 

 

Min: 6 months

Max: 9 months

 

2 years

 

Automatic: 3 years

Min: 1 year

 

Fine: $3,300

Jail: 18 months

 

High range PCA

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

 

 

Min: 9 months

Max: 1 year

 

4 years

 

Automatic: 5 years

Min: 2 years

 

Fine: $5,500

Jail: 2 years

 

Drive under the influence of alcohol

(first offence)

 

Min: 6 months

Max: 9 months

 

2 years

 

Automatic: 3 years

Min: 1 year

 

Fine: $3,300

Jail: 18 months

 

Drive under the influence of alcohol

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

 

Min: 9 months

Max: 1 year

 

4 years

 

Automatic: 5 years

Min: 2 year

 

Fine: $5,500

Jail: 2 years

 

Refuse/fail to submit breath analysis/blood sample

(first offence)

cl16(1)/cl17a1 sch 3

 

Min: 6 months

Max: 9 months

 

2 years

 

Automatic: 3 years

Min: 1 year

 

Fine: $3,300

Jail: 18 months

 

Refuse/fail to submit breath analysis/blood sample

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

cl16(1)/cl17a1 sch 3

 

Min: 9 months

Max: 1 year

 

4 years

 

Automatic: 5 years

Min: 2 years

 

Fine: $5,500

Jail: 2 years

 

High range PCA combined with prescribed illicit drug

(first offence)

s111A(1)

 

Min: 6 months

Max: 9 months

 

2 years

 

Automatic: 4 years

Min: 18 months

 

Fine: $5,500

Jail: 2 years

 

High range PCA combined with prescribed illicit drug

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

s111A(1)

Min: 9 months
Max: 1 year
4 years Automatic: 6 years
Min: 3 years
Fine: $11,000
Jail: 2 years
 

Mid range PCA combined with prescribed illicit drug

(first offence)

s111A(2)

Min: 3 months
Max: 6 months
1 year Automatic: 2 years
Min: 1 year
Fine: $3,300
Jail: 18 months
 

Mid range PCA combined with prescribed illicit drug

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

s111A(2)

Min: 6 months
Max: 9 months
2 years Automatic: 4 years
Min: 2 years
Fine: $6,600
Jail: 2 years
 

Low range, novice or special range PCA combined with illicit drug

(second or subsequent offence in 5 years)

s111A(3)

Min: 1 month
Max: 3 months
1 year Automatic: 2 years
Min: 18 months
Fine: $5,500
Jail: 18 months

First time offenders of low, novice or special range PCA do not carry an interlock period program. Instead the penalties for this are:

  • $2,200 fine/no jail, automatic disqualification 6 months or minimum 3 months if dealt with in court.
  • You will not face a $2,200 fine or the 6 months automatic disqualification if Police decide to issue a penalty notice fine of $587 instead. If the $587 fine is paid, then it puts an end to the matter with no conviction. But you will be issued with a 3 month immediate police licence suspension.

High range drink driving offences attract the high range guideline judgment in New South Wales Courts.

Who is Mandatory to Comply with the Alcohol Interlock Program?

The mandatory interlock NSW program applies to the following drink driving offences in NSW:

  • low range, novice or special range PCA – second or more offence in 5 years
  • mid-range PCA – first offence or second or more offence in 5 years
  • high range PCA – first offence or second or more offence in 5 years
  • combined alcohol PCA and drug driving offence – first offence or second or more offence in 5 years
  • driving under influence of alcohol (DUI) – first offence or second or more offence in 5 years
  • fail or refuse to submit to breath analysis or fail to submit to blood sample – first offence or second or more offence in 5 years

The alcohol interlock program does not apply if the court sentences you to a section 10 non conviction or a condition release order non conviction order.

How Much Does the Alcohol Interlock Program Cost?

The cost for an alcohol interlock program ranges from about $2,200 to $2,500 yearly. This cost must be paid by you if you’re required to complete the interlock program. This cost is broken down to include the installation cost of the device, the monthly leasing cost of the device, the maintenance or service cost usually monthly, and the cost of removing the device at the completion of the interlock period.

It is important to be aware of all costs, including the interlock removal assessment cost.

This fee does not include the administration cost. This fee is about $167 and is a one-off cost paid at the start of the interlock period when issued with the interlock licence.

Eligible participants will be given a 35% concession off the alcohol interlock program cost. This applies if you hold a valid pensioner concession card, low income health care card, or department of veterans affairs gold card.

Alcohol Interlock Installation | How Much Do Alcohol Interlock Device Cost in NSW?

What are the alcohol interlock installers near me? The alcohol interlock device cost varies from one accredited interlock service provider to another in NSW. This fee varies from about $180 to $630.

The cost also depends on the vehicle make, model and year. The more recent the car model, year and make the more expensive the alcohol interlock device generally costs’.

The following include alcohol interlock installers in NSW and the costs for each accredited interlock service provider in NSW:

  1. Drager: 1300 780 689
    Basic: $440 ($286 concession rate)
    Standard: $530 ($344.50 concession rate)
    Complex: $630 ($409.50 concession rate)
  2. Smart Starts 1300 256 900
    Quote to be provided upon enquiry depending on your State and type of car.
  3. Affordable Interlock Systems: 1800 252 656
    Free inspection and quote
    Installation fee: $215-$315
    Device monthly fee: $190
    Interlock removal fee: $120
    Security deposit: $250
  4. Guardian Interlock Systems: 1300 881 005
    Free inspection and quote
    Installation fee: $186.10 depending on type of car
    Device monthly fee: $144.80
    Service fee: $51.70
    Interlock removal fee: $110

Financial assistance in using an interlock device

If you are experiencing financial difficulties, you may be eligible subject to a means test and certain conditions to obtain financial assistance for the cost of the interlock device installation and maintenance, according to section 48 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

In some cases, a condition of providing you with financial assistance may include the requirement that all or part of the expense be repaid on the occurrence of specified circumstances. Failure to repay this debt can later be recovered through the court process in civil proceedings.

Alcohol Interlock Exemption NSW | Can you be Exempt from Participating in the Interlock Program? 

You can be exempt from participating in the interlock program if the court makes an interlock exemption order in your favour. The court can exempt you under section 212 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

An interlock exemption order is a court order that exempts you from having to comply with the mandatory interlock order. If you are exempt, you then won’t be required to undergo the interlock disqualification and interlock period. Instead, your licence will then be disqualified for the usual automatic disqualification period (or the minimum disqualification) applicable to your type of drink driving offence.

How to Get an Interlock Exemption Order?

You can apply to the court to be exempt from the interlock order at the time of your sentence date in court under section 212 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

The court can only exempt you from the interlock order if you’re able to prove any of the following:

  1. you don’t have access to a vehicle to install the interlock device in, for example, due to the one vehicle you can use is shared with other family members or shared with another person who has a medical condition preventing them from providing a sufficient breath sample to operate the interlock device and in circumstances, it’s not reasonably practicable to modify the interlock device to cater for this, or
  2. you have a medical condition that prevents you from giving a sufficient breath sample to operate the interlock device and it would not be reasonably practicable to modify the interlock device to enable you to operate the interlock device, or
  3. where you’ve been convicted as a first offence for a mid-range PCA, or a mid-range combined with the presence of illicit drugs driving offence- and you would suffer severe hardship from the interlock order, and it would be more appropriate in all the circumstances to exempt you from the interlock order.

If you are trying to be exempt on the basis that you don’t have access to a vehicle, the law says that a person is considered to have access to a vehicle if:

  • The person is the registered operator, owner or part-owner of the vehicle or shares the use of the vehicle with the registered operator, owner or part-owner, and it’s reasonable in all the circumstances to install an interlock device in the vehicle.

Can you get an exemption if you can’t afford the interlock device? 

An interlock exemption order will not be granted to you if your reason to be exempt is because you cannot afford the cost of installing or maintaining the interlock device (you can get financial assistance for an interlock device); or you’ll be prevented from driving a vehicle in the course of employment as a result of having an interlock device installed into it; or while you have access to a vehicle, the registered operator of that vehicle refused to allow an interlock device to be installed into it.

Here is more information on drink driving PCA offences in Sydney.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you remove the interlock device early?

You can book an appointment with your service centre NSW to remove the interlock device from your vehicle early. You will be required to complete an interlock removal form, however, this does not remove the requirement to drive with an interlock device under your licence condition if your interlock period has not expired yet.

Can you trick an interlock device?

An interlock device is fitted with a camera technology making it very difficult if not impossible to trick the device. It is a crime to trick the interlock device attracting heavy penalties.

How much does it cost to install interlock in NSW?

The cost to install an interlock device into a vehicle varies from $130 to $630. This cost really depends on the type, model and year of the vehicle. The more recent the car is, the higher the fee is generally speaking.

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