Drink Driving

Being charged for DUI or drink driving in Sydney or anywhere in NSW can be a difficult experience, especially when you need to go to court.

With Sydney City & Parramatta offices, Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia are experienced in defending drink driving cases and winning in NSW.

Whether it’s your first drink driving offence or a subsequent one, there are a variety of available defences.

A strong drink driving lawyer in court, alongside access to drink driving programs and more, can substantially change the outcome of your case. It can result in getting your licence re-instated and getting a drink driving non conviction in court.

Our experienced solicitors also advise on how to prepare drink driving cases in NSW.

Changes to Low Range Drink Driving as of 20 May 2019 mean that for first-time offenders there is no longer an immediate court appearance required for this offence. First time low-range drink driving offenders will now be handed a $561 on-the-spot fine and 3-months licence suspension without a criminal conviction. If you wish to avoid this, you can court elect the penalty.

Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia carry decades of experience in regularly appearing in court for drink driving cases. We have a proven track record in getting charges dropped, securing not guilty verdicts and avoiding criminal convictions and licence disqualifications by achieving s10’s on countless occasions over the years.

What Is Drink Driving?

What is High-Range Drink Driving?

High-range drink driving is a criminal offence in New South Wales. It can result in a licence disqualification of an extensive period of time, criminal record and imprisonment.

High-range drink driving is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle with a BAC reading of at least 0.15g concentration of alcohol in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

A licence disqualification, criminal conviction/record and imprisonment can all be avoided, even after pleading guilty if the court can be convinced to give you a non-conviction penalty, including section 10(1)(a) dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order.

What are the penalties for high range drink driving

 

What is Mid-Range Drink Driving?

Mid-range drink driving is a crime in NSW. It can result in a criminal record, licence disqualification and imprisonment.

Mid-range drink driving is when a person drives a motor vehicle with a BAC reading of between 0.08g, but less than 0.15g concentration of alcohol in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

A mid-range drink driving offender can avoid a criminal conviction (criminal record) and licence disqualification if the court can be convinced to impose a non-conviction penalty as a sentence under a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction.

 

What is Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI)?

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in NSW is considered a crime, which can result in a licence disqualification, criminal record and imprisonment.

A person who is guilty of DUI will walk away with no criminal record and without a licence disqualification if the court is convinced to give a non-conviction penalty, such as a non-conviction Conditional Release Order or section 10 dismissal.

The law on driving under the influence or DUI does not necessarily require a BAC alcohol reading to prove you were under the influence. It requires any proof that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to any degree, regardless of the extent you were impaired from driving.

 

What is Low-Range Drink Driving?

A low-range drink driving offence occurs if a person drives a motor vehicle with a concentration alcohol reading between 0.05g, but less than 0.08g in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

Low-range drink driving is considered a crime in NSW, which can result in a criminal conviction (criminal record) and licence disqualification.

A criminal conviction, licence disqualification, and fine can all be avoided even after pleading guilty in court if you can convince the court to give you a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order.

As of 20 May 2019, police will issue first-time low-range drink drivers with a $561 on-the-spot fine and an immediate 3-months licence suspension. Court attendance won’t be required if the fine is paid, and there will be no criminal conviction/record. The police suspension and fine can only be avoided by court electing the penalty fine or lodging a police suspension appeal in court.

 

What is Special-Range Drink Driving?

A special-range drink driving offence occurs when a person who holds a Learner, Provisional or interlock driver licence, drives a motor vehicle with a concentration alcohol reading between 0.02g, but less than 0.05g in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

It is a crime to drink and drive in NSW, which attracts heavy penalties including a criminal conviction and disqualification of licence if convicted by a court.

A person guilty of special range drink driving can still avoid a licence disqualification and conviction if the court can be convinced to impose a non-conviction penalty (either non-conviction Conditional Release Order or section 10 dismissal).

First-time special-range drink drivers will now face a $561 on-the-spot fine and a 3-month immediate licence suspension from police. There will be no requirement to attend court, nor will there be a criminal conviction recorded if the fine is paid. The immediate licence suspension and fine can only be avoided by court-electing the penalty or appealing the immediate licence suspension.

 

What is Novice-Range Drink Driving?

A novice-range drink driving offence occurs when a person who holds a learner, provisional, or interlock driver licence, drives a vehicle with a concentration alcohol reading of more than zero, but less than 0.02g in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

It is considered a crime to drink and drive in New South Wales carrying a criminal conviction and licence disqualification if convicted by a Magistrate or Judge in court.

A person guilty of novice-range drink driving can still avoid a conviction and disqualification of licence if the court can be convinced to impose a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order.

If you’re a first-time novice-range drink driver, you will be issues by police with a 3-month immediate licence suspension and on-the-spot fine of $561. No court appearance will be required, and you will not receive a criminal conviction by paying that fine. The only way to avoid the licence suspension and fine is to court elect the penalty fine or appeal the police’s immediate licence suspension.

 

What are the Penalties for Drink Driving?

High-Range Drink Driving Licence Disqualification Periods if Convicted

If convicted for high-range drink driving, you will also be required to participate in the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for a ‘minimum interlock period’.


Penalties and Fine

Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
 If ‘First Offence’ 18-months $3,300 Yes
 If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’ 24-months $5,500 Yes


Driver Licence Disqualification Period

Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 
If it’s your ‘First Offence’
Minimum 6 months or Maximum 9 months 2 years Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year
 

If it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

Minimum 9 months or Maximum 1 year 4 years Automatic 5 years or minimum 2 years

The ‘mandatory interlock program’ is where a convicted person is required to install an interlock device into the vehicle that he/she intends to use, whereby the vehicle will only start if, after blowing into it, the interlock device returns a zero-alcohol reading each time.

It’s important to also be aware of the ‘high-range drink driving guideline judgment’ which all Magistrates and Judges will refer to in all high-range drink driving cases in sentence proceedings.

Click here to find out if you can be exempt from participating in the interlock program.

 

Mid-Range Drink Driving Licence Disqualification Periods if Convicted

A person who is convicted of mid-range drink driving will also be required to do the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for a ‘minimum interlock period’.


Penalties and Fine

Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
  If ‘First Offence’ 9-months $2,200 Yes
 If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’ 12-months $3,300 Yes

Driver Licence Disqualification Period

Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply

If it’s your ‘First Offence’

Minimum 3 months or Maximum 6 months 1 year Automatic 1 year or minimum 6 months
 If it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence Minimum 6 months or maximum 9 months 2 years Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year

A mandatory interlock program for mid-range drink driving requires the offender to install an interlock device into his/her motor vehicle. The interlock device will only allow the motor vehicle to start if it returns a zero-alcohol reading after the offender blows into it each time he/she wishes to drive.

Click here to find out if you can be exempt from participating in the interlock program.

 

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs (DUI) Licence Disqualification Periods if Convicted

If a Judge or Magistrate convicts you for the offence of DUI, you will also be subject to the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for the ‘minimum interlock period’ if the DUI involves driving under the influence of alcohol (not drugs).

Penalties and Fine

Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction

If it’s your ‘First Offence’ 

18-months $3,300 Yes
 If it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’  2-years $5,500 Yes

Driver Licence Disqualification Period

Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 
If it’s your ‘First Offence’
Minimum 6 months or Maximum 9 months 2 year Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year

If
it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’
Minimum 9 months or maximum 1 year 4 years Automatic 5 years or minimum 2 years

The mandatory interlock program requires a person convicted of DUI to install an interlock device into his/her motor vehicle. The installed device will not allow the vehicle to start unless it returns a zero-alcohol reading after the person blows into the device each time he/she attempts to drive.

Click here to find out if you can be exempt from participating in the interlock program.

 

 

Low-Range Drink Driving | Novice-Range | Special-Range Drink Driving Charges and Penalties

If this is your ‘second or subsequent’ low-range, novice or special-range drink driving offence, you will be subject to the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for the ‘minimum interlock period’ requiring you to install an interlock device in your vehicle, whereby the vehicle will only start if you return a zero-alcohol reading after blowing into the device each time you need to drive.

First-time low-range, Novice or Special-range drink drivers will now be given on-the-spot fines of $561 with a 3-month immediate licence suspension in NSW.

There will be no criminal conviction recorded if this fine is paid, in which case attending court will not be required.

However, you can avoid the fine and disqualification period by court-electing the penalty and/or by appealing the police suspension in court.


Penalties and Fine

Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
 If ‘First Offence’ No Imprisonment $2,200 Yes
 If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’ No Imprisonment $3,300 Yes

Driver Licence Disqualification Period

Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 

If it’s ‘First Offence’

Interlock doesn’t apply Interlock won’t apply Automatic 6 months or minimum 3 months
 

If it’s ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

Minimum 1 month or maximum 3 months 12-months Automatic 1 year or minimum 6 months

Click here to find out if you can be exempt from participating in the interlock program.

 

How Much Does a Drink Driving lawyer Cost?

It’s important to know from the beginning, how much your drink driving case is going to cost you if you want an experienced specialist drink driving lawyer to prepare and represent you in court.

Because we believe it is important to be completely transparent with fees, we provide fixed fees for all drink driving cases in the Local and District Courts across Australia. These fixed fees are also publicly available on our website.

Some cases may be more complex requiring further work to ensure the case is prepared and presented in the best possible way in court which may require further costs. This could include the need to get a compelling psychologist report, or the need to attend court more than once. If this applies to your case, our specialist lawyers will inform you of this in the free first appointment.

If you’re pleading guilty to drink driving:

  • $1,650 (incl GST) for all work, preparation, consultations and up to one full day attendance for sentence in the local court for legal representation by our specialist drink driving lawyer. This includes all Sydney City, including metropolitan areas.
  • $2,200 (incl GST) for all work, preparation, consultations and up to one full day attendance for sentence in the local court for legal representation by our specialist drink driving lawyer in areas outside Sydney metropolitan areas, including Wollongong, Newcastle, Gosford etc.

If you’re pleading not guilty to drink driving:

  • $3,300 (incl GST) for all work, preparation, consultations and attendance for up to one full day hearing in the Local Court for legal representation by our specialist drink driving lawyer in the Sydney City area (including metropolitan areas).
  • $4,400 (incl GST) for all work, preparation, consultations and up to one full day attendance for legal representation by our specialist drink driving lawyer in the local court for hearing in areas outside Sydney metropolitan areas, including Newcastle, Wollongong, Gosford etc.

 

The penalties a Court can impose on you will depend on whether your drink driving offence is considered a ‘first offence’ or a ‘second or subsequent offence’.

A drink driving conviction (criminal record), licence disqualification and fine can be completely avoided even after pleading guilty if the court can be convinced to give you a non-conviction penalty under section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction.

If the court convicts you for DUI, low, mid or high-range drink driving, you will end up having a criminal conviction, licence disqualification, and possible fine. However, can you go to jail for drink driving?

The answer is Yes! But each case is unique and highly dependent on your given circumstances. You will avoid all of this if the court is convinced to give you a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order.

The Court can and will impose any one of the following types of drink driving penalties:

  1. Section 10 Dismissal
  2. Conditional Release Order with or without conviction
  3. Fine
  4. Community Correction Order
  5. Intensive Correction Order
  6. Full-Time Imprisonment

Preparing for a Drink Driving Court Case

It’s critical to properly prepare and present your drink driving case for sentence in court.

You may be able to avoid and walk away without a criminal conviction, licence disqualification and prison sentence if the Magistrate or Judge is convinced enough to give you a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order sentence.

The below is a guide on how you can best prepare your drink driving case for sentence to maximise your chances at getting the best possible outcome in court.

Good Character Reference Letters

Gathering and using compelling character reference letters for the Magistrate or Judge to read on your sentence can significantly improve your court result.

Referees should be carefully chosen who can outline the best points in your case, such as any expressions of your remorse and insight, the effects of a loss of your licence or criminal conviction on your job and any people who rely on your income or licence.

Referees can include your partner, friend, colleague, family, charity, religious organisation and employer.

It is also recommended to draft an apology letter expressing the same points.

Traffic Offenders Program

You can significantly improve your court outcome if you complete a court recognised accredited traffic offenders program before your sentence date.

Completing a traffic offenders program can significantly increase your chances at avoiding a disqualification and conviction. It allows the Magistrate or Judge to accept you have insight into your offending conduct.

Details on this and how to enrol can be found on this link, Traffic Offenders Program Courses.

In fact, our lawyers have lectured in the accredited traffic offenders programs around NSW, we therefore understand its importance in preparing drink driving cases for court, and how to best use it in court.

Negotiate with police

If any of the defences to drink driving outlined on this page apply to you, you could successfully convince police to withdraw the charge early through negotiations, which our drink driving lawyers have a lot of experience in doing.

This will require your lawyer to send the prosecution with a document called ‘legal representations’ outlining the weaknesses in the police case.

You could also convince police to change the police facts sheet.

The police fact sheet is an outline summary of your drink driving offence for the Magistrate to read before deciding on an appropriate sentence.

If you don’t agree with some or all of the facts sheet, you may negotiate to change it to something more favourable to you. This can convince the court to impose a much more lenient sentence.

Psychologist reports

A well written psychologist report from an experienced and well-respected psychologist or psychiatrist can convince the Magistrate or Judge in court to impose a lighter sentence for a drink driving offence.

A strong psychologist report may outline any mental illness you suffer, any direct nexus between your mental illness and your decision to consume alcohol and drive, your treatment and progress. It may also outline your expressions of remorse and insight, which are critical points to cover in a drink driving case.

To ensuring you get an effective psychologist report, it’s best to get it done from an expert who is well respected and experienced in writing such types of reports for courts. Our team have hand-picked the best experts for this job.

Reduction in sentence for pleading guilty early

The Magistrate or Judge will reduce your sentence by 25% if a plea of guilty to drink driving is entered on the first court date. This will result in a more lenient sentence.

A plea of guilty being entered on a subsequent or later court date will reduce the extent of discount on the sentence you can get in court.

That discount will continue reducing until you either plead guilty or you’re found guilty by the court. This is why it’s critical to get early advice and guidance from an experienced drink driving lawyer.

Drink Driving Defences

You will be ‘not guilty’ of drink driving if:

The At-Home Defence If police conduct a breath or drug test on you on your private property, including your driveway.
The Two-Hour Defence If police conduct a breath or drug test on you after 2-hours have passed since you last drove a vehicle.
The Pharmacologist Defence you will be not guilty if a pharmacologist report says that it is likely you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of driving, or it says that it is likely you were below the threshold drink driving range limit of your drink driving offence at time of driving.This can apply if you consumed alcohol or drugs moments before driving and being stopped by police, whereby the alcohol/drug has not yet started impairing you from driving until later in time when you are taken to a police station where a proper test is then administered.
The Technical Defence If the vehicle you are alleged to have driven was not in fact ‘in motion’, and where you were not ‘attempting to put it in motion’ at the relevant time.
The Mistake of Fact Defence If you held an honest belief, where that belief was based on reasonable grounds, that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of driving. i.e. where you consumed something unaware it had alcohol or an illicit drug in it before or at the time of driving.

Your drink driving charge will end up getting dismissed in court or even withdrawn by the police early (through negotiations) if any of the above defences apply to you.

 

Section 10 – Can I avoid a criminal conviction for drink driving in NSW?

The only way a drink driving offender can avoid a criminal conviction and driver licence disqualification is if a Magistrate or Judge imposes a non-conviction penalty during the sentencing in court.

This will also result in no fine being imposed against an offender.

There are 2 types of non-conviction penalties available for a Magistrate or Judge to impose in a drink driving sentence in court- either a section 10 dismissal or a Conditional Release Order without conviction.

A section 10 can be achieved in a drink driving sentence even after pleading guilty in court.

Click here for a guide on how to get a section 10 non-conviction in court for a drink driving offence.

 

Your Options In Court

Pleading Not Guilty

If you plead ‘not guilty’ to a drink driving charge in court, your case will get adjourned to another court date for a defended hearing in the Local Court.

The police will be required to serve you with all their evidence before the hearing commences.

On the hearing date in court, the Magistrate will hear both sides of evidence before deciding on a verdict of either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.

If the Court finds you to be ‘not guilty’, the drink driving charge will get dismissed, and you will be acquitted- putting an end to the case. In some cases, you can then apply to the court for the police to pay your legal fees.

If the Court finds you to be ‘guilty’ after hearing the evidence, the Magistrate or Judge will then determine the most appropriate sentencing penalty to impose on you after hearing further evidence from you.

You will be found ‘not guilty’ by a Court if the prosecution is unable to prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt in court:

  • You drove a motor vehicle, or you occupied the driver seat and attempted to put the vehicle in motion; and
  • You did this while either being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while having the prescribed concentration of alcohol in your breath or blood for your specific drink driving charge i.e. low-range, mid-range or high-range.

Pleading Guilty

Pleading Guilty

If you plead guilty to driving under the influence (DUI), the Magistrate or Judge in court will proceed to sentencing you on the same day.

If you require further time to be properly prepared, you can ask the court for an adjournment to have the sentence for your DUI case heard on another day in court.

Your driver licence will not be disqualified, nor will you end up having a criminal conviction or fine for drink driving if the Magistrate or Judge is convinced to give you a non-conviction penalty sentence, such as section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order, even after pleading guilty.

Click here on our Complete Drink Driving Defence Guide to begin preparing your guilty sentence for drink driving in order to maximise your chances at getting the best possible result in court.

 

We are Australia’s leading drink driving lawyers with over 2 decades of experience specialising in drink driving cases.

We hold an un-matched proven track record of consistently achieving outstanding results, including:

  • Non-conviction Section 10 dismissals and Conditional Release Orders to allow to allow our clients to continue driving and walk away without a criminal record/conviction, even after pleading guilty.
  • Securing not guilty verdicts.
  • Avoiding imprisonment in serious drink driving cases.
  • Getting charges withdrawn early through successful negotiations with polices

Good Character Reference Guide For Court

How to Write an Apology Letter for Court

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