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The Magistrate’s Court is responsible for most driving offences that involve alcohol and drugs

Examples include driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, refusing an alcohol or drug test, and driving with the presence of certain drugs in the driver’s blood.

Driving with a Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA)

Driving with a Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) means that the driver has a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit. In NSW, the legal limit that applies to most drivers is 0.05%. However, drivers who are classified as learners or provisional drivers are not allowed to have any blood alcohol content. THERE ARE EVEN DIFFERING RULES FOR HEAVY VEHCILE DRIVERS WHO ARE SPECIAL CATEGORY DRIVERS

Penalties for driving with a PCA depend on whether the driver is charged with a first or subsequent offence as well as the driver’s blood alcohol content. The most lenient penalties apply to low-range offences (a test result of less than 0.08%). Those drivers face a minimum licence disqualification of 3 months but they cannot be sentenced to gaol. Unless the court orders otherwise, the automatic term of licence disqualification is 6 months.

The low-range penalties also apply to special category drivers who have a blood alcohol content of at least 0.02% but less than 0.08%. Low-range penalties also apply to novice-range drivers who are not allowed to have any blood alcohol content while driving.

First offence mid-range drivers (at least 0.08% but less than 0.15%) face a minimum licence disqualification of 6 months and an automatic disqualification of 12 months. They may also be ordered to serve up to 9 months in gaol. The arresting officer will issue an immediate licence suspension.

First offence high-range drivers (0.15% or higher) face a minimum license disqualification of 12 months and an automatic disqualification of 3 years. They may also be sentenced to a maximum term of 18 months in gaol. The arresting officer will issue an immediate licence suspension.

A first offence refusal to provide an oral fluid or blood sample carries a 6 month minimum disqualification and a 3 year automatic disqualification.

Fines are also assessed for all offences discussed above.

Penalties are more severe for a second or subsequent offence. Penalties are also more severe for driving under the influence, a crime that is usually charged when driving behaviour is particularly egregious. An additional penalty in some cases involves the installation of a mandatory ignition interlock. The interlock penalty is described below.

Drug driving offences

It is an offence in NSW to drive when any of the following drugs are present in a driver’s blood:

  • THC (cannabis)
  • Methamphetamine (“ice”)
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Cocaine
  • Morphine (unless prescribed or administered by a doctor)

The offence requires proof only that the drug was present. It is not necessary to prove that the driver was under the influence of the drug.

Drivers who violate that law are subject to a minimum license disqualification of 3 months and an automatic disqualification of 6 months for a first offence, in addition to a fine. Penalties are higher for a second offence.

Driving under the influence of any drug carries a minimum licence disqualification of 6 months and an automatic disqualification of 12 months for a first offence, in addition to a fine. Penalties are higher for a second offence.

Mandatory Ignition Interlock

Serious drink driving offences and repeat offences will usually result in a court order requiring the driver to use an ignition interlock for a period of time after regaining eligibility to drive. An ignition interlock is a device that is wired into a vehicle’s ignition system. Before starting the vehicle, the driver must blow into a tube. If the device detects the presence of alcohol, the vehicle will not start.

An ignition interlock order remains in effect for at least 12 months. Convicted drivers must finish their license disqualification period before they can reinstate their driving privileges. If they choose not to reinstate driving privileges, they do not need to install the device.

After driving privileges are reinstated, a driver who is subject to an ignition interlock order cannot lawfully drive unless the vehicle is equipped with an interlock. The failure to install a required ignition interlock after reinstating driving privileges can result in a 5-year loss of driving privileges.

A driver who is subject to an ignition interlock order must pay the cost of leasing, installing, and maintaining the interlock device. The current cost is about $2,200 a year, but that estimate is subject to change.

Section 10

The court is not required to impose any penalty for certain drink driving offences. The court can instead place the driver on a Good Behaviour bond. If the driver complies with the conditions of the bond, the court will then dismiss the charges. No conviction is entered and no penalties are assessed. This is known as a section 10 disposition.

No driver has the right to a section 10 disposition. The court has discretion to decide whether a driver deserves to benefit from section 10. It is generally wise to seek the help of a lawyer if a driver hopes to persuade the court to grant a section 10 disposition.

The matters that the Court will consider when section 10 is sought are:

(a) the person’s character, antecedents, age, health and mental condition,

(b) the trivial nature of the offence,

(c) the extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed,

(d) any other matter that the court thinks proper to consider.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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