Most of the people who come to Baldocks for advice about drink-driving charges are good people. They have jobs and families. They do not have criminal records and they have not been to court before. They usually did not realise they were over the limit and thought they were okay to drive They always want the court to be lenient with them in relation to their drink-driving charge and they all hope that they can get a ‘Section 10’. Most people need their license for work and everyone believes that they need to be able to drive.
Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act allows the court to find a person guilty of an offence but dismiss the charge. In deciding whether or not to use Section 10 the court looks at the offender’s character, age, driving and criminal history, the trivial nature of the offence, the extenuating circumstances of the offence and any other matter that the court thinks proper to consider.
Most drink-driving offences are not trivial. There is rarely an extenuating circumstance in which a drink-driving offence has been committed. A lot (but not all) of drink-driving offenders we see are young and inexperienced drivers. The court is not always willing to give a ‘Section 10’ for drink-driving offences but we are always willing to try and achieve that goal.
Without a Section 10, all people convicted of drink-driving will be disqualified from driving for a period of time. The length of time will depend upon whether they have been convicted of low-range, mid-range, or high range drink-driving.
Recent changes to the law mean that additionally, unless you are convicted of a low-range offence for the first time, following the licence disqualification period, an Interlock Order will be made. This means that you can only drive a car with an Interlock device fitted. You must blow into that device which is connected to the ignition of your car and will prevent it from starting unless you pass a breath test. You must have a zero blood alcohol content to be able to start the car. The interlock device includes a camera which takes a photo of the person providing the breath sample. Data from the device is monitored by the Roads and Maritime services.
The cost of installing the Interlock device is significant and can be over $3000. There are further costs of servicing the device. This is a very significant cost for drivers to pay in order to be able to stay on the road. If you do not get the Interlock device when ordered to do so, you will be disqualified from driving for a period of five years.
Another recent change to the law is that from 20 May 2019, if a driver commits a low, special or novice range drink driving offence, NSW Police can immediately suspend the driver’s licence.
In the case of a first time offence, the driver’s licence can be suspended for 3 months and an on-the-spot fine can also be issued.
Prior to the reforms, all drivers charged with drink driving on NSW roads were required to attend court to have their penalty determined. Drivers who were charged with a low range offence did not lose their licence immediately, and were able to continue to drive until their court date.
If you receive an immediate licence suspension, you are required to hand your licence to Police, and are not permitted to drive. You may need to make alternative arrangements to get home from the roadside or police station. You still have the option of asking the court to deal with this matter however by the time the matter gets to court, the three months may be nearly over.
Baldock Stacy and Niven Solicitors can give you legal advice about your drink-driving matter. We can appear for you in court and ensure the court has all of the information it requires to consider whether or not you should get a ‘Section 10’. Make an appointment to see us, and bring your paperwork with you.