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High Range Drink Driving (NSW)

This article discusses high range drink driving offences, including penalties, mandatory disqualification periods and mandatory interlock orders. High range drink driving is defined as an individual operating a motor vehicle on a road or road related area with a prescribed concentration of alcohol or PCA exceeding 0.15.  The relevant legislation is found in section 110(5) of the Road Transport Act 2013.

Penalties for High Range Drink Driving 

High range drink driving is an extremely serious offence, and is dealt with harshly, particularly where a person has had prior drinking offences. A first high range drink driving offence carries a maximum fine of 30 penalty units and or imprisonment for 18 months. A second or subsequent offence attracts a fine of up to 50 penalty units and or two years imprisonment. The offence is also subject to a mandatory disqualification period and interlock order.

Penalty units are used as the number of units are consistent over time, but the value of each unit changes over time with for instance, inflation.  At the time of writing, one unit was equivalent to $110.

When determining the appropriate penalties for a high range drink driving offence, the court considers guideline judgements that offer guidance as to the range of appropriate sentences for this offence.  This is discussed further in the article Guideline Judgements for High Range PCA.

Mandatory Disqualification Periods for High Range Drink Driving

The Road Transport Amendment (Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program) Act 2014 enforces mandatory disqualification periods for high range drink driving offences. These periods vary based on whether it is the offender’s initial or subsequent offence.

For first-time offences, the compulsory disqualification period ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of nine months when an interlock order is concurrently issued. In cases where an interlock exemption order is granted, the automatic disqualification duration falls between 12 months and three years.

In contrast, for subsequent offenders, the obligatory disqualification period is set at a minimum of nine months, extending to a maximum of 12 months when an interlock order is part of the sentencing. In situations where an interlock exemption order is provided, an automatic disqualification period of five years is imposed if the offender has committed another major offence within the last five years. However, if there is no record of a major offence within the preceding five years, the automatic disqualification period is reduced to three years. Importantly, these disqualification orders are automatic upon conviction, and the court lacks the authority to impose a lesser, greater, or conditional disqualification.

Interlock Orders for High Range Drink Driving

What is an Interlock Order?

An interlock order is a directive issued by the court as part of sentencing for specific offences. It mandates the individual to obtain an interlock driver’s licence and engage in the interlock program for a specified duration.

Enrolment in the interlock program entails the following steps:

  • Visit your GP for an assessment to secure a drink-less medical certificate, to be completed within the last 4 weeks of your disqualification period.
  • Install an interlock device in your car through an approved provider.
  • Blow into the device to register a nil alcohol reading to initiate your car’s ignition.
  • Randomly blow into the device to register nil alcohol readings while driving your car.
  • Solely drive the car equipped with the interlock device for the program’s duration.

If the interlock device detects alcohol on your breath, it triggers the engine to turn off, preventing you from restarting the car. The device maintains a log of such occurrences, accessible by the police, potentially leading to additional charges. Failure to secure an exemption from the court or non-compliance with the interlock order results in a five-year disqualification from driving.

Interlock Orders are Mandatory for High Range PCA

High range drink driving offences automatically trigger mandatory interlock orders. These orders encompass two sequential stages. Initially, they impose a disqualification period on the driver, ranging between the minimum and maximum periods stipulated for the offense. Subsequently, the driver is mandated to obtain and serve a period on an interlock licence, during which an interlock device is installed in their vehicle.

Unless a driver qualifies for an interlock exemption order, the imposition of a mandatory interlock order is automatic upon conviction. To be eligible for an exemption from a mandatory interlock order, an individual must meet the criteria outlined in Section 212 of the Road Transport Act 2013. This provision mandates that the person either lacks access to a vehicle suitable for installing an interlock device or has a medically diagnosed condition preventing them from providing a sufficient breath sample, and the installation of the device is not reasonably practical.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

Guideline Judgement

In response to sentencing disparities for high range PCA offences, the Attorney General devised a guideline judgment aimed at providing clarity to magistrates and judges for consistent sentencing. This guideline judgment defines the ordinary offence of high range drink driving, encompassing scenarios where the offender:

  • Drove to circumvent inconvenience or without realising they were over the limit
  • Exhibited a BAC reading during a random breath test
  • Demonstrated a history of good character
  • Maintained a traffic record with nil or minor offenses
  • Had a suspended license upon detection of the offense
  • Entered a guilty plea.
  • Posed minimal or no risk of re-offending
  • Faced significant inconvenience due to the loss of their license.

The guideline judgment further distinguishes matters by assessing whether they are aggravated or more severe than an ordinary offence. This evaluation considers additional aspects related to the offender’s moral culpability, such as whether the offender:

  • Recorded a BAC exceeding 0.15.
  • Drove in an erratic or aggressive manner.
  • Caused a collision between their vehicle and any other object.
  • Engaged in competitive driving or exhibitionism.
  • Posed a community risk, considering factors like driving distance and other elements.
  • Endangered others through their driving behaviour.

Will I Receive A Conviction?

Yes, in almost all cases, a person who is found guilty of high range drink driving will receive a conviction for the offence. The guideline judgement states that it is rarely appropriate for a high range drink driving offence to be dealt with without proceeding to conviction.

Why Choose BSM Criminal Lawyers?

It is important that you receive legal advice. High range drink driving offences are criminal offences which may result in a criminal record and possibly a jail sentence. At Brander Smith McKnight, we have assisted many hundreds of clients with these charges. Our criminal lawyers will provide you with legal advice to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome. This may include:

  • Preparing you for court
  • Obtaining character references
  • Obtain evidence of hardship of licence disqualification, such as caring for a sick relative or the need for a licence for employment
  • Obtaining medical or psychological reports
  • Obtaining references from employers
  • Completing traffic offender programs

Brander Smith McKnight criminal lawyers will carefully prepare submissions for sentencing, presenting the best possible legal case to achieve the best outcome. We pride ourselves on listening carefully to your story and exploring every possible legal avenue to defend you.  We regularly achieve outstanding results in the local courts of Sutherland, Parramatta and Wollongong in these matters. Our criminal lawyers will appear in court for you, advocate strongly for you and handle the entire court process. We appreciate that facing a high range drink driving charge is very stressful and can have serious financial, lifestyle and employment consequences.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

 

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