Drink and Drug Driving Offences

by George Sten & Co

1. Introduction

Police often run road safety operations to reduce the road toll during the Christmas Period. These operations often target Drink and Drug drivers. If you are caught Drink and Drug driving you are likely to face criminal charges, which can significantly impact on your livelihood.

Mobile drug testing (MDT) detects drivers who have recently used three common illegal drugs: ecstasy, cannabis and speed. MDT can be conducted at NSW Police roadside operations or by police in vehicles patrolling our roads.

MDT operates alongside RBT for alcohol and police also have the power to test drivers they believe may be under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs.. 

2. Statistics

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the police ran Operation Safe Arrival over the 2014 - 2015 Christmas and New Year period to improve road safety. Approximately 304,000 motorists were random breath tested (RBT) by police from 19 December 2014 to 25 December 2014.

During 2014 police conducted over 6,567,936 random breath tests and 21,865 motorists were charged with a drink driving offence. This indicates approximately one charge per 285 tests. The number of breath tests show that police RBTs are common in NSW, many with drug testing capabilities. Accordingly drink and drug driving offences are likely to get caught.

The Sydney Morning Herald article is titled “Police catch fewer drink-drivers over Christmas but book more people for speeding” dated 25 December 2014 and is available at http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/police-catch-fewer-drinkdrivers-over-christmas-but-book-more-people-for-speeding-20141225-12dqfq.html 

3. RBT Hot Spots

The Daily Telegraph has reported the areas with the highest rate of Drink driving. These areas include:

  • The Northern Beaches, Sydney;
  • The Tweed/Byron areas; and
  • The Coffs Harbour/Clarence areas on the North Coast of New South Waler

Police are likely to target these areas so if you are travelling in these areas you may be subject to a RBT and/or drug test.

Drink Driving RBT and MDT, mobile drug test units can be anywhere at anytime time.

The Daily Telegraph article is titled “There are still too many people driving while over the blood alcohol limit with the Northern Beaches the worst area” dated 19 February 2015 and available at http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/there-are-still-too-many-people-driving-while-over-the-blood-alcohol-limit-with-the-northern-beaches-the-worst-area/story-fni0cx12-1227225928421 

4. Drug Driving Tests

The Huffington Post reports that NSW Police are rolling out Random Drug Testing state wide including the regional areas. Any presence of an illicit substance whilst driving is a criminal offence.

Drivers caught with drugs in their system will face court, could lose their licence, be fined and end up with a criminal record.

During the June/July period this year one in six NSW drivers returned a positive finding for cannabis, amphetamines or ecstasy from 1900 roadside tests. Depending on a person’s metabolism a drug may be detectable several days after consumption. This means that if you habitually take drugs you may fail a drug test on a drug-free day. 

The Huffington Post article is titled “NSW Police To Rollout Random Drug Testing Statewide” dated 12 September 2015 and available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/09/12/police-drug-test_n_8097398.html 

5. Penalties

The Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) (the Act) prescribes the penalties for drink and drug driving offences. The penalties are based on the category, blood alcohol content of the motorist and presence of an illicit substance.

5.1. Alcohol

5.1.1. Novice and Special Category Drivers

Novice and special category drivers are defined in section 107 of the act. A novice driver includes:

  • A learner,
  • Provisional driver,
  • Drivers with court ordered alcohol interlock devices, and
  • Disqualified license drivers

A special category driver includes the above and:

  • A driver who uses the vehicle for business purposes, or
  • A person who drives a heavy vehicle.

Please note these lists are intended as a guide and are not complete lists. We recommend speaking to one of our lawyers for specific advice regarding these driver categories.

A novice driver with a BAC above 0 and less than 0.02 and a special category driver with a BAC from 0.02 to 0.05 face a maximum fine of $1,100 for a first offence or $2,200 for a repeat offence. They also receive a minimum 3 month licence disqualification for a first offence or 6 months for repeat offences. 

5.1.2. Low range BAC

A driver with a BAC from 0.05 to less than 0.08 has a low range BAC. These drivers face a maximum fine of $1,100 for a first offence or $2,200 for a repeat offence. They also face a minimum 3 month license disqualification for a first offence or 6 months for repeat offenders. 

5.1.3. Middle range BAC

A motorist with a BAC from 0.08 to less than 0.15 has a middle range BAC. These drivers face a maximum fine of $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment for a first offence. Repeat offenders face a maximum penalty of $3,300 and/or 12 months imprisonment. They also face a minimum 6 month license disqualification for a first offence or a minimum of 12 months for repeat offenders.

5.1.4. High range BAC

Where a motorist’s BAC is 0.15 and above they are considered to have a high range BAC. These drivers face a maximum fine of $3,300 and/or 18 months imprisonment for a first offence. Repeat offenders face a maximum fine of $5,500 and/or 2 years imprisonment. They also face a minimum 12 month license disqualification for a first offence or 2 years for repeat offenders.

5.1.5. Alcohol interlock devices

A court may also order an alcohol interlock device to be fitted to your car. An estimated $2,200 per year is required for installation, servicing and leasing of the device. A 35% discount may apply to eligible concession card holders. Alcohol interlock devices are expensive and you have the inconvenience of blowing into the interlock each time you start your car.

More information regarding alcohol interlock devices is available from the Roads and Maritime Services website at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/safety-rules/offences-penalties/drug-alcohol/interlock-program.html 

5.2. Drug drivers

Regardless of the class of driver the presence of any illicit substance is an offence. This offence carries a maximum fine of $1,100 for a first offence and $2,200 for repeat offenders. Offenders also face a minimum 3 month license disqualification for a first offence and 6 month disqualification for a second offence.

An illicit substance includes:

  • Cannabis;
  • Ice;
  • Ecstasy;
  • Non medicinal morphine; and
  • Cocaine

This list is intended as a guide. For specific advice please contact one of our criminal lawyers. 

6. Conclusion

Drink and Drug driving offences are criminal convictions carrying a range of penalties. These include the recording of a criminal conviction, hefty fines, license suspensions, the fitting of alcohol interlock devices to your car and/or imprisonment. Recorded criminal convictions may be visible on a police check and cause employment difficulties. License suspensions and alcohol interlock devices may also cause inconvenience.

RBT and MDT, drug testing stations are prominent during the Christmas and New Year period. At George, Sten and Co we are able to provide expert advice if you are charged with a drink or drug driving offence to lower your resulting hardship.

For over 30 years, George Sten & Co Criminal Defence Lawyers believe every person is entitled to the highest quality legal defence in drink driving offences. A driving offence could mean loss of licence, loss of job and even loss of freedom. Our drink driving lawyers Sydney, have exceptional court skills, and a driving principle to obtain the best results for clients and the best defence possible.

Visit our offices in Sydney's CBD, or call us on 9261 8640 or our 24 hour line 0412 423 569 to get fast and correct legal advice.


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