Drink Driving

The law treats drink driving very seriously. The Courts do not view drink driving as a minor traffic infringement. It is a crime. 

Drink driving offences can result in the court imposing large fines, lengthy periods of licence disqualification and even jail time.

A conviction for drink driving can have serious long-term consequences for you and your family, and can affect future employment or travel plans. 

If you are convicted for drink driving you will lose your licence for at least 3 months.

For many people a charge of driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol is their first experience in the criminal justice system. Any brush with the law can be traumatic.  We understand that people charged with a drink driving offence are anxious and nervous about the process. 

Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers are experienced and have appeared in many drink-driving matters.  We regularly achieve good results for our clients. Our lawyers work hard and effectively with you to seek the best outcome available on the facts.  

We will put your best possible case to the court. We are careful and put the time into getting to know each client so that we can present the facts and arguments which the Court might take into account when deciding to impose a penalty. 

CASE STUDIES – based on actual cases

Client ABC was charged with driving with a blood alcohol reading of alcohol 0.07 (low range) after being tested at a roadside RBT. The court did not record a conviction against our client and he was allowed to keep his licence.

Client XYZ had been driving for 10 years and had a clean record. He was stopped for the purpose of the breath test and was charged with a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 (mid range). If convicted, our client stood to lose his licence for at least 12 months. Our client received no conviction or licence disqualification. The matter was dismissed subject to his completion of a good behaviour bond for 12 months.

Client DEF was charged with a blood alcohol reading of 0.16 (high range) and dangerous driving after speeding off from the Police. He had a licence for 5 years with a good record. He pleaded guilty to high range drink-driving and dangerous driving and was convicted for both offences. He was sentenced to a fine, and a three-year disqualification period with an Interlock Licence to become available to him after 18 months. Therefore, he was able to drive with an interlock device in his car for the last 18 months of his disqualification period.

Range of penalties for each offence

In the Local Court penalties can be as serious as up to 18 months imprisonment or a 3 year licence disqualification.

The penalty imposed by the Court will depend on the level of alcohol present in your blood at the time of the reading.

Blood Alcohol
Maximum Penalty

Automatic Disqualification

Minimum Disqualification

Low Range
0.05 to 0.08
$1,100 fine
6 months
3 months
Mid Range
0.08 to 0.15

$2,200 fine and/or 9 months in jail

12 months
6 months
High Range
0.15 or higher

$3,300 fine and/or imprisonment for 18 months

3 years
12 months

For a conviction for drink driving a second time within 5 years of a first offence, significantly greater penalties apply.

Conviction or No conviction

The above penalties only apply if you are convicted of a drink driving offence. Should the court decide not to convict you and sentence you under Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, there will be no penalty or disqualification.

The Court takes into account many factors when determining penalty including:-

1.      The level of intoxication.

2.      Whether there was aggressive driving.

3.      The length of the journey.

4.      The number of people in the car at risk.

5.      Whether this is your first offence.

6.     Your need for a driver’s licence.

7.     Your overall level of culpability.

8.     Your driving record.

9.     Community work and character.

Traffic offenders program

The Traffic Offenders Program is a Local Court-based program for offenders who have pleaded guilty to, or have been found guilty of a traffic offence.

The purpose of the program is to educate traffic offenders and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

The likelihood of reoffending is a serious consideration that Magistrates take into account when determining penalty.

Either you can elect to enrol, or the court can refer you to the Traffic Offenders Program.

Your case will usually be adjourned so that you can attend the program. The program normally takes between 6-8 weeks to complete.

The co-ordinator of the Program provides a report to the court about your attendance (or non-attendance)

Interlock program

Should you plead guilty to a drink driving offence and the Court decide to record a conviction you will lose your driver's licence. 

Being unable to drive can result in serious consequences for you and your family, such as losing your job.

The law tries to balance penalising drink drivers for the benefit and safety of the community, with the individual hardship to an offender disqualified from driving.

Since 2003, the Courts have implemented a system called the "Alcohol Interlock Program".

The Interlock Program allows drivers convicted of serious alcohol related offences to continue driving after a reduced disqualification period, if they obtain an Interlock Licence.

An Alcohol Interlock Device is in electronic breath testing device connected to the ignition of a vehicle. The car will not start unless the driver passes a breath test.

The Interlock Program is considered suitable for those with a history of drink driving or those convicted with a high blood alcohol reading.

The Interlock Program allows drink drivers an opportunity for rehabilitation and an opportunity to drive if not drunk.

 “Section 10 dismissal” – First Offenders

A Section 10 dismissal occurs when a Magistrate or Judge decides not to convict an offender who has pleaded guilty to, or has been found guilty of a criminal offence.

It is colloquially know as a ‘first offenders provision’ and in most circumstances is only available as a sentencing option if you have no previous convictions or have not previously had the benefit of a s10 dismissal.

If the Court records a conviction for a drink driving offence, the law says you must lose your driver's licence.

If the Court can be persuaded to discharge you without recording a conviction, you will keep your licence. An application pursuant to "section 10" is a well-known part of the criminal law in NSW.

Magistrates are very reluctant to sentence drink driving offenders under Section 10. For this reason, we recommend that you instruct an experienced lawyer who understands this technical part of the law and has experience asking a Magistrate to consider Section 10 as a sentencing option rather than record a conviction. In some circumstances you can disadvantage yourself by asking for a s10 dismissal to which a Magistrate considers you are not entitled.

When considering whether to give a “section 10” the Magistrate must consider the following issues:-

1.      your age, character, criminal record and mental state.

2.      the seriousness of the offence
3.      other extenuating circumstances.
4.      any other relevant factors
Defending a drink driving charge

Nearly all defendants plead guilty to a drink-driving charge and retain a lawyer in the hope that they will minimise their penalty. 

However, in some circumstances you may be able to defend your charge, in which case you might consider entering a plea of Not Guilty.

Most people charged with drink-driving are charged with the offence “PCA” which means driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol in their blood. The police use a device called an Alcoholmeter to record the level of alcohol in your blood.

A defence worth considering may be that the reading recorded by the device is different from your reading at the time you were stopped and first tested. It can take nearly an hour from the time you are first stopped and tested to the time you are taken to the Police Station and undergo further testing.

We have in some circumstances instructed medical and scientific experts to provide evidence that the reading produced by the Alcoholmeter and upon which the Police rely for a prosecution is not a reliable measure of alcohol reading at the relevant time of driving.

In some circumstances we have persuaded either the prosecution or the Court to reduce the penalty from high range to mid range or from mid range to low range.

This article was prepared in March 2013. The law changes regularly. Consult a lawyer for up-to-date advice.

If you are facing loss of licence through drink-driving, Contact Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers on (02) 8268 4000 for friendly professional service. We have a matter-of-fact approach, and will be able to give you an outline of your options and our fees.

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