Do I Need a Drink Driving Lawyer?
Getting caught for drink or drug driving is not likely to result in favorable outcomes. However, at McLoughlin McKenzie Law, we work on these cases every day and have done so for years. Our wealth of experience with these types of charges offers our clients advantages they might not otherwise have if they take on the legal system alone.
We serve the communities of Manly, the Northern Beaches, and Sydney to help drivers return to the road as quickly as possible. Our years of working with law enforcement in these communities allow us to deliver the best services, networks, and resources to our clients.
If you are wondering if you need a drink driving lawyer, you have come to the right place. We are going to outline many of the specifics involved in determining drink driving charges and what penalties they carry. We hope that this information will guide you in making informed decisions about your DUI incident and whether or not a lawyer should get involved.
How Drink Driving Charges are Determined
The blood alcohol content of an individual is typically assessed on site and verified by a breathalyzer breath or blood test. If your test reads anything above 0.05%, you will likely be arrested for a drink driving charge. The range of your blood alcohol content, referred to as the PCA level, determines the charges you will face after a drink driving incident. Below you will find the “range” for PCA levels and the common penalties associated with them.
- Novice Range PCA – 0.00-0.019
The severity of the Novice Range offence depends on whether or not the driver has previously committed a drink driving violation. This charge can impact any driver including those who are not licenced. A Novice Range offense will also appear on your criminal record which is available to anyone, such as, employers who do criminal background checks.
To avoid criminal conviction, hire a drink-driving lawyer to obtain a potential section 10 non-conviction order. By doing this, the courts may see this as a proactive approach to your charges, and you are taking the situation seriously. As a result, you may be able to keep your licence.
Fines – First-time offenders are fined up to $1,100 with a potential 3-6 month period of disqualification of driver’s licence. Novice offenders who repeat this offence within 5-years will pay up to $2,200 and lose their licence from 1-to-3 months with a 12-month interlock period.
- Special Range PCA – 0.02-0.049
The Special Range PCA impacts all drivers including those who drive for employment, like taxi and bus drivers. Penalties will depend on the severity of the charges which will end up on a criminal record no matter how your penalties pan out. A Special Range offence is eligible for a section 10 order, but you will need a lawyer to navigate that with you.
Fines – A $1,100 fine is typically imposed on the Special Range drink driving offender with a 3-6 month loss of licence privileges. There is an automatic 12-month interlock period applied as well.
- Low Range PCA – 0.05-0.079
As with the Novice and Special Range charges, the Low range is similar in that it applies to all drivers and penalties rely on the severity of the incident. The charge appears on your criminal record and is eligible for a section 10 dismissal.
Fines – First-time offenders of the Low Range offence are likely to pay a $1,100 fine and lose driving privileges/licence for 3-6 months. Repeat offenders within the last five years will see a fine of up to $2,200 and a loss of licence for 1-3 months. The automatic interlock system is in place for 12-months.
- Mid Range PCA – 0.08-0.149
Mid Range offences are handled a little differently in that their penalties carry more severe consequences. Any driver with this PCA level can be charged with a Mid Range offence which will also leave you with a criminal record. A section 10 order might ease some of the charges, but you will need a lawyer to support you in how to accomplish this.
Fines – A first Mid Range offence may land you in prison for up to 9-months depending on the severity of your charges. A fine of $2,200 is likely, as is the loss of your licence for 6-9 months. Repeat offenders can see a $3,300 fine and a loss of their licence anywhere from 6-9 months. A 2-year interlock period is automatic.
- High Range PCA – 0.150 +
A High Range offence carries the highest penalties for drunk driver charges. This charge will be found on a criminal record and is “not” eligible for a section 10 leniency. Anyone driving with a 0.150+ PCA level is subject to this type of charge and their penalties.
Fines – An up to $3,300 fine applies to first-time offenders with a potential imprisonment period of up to 18 months depending on the severity of the charge. You are likely to lose your licence for 6-9 months with a two year interlock period. Repeat offenders will pay up to $5,500 and will lose their driving privileges for 9-12 months with a 4-year interlock period imposed.
The Extenuating Repercussions and Penalties of Drink Driving
Fines and criminal records may only be the start of the penalties that result from a drink driving offence. Most drink driving charges remain on a criminal record for 10-years which can impact many areas of your life. You could potentially lose your job, have to report your charge to a regulatory employment body, be subject to medical exams before you’re cleared to drive again, hurt your insurance premiums, and leave your travel life in question with visa restrictions to places like the United States.
Working with an experienced drunk driving lawyer may help avoid some of the life-changing ramifications that you have already experienced through the legal system. A lawyer may be able to reduce some of your penalties which may reflect better on your legal records and have less impact in other areas of your life.
Pleading Guilty to Drink Driving
Most Australians will choose to plead guilty to a drink driving offence, as the court is likely to hand you a better overall outcome for taking responsibility. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may or may not need legal support to plead guilty. If you believe that your charges are eligible for a section 10 dismissal or leniency, we highly recommend working with us to help you through that legal process.
Pleading Not Guilty to Drink Driving
Not all DUI offences are equal, in fact, some turn out as inaccurate due to mistakes or wrongful oversight of the laws. If you believe your drink driving charge is a result of this sort of negligence, we suggest you contact a lawyer today so you can learn how to fight a drink driving charge. Below are some reasonable ways that people have fought DUI offences in the past.
Sometimes evidence doesn’t add up, and in those cases, you can absolutely fight a drink-driving charge. These cases are difficult to prove but an experienced lawyer will guide you and how best to approach your specific situation. For example, if you had a few sips of wine earlier in the evening, and hours later your PCA level read far too high to match what you know you had to drink, there may be ways to prove this to a court. The same can be said if you consumed food you were unaware had alcohol in it. Enlist the help of an experienced lawyer to determine if you have a case worth fighting for.
Technology is not perfect, and law enforcement makes mistakes. Neither one of these scenarios means that there is malice involved in your drink driving case, but it is worth investigating if you are staring down the path of legal ramifications that will significantly impact your life. If you believe an equipment malfunction occurred, when law enforcement used it to verify your blood alcohol content level, you may have a defence for your DUI case. This scenario will not be easy to prove, but with some investigating and evidence to support your story, it might make all the difference in the world to your outcome.
A Two Hour Time Lapse
Police are not given authority to administer breath tests on anyone they suspect has been drinking, if two or more hours have passed since the driver operated a motor vehicle. Sometimes this happens at the scene of an accident when there are many moving parts. Authorities are required to give breath or blood tests within the appropriate two-hour window if they suspect drinking and driving.
You Make it Home
Legally, police cannot try to establish your blood alcohol content if you have made it home to your residence. For example, if you made it inside your home before police were able to pull you over and administer a test, they are not authorized to arrest you for a DUI. This is a particular situation in the “Home Safe Rule,” and if you plan to use it as a defense, we recommend getting legal advice as soon as possible.
Police Are Not in Compliance
When it comes to the law, everything has a procedure, this is also the case in a drink driving incident where police have specific procedures they must follow. If you can prove that police did not comply with standard operating procedures, you may have a defense for your drink driving charge. To use this specific defense, you would have to know what officers are required to do in a drink driving incident, and show evidence to prove how they did not follow these standards.
Study Shows Australians Don’t Know the Drink Driving Laws
Budget Direct, a car insurance company, recently conducted a survey of men and women and their knowledge of drink driving laws in Australia. The results may surprise you because they certainly surprised us. Australia has some of the world’s most strict drink driving laws only behind countries like Pakistan (automatic imprisonment) and El Salvador (rumored to have a death penalty.)
Here are some of the findings of this study that may help you understand Australia’s drink and drug driving laws better.
- 26% of Australians polled didn’t know the PCA legal drinking limit of 0.05%
- 20% said they had operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. 24% of that number were men, while 16% of this statistic were women.
- 30% of roadway deaths involve alcohol in Australia. This compares to 9% in Germany, 16% in the UK, and 31% in the United States.
- Australians didn’t know what was meant by the “standard drink consumed” rates. This indicates how much alcohol you should consume within one hour in order to be able to drive. In general, this breaks down to one standard bottle of beer, one small glass of red wine, 30ml of a standard spirit.
*2000 Australians were polled for this study.
Drink driving is a severe offence in Australia as it has caused hundreds of deaths that were preventable. Of the 1,293 traffic deaths in the country, 19% were caused by a drink driving offence. This statistic is why the penalties for those caught between alcohol and driving are so severe.
No matter what drink or drug driving situation you have found yourself in, be that the cause of one or the victim, we would be happy to listen to the details of your case. Please contact McLaughlin McKenzie Law today to set up an appointment. We recommend knowing your rights and options before making any legal decisions with drink driving charges.