Blog authored by Geoff Yeo (email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Driving under the Influence (DUI)
It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle on a public road whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs and we commonly refer to this as ‘DUI’.
This is a general offence and usually only applied where the police have not been able to obtain a breath or drug test. The prevalence of testing equipment, has meant that this general offence is not often utilised by the police.
Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) offences
It is also a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle on a public road whilst having blood alcohol reading greater than the allowable Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA).
A person's PCA is measured using a breath test and/or blood test.
PCA offences fall into different categories, including low range, mid range, high range and special range.
Changes to Low Range PCA offences
The offence of Low Range PCA is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.05 to 0.079 (inclusive).
From the 20th of May 2019 stronger penalties for low range offences were implemented.
Police can now issue to first time offenders an immediate three-month licence suspension and fine of $561 if your blood alcohol reading is between 0.05 – 0.079.
Before the changes if you were found with a low range PCA you were issued with a court attendance notice to have your penalty determined in court.This meant you had to attend court, but it did allow you to continue driving until your court date, gave you time to prepare your defence and gave you time to prepare your circumstances to be living without a license.
The police now have the discretion to either issue the first-time offender an infringement notice, immediate suspension notice or court attendance notice.
- An Infringement notice involves a fine of $561 for the offence of low range drink driving, with the driver then being sent a letter from the RMS advising them that their licence will be suspended for a period of three months.The suspension is not immediate.It gives you some breathing space.
- An Immediate suspension notice involves the issuing of the infringement notice and at the same time the issuing of the immediate suspension notice of your license which will be effective for 3 months and effective immediately.
- A Court attendance notice can still be issued by police. If a driver receives such a notice, then this means they will need to appear before the court on the date specified in the notice.On that date, the driver can choose to either plead guilty or not guilty to the offence at court. Ultimately, if found guilty then a conviction may be recorded the court and a period of disqualification may be imposed. In most cases a conviction and disqualification period will be imposed, however, it may be possible where there are appropriate circumstances to request the court to deal with the matter more leniently and this is where an experienced solicitor may assist.
If you have had your licence suspended for low range PCA your options are as follows:
- Pay the fine and live without your license for 3 months; or
- Appeal the immediate suspension of your licence at your local court.If doing so you must lodge the appeal within 28 days of receiving notice of your licence suspension.In lodging your appeal, you are seeking a ‘stay of the suspension’ which means you are asking for the suspension to be lifted before the appeal is heard.For the court to do so it will need to be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances as to why the suspension should be lifted.
Note appealing the suspension will not mean that the appeal is heard straight away.
If you have had an immediate suspension of your licence or have received and believe that there are appropriate circumstances to argue for the suspension to be lifted, then you may be able to appeal your suspension in the Local Court.
However we recommend that you obtain legal advice first, especially as these penalties have only been recently introduced.
For more information, please contact our office on 02 6882 3133 for an appointment.