Drinking and driving don’t mix. Even a small amount of alcohol affects your vision, can lead to making poor decisions, and makes you slower at reacting to danger. Your chances of having a crash increase drastically the more you drink:
0.05- twice as likely to crash
0.08- 7 times more likely
0.15- 25 times more likely
70% of fatal drink driving crashes happen in country areas, and a third of those people killed are young people between 17-24 years old.
If you drive when you have been drinking you can:
Kill or injure yourself or someone else
Lose your licence
Be fined up to $ 1,100.00 for a first offence (Novice to Low Range BAC)
End up with a criminal record
Planning on Drinking? Plan Ahead
The best way to guarantee that you won’t be caught drink driving is to not drive at all.
Before you go out, plan to:
Leave the car at home
Share a taxi with friends to cut costs
Stay the night at a friend’s place
Use a train or bus
Organise to be picked up by someone who is not drinking
Blood Alcohol Limits
The amount of alcohol you have in your bloodstream is known as your blood alcohol content (or BAC). It is most often measured using a breathalyzer.
The blood alcohol limit is the MAXIMUM amount of alcohol you can have in your system and still legally drive.
If you have a full, unrestricted licence your blood alcohol limit is 0.05. If you are a Learner, P1 or P2 driver your limit is 0.00 (zero).
How Many Drinks Can I Have?
If you are a Learner, P1 or P2 driver you cannot drink at all. You should also be aware that some medications contain alcohol- always read the label, and if you have any questions ask your doctor or chemist whether it’s OK to drive while you’re taking them.
If you have an unrestricted licence, the amount you can drink depends on whether:
You are male or female
You are taking any other medications
Also, not all drinks are equal. The volume of a ‘standard drink’ depends on the type of alcohol:
Light Beer: 425ml (schooner)
Full-Strength Beer: 285ml (middy)
Spirits: 30ml (one shot)
The only way to guarantee that you are under the limit is to not drink at all when you are planning to drive.
If you are drinking, restrict yourself to:
Men: 2 standard drinks in the first hour, and 1 standard drink per hour after that
Women: No more than 1 standard drink per hour
What Happens if I Get Caught?
If you are over the limit on a breathalyzer test you will be asked to wait 15 minutes and take the test again. If you are still over the legal limit for your type of licence you will be asked to go to the Police station for further testing.
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test you can be fined, and may lose your licence for up to 6 months. If you refuse testing at the Police station, or you do anything to affect your test results you will be fined, lose your license and may even be sent to jail.
Heavy penalties apply if you drive without a licence.
If it's your first offence
If you've been caught before
If you’ve been caught drink-driving more than once in a 5-year period, the penalties are increased.
If you’re an L or P plater
L, P1 and P2 drivers have a blood alcohol limit of zero.
If you are caught with a reading between 0.00 and 0.05 and it is your first offence you can be fined up to $1,100 and you may lose your licence for up to 6 months.
If this is not your first offence, you could be fined as much as $2,200 and be disqualified from driving for 12 months. Jail time does not apply to Novice Class drink driving charges.
If you are caught over 0.05 the fines and penalties (including jail) for unrestricted licence holders will apply.
Going to Court
If the Police charge you with drink driving or DUI, you will be required to go to court. If you don’t turn up the court can issue a warrant for your arrest, or make its decision without you. You don’t have to have a lawyer represent you in court, but you should at least get legal advice before you go.
It’s not a good idea to drive to court- if you are convicted your licence suspension will start immediately, and you won’t be able to drive home.
Depending on whether you plead guilty or not guilty, the matter can be dealt with in one day, or over several court hearings.
If you plead guilty, the Magistrate will sentence you at the first hearing. You will have a chance to make a statement before the court, explaining your actions and any other relevant information you think should be taken into account.
If you are pleading guilty to the offence, or are being sentenced, you should bring with you at least 2 character references. A reference should be provided by a person of good character in the community, who knows you well (for at least 12 months). For more information about what a good character reference has in it, see http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications/factsheets-and-resources/character-references
The Magistrate will take these into consideration when deciding your sentence.
If you plead not guilty, a second court date will be set. At the second hearing you will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses to support your case. The Police will also present their own case, and question your witnesses. The court will consider all of the evidence and make a decision.
If you are convicted the offence will appear on your criminal record. The court will advise you how long your licence will be suspended for, and what penalties you will have to pay. You will also have to pay court costs.
If you are convicted in the Local Court you have 28 days to appeal. There will be additional fees, and you should make sure you get legal advice.
Magistrate's Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT)
MERIT is a program aimed at providing drug and alcohol rehabilitation for people who have committed offences such as drink driving. You can either request to participate in the program yourself, or your solicitor, the Police or the Magistrate can recommend it to you.
Treatment includes: detox, counseling (individual and group), case management, and access to other welfare and support services. The program usually lasts for three months, and takes place in between your first court hearing and your sentencing hearing (the time when you are on bail).
To be eligible you must:
Be over 18
Be suitable for release on bail
Have a recognized problem with alcohol
Be willing to participate in a treatment program
Not have any other outstanding offences relating to physical or sexual assault, or any other matter that is awaiting hearing in the District Court
Have the Magistrate’s approval to participate in the program
If you are accepted into the program you will be assigned a caseworker. You will sit down with them and agree together on your treatment plan. Once this has been decided, you must follow all of the steps and rules you have agreed upon. You must also follow the conditions the Court has set for your bail. During the program you will be asked to appear before the Magistrate to give them a progress report.
Once you’ve completed the program you will go to court for sentencing. Your caseworker will give a final report on your progress, and can make recommendations for further treatment if it’s needed. The Magistrate will take your participation in the program into consideration when they decide on your sentence.
The laws relating to drink driving are set out in the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (NSW).
Far West Community Legal Centre
5 Chloride St, Broken Hill
Ph: 08 8087 6766
Freecall: 1800 300 036
Aboriginal Legal Service
35 Sulphide Street Broken Hill
Ph: 08 8087 3233
Fax: 08 8087 6627
Roads & Maritime Services (formerly RTA)
Ph: 132 213
Ph: 08 8088 7199
Fax: 08 8087 8970
Centre for Road Safety
Drive Hammered...Get Nailed
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.