If you have been charged with drink driving, you may be wondering if there is any way to avoid licence disqualification. In this blog post, we will explore the options available to you and provide some helpful tips to mitigate the consequences of a drink driving charge.
Can You Avoid Licence Disqualification?
The law states that the court must impose a licence disqualification if a person is convicted of drink driving. This is a daunting prospect for many drivers in NSW. However, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to avoid or reduce the period of licence disqualification.
Ways to Avoid a Licence Disqualification
There are two ways to avoid a disqualification if you have been charged with drink driving in NSW:
1). Be found ‘not guilty’
It is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove that the person is guilty of the offence ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ unless they plead guilty. In most drink driving cases the prosecution can prove the case, but sometimes it is possible to successfully defend the charge. The defence could be based on a procedural error, an issue with the breathalyser results or a mistake by the police.
If you are found ‘not guilty’ then the charges are dismissed and there is no further penalty. It is important to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor if you are considering defending a drink driving charge. The laws are complex and success can turn on technicalities.
2). Be found ‘guilty without a conviction recorded’
If you plead guilty to a drink driving offence the magistrate will decide what penalties to impose. This process is called ‘sentencing’. One option available to the magistrate during sentencing is a ‘non-conviction’. You might also hear this called a ‘section 10’ or ‘no conviction recorded’.
A ‘non-conviction’ is where the person is found guilty but the conviction is not attached. The offence is still placed on the person’s record but they receive no further penalty. This means that there is no disqualification.
If the court grants a ‘non-conviction’ the person will usually be placed on a Conditional Release Order. This is a good behaviour bond for a period of time. It is unusual for magistrates to grant ‘non-convictions’ for drink driving offences in NSW. However, in some circumstances it is possible.
Factors That May Reduce the Disqualification
Although most people who are charged with a drink driving offence will receive a disqualification, it is often possible to reduce the length of the disqualification period. It’s important to prepare your case carefully even when pleading guilty. A strong plea in mitigation can help get your licence back sooner. Some of the factors that the magistrate will consider when deciding how long the disqualification should be includes:
- The seriousness of the offence: Some factors include the BAC reading, your manner of driving (e.g. were you stopped due to erratic driving or for an RBT?), how far you were driving and whether there was a collision. Generally, the more serious the circumstances the longer the disqualification period.
- Your driving record: the magistrate will look at your whole record (including ticket offences such as speeding fines). If you have a good record you will generally receive a shorter disqualification.
- Previous drink driving offences: ‘second or subsequent’ drink driving offences within 5 years attract longer disqualification periods.
- Offence category: Drink driving offences in NSW are categorised into five main categories: Novice Range PCA, Special Range PCA, Low Range PCA, Mid Range PCA, and High Range PCA. The offence category can affect the severity of the disqualification period, with higher categories attracting longer disqualification periods.
- Your personal circumstances: The magistrate can consider your personal circumstances when deciding the disqualification period. This can include your family situation, your employment, any medical or mental health issues and positive contributions you’ve made to the community.
- Traffic Offenders Program: NSW Traffic Offender Programs are aimed at educating drivers about the dangers of drink driving and helping them develop safer driving habits. Completing such a program may be viewed positively by the court and could potentially result in a reduced sentence or penalty.
Seeking Legal Advice
When facing a drink driving charge in NSW, it’s crucial to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor who specialises in traffic law. A solicitor with expertise in this area can provide valuable guidance and representation throughout the legal process, increasing your chances of a favourable outcome.
Here are some reasons why seeking legal advice is essential:
- Understanding your rights and options: A qualified solicitor can explain your legal rights and options in simple terms, helping you make informed decisions about how to proceed with your case. They can provide advice on potential defences, mitigating circumstances, and the best course of action to take based on your individual circumstances.
- Navigating the legal process: A solicitor can assist you in navigating the legal process, including court appearances, submissions, and negotiations, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and your strongest case is presented.
- Building a strong defence: A solicitor can thoroughly review the evidence against you, identify any weaknesses or inconsistencies, and develop a strong defence strategy tailored to your case. They can also cross-examine witnesses, challenge evidence, and present compelling arguments in court on your behalf.
- Mitigating the consequences: A solicitor can advocate for leniency and explore mitigating circumstances that may help in reducing the severity of the consequences, such as licence disqualification or other penalties.
Preparing for Court
Your lawyer will help you to prepare your case to achieve the shorted possible disqualification period. Some of the steps your lawyer may suggest include:
- Participation in a Traffic Offender Program.
- Preparing character references and other evidence to support your case.
- Rehabilitation or treatment programs.
- Showing your genuine remorse and contrition.
Being charged with a drink driving offence is a stressful experience. However, there are ways to minimise the impacts. Remember, taking the right steps now can make a significant difference in mitigating the impact of a drink driving conviction. Ainsley Law is here to help you understand your rights and provide expert legal guidance throughout the process. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for trusted legal assistance.
Please call us today at (02) 8294 5697 or leave an enquiry.