The question in most cases is: What are the consequences? What happens next?
There’s three main things you really need to be aware of if you’re considering pleading guilty to drink driving. The first is the risk of a criminal conviction. The second is the loss of licence. Finally are the other penalties that the court has to consider.
What I wanted to do today was break those down for you so that if you do find yourself in this situation, you know what to expect and, more importantly, what can be done to get yourself a better outcome.
Firstly, let’s have a chat about the criminal record. A lot of people are surprised to find out that drink driving is a criminal offence and that means if you are convicted, you do end up with a criminal record.
In some cases, we are able to avoid that by getting what we call a non-conviction order, often you’ll hear it called a Section 10.
A Section 10 is where the magistrate says, ‘Yes, you’re guilty of the offence but I’m not going to impose any other punishments and I’m not going to record a conviction.’ It’s really important to understand that it’s not always easy to get a Section 10 for a drink driving case. A lot of people mistakenly think that if it’s your first offence, you’ll get given a free go, and that’s not the case. The magistrate needs to be happy that you meet a whole range of criteria including having a look at your previous offences, including just your normal traffic record. They need to be happy that the offence itself wasn’t too serious, and they also can look at anything extenuating.
If you think that you might fall into the category of maybe getting a Section 10, it’s a really good idea to speak to a lawyer first because they can help you make sure that you’ve prepared your case in the way that gives you the best chance of letting the magistrate make that order.
The second thing we need to think about is what penalties the magistrate can impose. If they can’t give you a non-conviction, then they are required to give you some form of punishment. Thankfully, in most cases, the punishment for drink driving is just a fine. But where the situation gets more serious, say for example, your reading’s very high, you’ve got prior offences, or there’s a collision, then the penalties start to get a bit more serious as well. The courts can impose things like good behaviour bonds, community service orders, home detention, and even, in worst case scenarios, they can send people to jail.
If you think that your offence might be starting to creep up that scale of seriousness, it’s a really good idea to have a chat with a lawyer and find out what outcomes you’re possibly looking at and also what we can do to try and keep the punishment as low as possible.
The final thing that the magistrate has to decide is how long the person will lose their licence for. In every drink driving case, where there is a conviction, the court does have to impose a disqualification, and the length of the disqualification depends on a couple of factors, mainly being whether you’ve had an offence like this before and secondly, what your blood alcohol content reading was (low range, mid range, high range).
In most cases, what the court will also have to do is make an interlock order. The Interlock Program is where a breathalyzer is fitted into a person’s car. For a period of time, they need to blow into it to prove that they have a zero blood alcohol reading before they drive.
In most cases, what the magistrate will say is that the person is disqualified for a period of time. Once that disqualification finishes they need to participate in the Interlock Program for another period of time before they can get their normal licence back.
If for some reason you can’t participate in the Interlock Program, say for example you don’t have a car to fit the device on, we can ask the magistrate for an interlock exemption order. If the magistrate agrees to make that order then what happens is only a period of disqualification is imposed. The downside is that disqualification is longer than what you would have got had you been able to go on the Interlock Program.
As you can see, there’s a lot of variables that influence what happens when someone pleads guilty to drink driving. If you have found yourself in a situation where you’ve got a drink driving charge, please do feel free to get in touch with the lawyers at Ainsley Law. We’re always happy to have a look at your case and give you an assessment of what you might be looking at in terms of outcomes and more importantly what can be done to get you a better result.