One of the common questions that I get asked is, “Am I going to get a criminal record for my drink driving charge?”
Unfortunately, the answer is often yes. You could end up with a criminal record for your PCA.
What does it mean if you do get a criminal record? More importantly, what can we do to avoid one in the first place?
Lots of people are surprised to find out that drink driving is actually a criminal matter. It falls in the criminal legislation and it’s dealt with by the criminal court. What that means is if you’re found guilty and convicted, it will go on your criminal record.
The practical implication of having a criminal record is that everytime someone does a criminal record search, the offence will be disclosed, and that’s going to happen for at least 10 years.
Having an offence on your record can cause problems for a whole variety of things. The most common ones that I tend to see are either travel or employment.
It’s really tricky to say at the beginning of your matter whether a conviction is going to mean not getting a job or not being able to go overseas in the future. The reason for that is, it’s going to come down to a discretionary choice by someone in the future. What I always suggest is, if you think a criminal record could cause you problems, we should investigate that now and try to take care of it early in your matter rather than finding it come back to bite you down the track.
The first way: If you think you are not guilty of the offence or you have some other defence, then we should investigate that, because if you win the case, the charge is going to be dismissed and it’s not going to be put in your record, so it’s as if it never happened.
The second way that we can avoid a conviction is, if like most people with a drink driving matter, you accept that you are guilty, then we tell the court that and we ask the magistrate for leniency.
If the magistrate agrees, they can make a special order – often called a Section 10 – which means that no conviction is recorded against you. It’s a little bit like a caution. It’s not always easy to get a Section 10. We need to convince the magistrate that we meet all the criteria. What that will often come down to is:
- Is your criminal and traffic record a good one?
- Was there something about the offence itself that meant that it’s perhaps not as serious as what it might have otherwise been?
- Perhaps even the effective conviction is going to be particularly problematic for you.
If the magistrate agrees that we meet the criteria, they can make that order. The effect is, even though you’re guilty of the offence, it’s not going to be disclosed in most circumstances. It’s as close as you can get to it having it never happened.
If you’ve got a drink driving charge and you’re worried about the impact of what a criminal record could mean for you, give us a call. We’re always happy to have a chat to see what we can do to help you avoid a criminal record.