This is a very good question. Lots of people think that there is leniency available for their first drink driving offence. While this is true in many ways, it often doesn’t extend to keeping your licence.
The unfortunate reality is that most people charged with drink driving will lose their licence, even if it is their first offence. But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation.
The first thing to know is that for many drink driving offences the police will suspend your licence on the spot. Usually, this suspension will remain in place until the case is finished in court and the magistrate decides the final penalty.
It is possible in some situations to have the police suspension lifted. You can appeal against the suspension and the case will be heard by a Local Court Magistrate.
The Magistrate can lift the suspension if they’re satisfied that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ that justify it. This is a very high threshold to meet. It means that the common reasons for needing a licence that Magistrates hear, such as needing to drive for work, usually won’t be enough by themselves. However, it can be possible to combine a number of reasons together to make up exceptional circumstances. Or if there’s just one very unusual reason for needing the licence, this might be enough by itself.
It’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer if you’re thinking of appealing a police suspension. They can help you decide what factors in your circumstances could justify the suspension being lifted.
You also need to bear in mind that successfully appealing the police suspension isn’t the end of the case. It just means you can drive until the magistrate decides the final penalty, at which point they might impose a licence disqualification.
One of the options available to the Magistrate when deciding the penalty to impose for a drink driving offence is a ‘non-conviction’. This is often called a ‘section 10’ or a conditional release order.
If the Magistrate makes a ‘non-conviction’ order then the person is still found guilty of the offence and it goes on their record, however, there is no ‘conviction’ attached. The practical effect of this is that there is no further punishment, including no licence disqualification. If the person’s licence was suspended by the police then they are entitled to get it back again straight away.
To qualify for a non-conviction the Magistrate needs to be convinced that certain criteria are met. Some of the factors they will consider include how serious the offence was, the person’s record and any extenuating circumstances.
We need to be upfront, that it’s not common or easy to receive a non-conviction for most types of drink driving offences. Usually drink driving is viewed as being too serious for a non-conviction. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In the right cases, a non-conviction can be achieved.
Again, this is a situation where it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer. They can let you know whether a non-conviction is possible in your case.
Reducing The Disqualification Period
Even where it’s not possible to avoid the disqualification entirely, there can still be room to reduce how long you’re without a licence.
For each category of drink driving offence, the law sets out the minimum and maximum disqualification periods. For example, for a first offence of Mid Range the Magistrate needs to impose a disqualification for between 3 to 6 months, followed by at least 12 months on the interlock program.
Preparing and presenting your case well gives you the best chance of receiving the shortest possible disqualification period. Often, the Magistrate will be willing to give the minimum disqualification for a first offence.
If you’re not sure how these laws apply to you or your situation, you should consult with an experienced drink driving lawyer. Our team at Ainsley Law are more than happy to chat with you.
Please call us today at 0416 224 601 or leave an enquiry.