Drink driving continues to be one of the main causes of road fatalities and injuries, responsible for 30% of fatalities and 9% of serious road injuries in Australia. If you consider the statistics it is clear why successive Governments and the Police support it and why the Courts impose tough penalties.
In this article we take a step back and examine why we have the laws we do today. This may be of interest for parents of young drivers or a reminder for those who need to know more.
Random Breath Testing
Random Breath Testing was introduced at different times around Australia as a major drink driving deterrent. There have been numerous evaluations of RBT as a road safety measure and these have largely produced positive outcomes. For example, in NSW the introduction of RBT in 1982 led to an initial (and massive) 48% reduction in fatal crashes over a four and a half month period and an average 15% reduction in fatal crashes over a subsequent 10 year period. In Queensland, RBT led to a reduction in fatal crashes of 35% and 28% in Western Australia over a four year period.
Police officers can require a driver to take a breath test. If the driver refuses to take the test, or, if the test is positive, that person will be arrested and taken to a police station for breath testing within two hours of the first test or refusal.
The cost to the community
The statistics are staggering and it is little wonder all Governments are keen to minimise the costs to the community. In 2006, the cost of each fatality crash to the Australian community was estimated at approximately $2.6m, while the cost of each hospitalisation crash was estimated at approximately $266,000!
What happens in Court?
The matter must be dealt with in a Court and the paperwork received by a driver will set out the day and time of that court appearance. As you can imagine the Court process can be confronting and worrying and of course there will be penalties imposed.
If the charged person is found guilty or convicted, they can receive a fine, a period of disqualification of their licence, a jail sentence or a combination of these penalties. The range of penalties which the Court can impose depends on the blood alcohol reading and the person’s prior record for similar offences.
Court appearances should not be taken lightly and for anyone it is wise to first seek legal help well ahead of the intended court date so their details can be properly discussed. Fundamentally the first issue to consider is if the person should plead guilty to the charge/s and review what the police assert the facts to be.
It may be appropriate to adjourn the matter so there is more time to prepare, or because the person’s lawyer may not be available on the first date. Essentially the person needs to get legal help in order to plan for the process properly.
If there is to be a guilty plea then the person needs to know what the likely penalties are and if they need to do anything that might assist in reducing that penalty such as enrolling in a driving or alcohol education course or seeking character references or seeking other relevant evidence in support of that guilty plea.
Penalties in SA
Drivers who are charged with exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol face a number of different consequences. Penalties have been increasing significantly. If the driver is a first offender on a full licence and has a reading greater than .05%, then he or she will face a mandatory loss of licence of at least 3 months.
For a reading that is greater than .08% then the driver is liable to be disqualified from holding or obtaining a drivers licence for at least 6 months. And for a reading greater than .15% then the driver faces a loss of licence of at least 12 months.
These are minimum penalties only. The driver is likely to receive an immediate notice of disqualification from the police. Later, that driver will receive a summons from the police to go to court. The court can impose a loss of licence far greater than the minimum stated in the notice.
If the offence is combined with other offences, or aggravated by other means, (ie an accident or high speed) then the driver should expect an increase from the minimum. Likewise, if the reading is toward the higher end of a category then there may receive an increase in penalty.
Will the media be at Court?
It is extremely unlikely the media will be interested. As far as our firm is concerned we never talk about your case with anyone. We do not speak to the media under any circumstances. Having your case reported in the media does not help you. Having to go to Court is stressful enough without having your peers, your work colleagues or your local community hearing about it through the media.
The Courts treat traffic offences seriously, particularly drink driving offences. Therefore, for anyone confronting this issue it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible and certainly before they need to attend Court.
If you know someone who might need assistance we can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter, so contact us on 08 8210 5400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.