As the holiday season approaches, may we remind everyone to stay safe and responsible on our roads. The extensive impacts associated with road trauma are well documented. It affects a wide number of people including victims, witnesses, the person responsible, as well as each of their families and friends.
From a legal perspective, driving offences, and particularly those involving drugs and alcohol, carry significant penalties. At the very least you lose your licence for a significant period and are fined. You may have your car impounded, or worse, forfeited.
For serious or repeat offending, you may be gaoled.
Your licence will most likely be restored with an interlock.
Further, the social impacts are dramatic, be it injury, loss of employment, financial and matrimonial stress.
More specifically, for drink driving offences where a person’s blood alcohol level (BAC) is above .07, the licence must be suspended for a minimum of 6 months and it must have an interlock condition for 6 months once it is restored.
Drug driving has equally severe penalties. Even a trace of a drug will lead to a minimum 3 months off the road.
Anyone found with both an illegal BAC and the presence of an illicit drug must have their licence suspended for a minimum of 12 months, receive a fine, attend a Driver Education Program and potentially having their vehicle impounded.
Where an accused’s driving has caused damage to property, the police can also seek an order from the Court that they pay restitution or compensation for the repairs of the damage caused.
One difficult area of drink driving is where the police allege that a person is in charge of their vehicle without the person actually driving. We often have clients who say that they were in their car with the ignition and heater on, sleeping off a big night rather than intending to drive. The police however argue that being in the vehicle with the ignition on is indicative of an intention to drive, and if this intention can be proven in Court, the person in charge of the vehicle will receive the same penalties as for drink driving.
Where the police find a person in charge of a vehicle, or reasonably suspect that they have driven a vehicle within the last 3 hours, they have the power to request that person to undergo a preliminary breath test, or accompany them to a police station for the purpose of undertaking a breath test. This too is a difficult area of law. Many people come to us complaining that because they were not driving their vehicle, the police had no right to request a breath test, and that they therefore refused to comply with the police request. The police then charge them with refusing to comply with their request. If the police request is lawful, you will be found guilty and your licence cancelled for a minimum of two years.
It is far better to undergo the procedure requested by the police and to later argue in Court that the police did not have power to make that request than to be charged and found guilty of refusing to comply with the police request to undergo a breath test.