Driving Under The Influence (DUI)

Driving Under The Influence

The celebrating season is here … so leave the car at home

It’s no secret that drink driving continues to be a prominent road safety issue across New South Wales, despite the multi-millions of dollars that the State Government pours into education and law enforcement year after year.

Every year hundreds of people die, or are seriously injured in road accidents caused by a driver who had been drinking. Sadly, research shows many of these tend to happen in regional areas – often because there are limited options when it comes to taxis and ubers, buses and other public transport, which makes people tend to run the risk.

Just to be clear though, this isn’t an adequate defence if you get caught.

Another interesting fact that the research shows is that most people don’t really know how many alcoholic drinks they can actually have before driving to remain cognisant behind the wheel, and within the legal limit.

There are also plenty of studies which show that the ‘standard drink’ measurements which are often used as a guide, aren’t fail-proof anyway. Size, weight, gender, whether you’ve consumed food and water, your general health and wellbeing and what type of alcohol you were drinking can determine how alcohol is absorbed into your blood steam, affecting your body and brain, and whether you might test over the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limit if you’re stopped on the side of the road.

What are the limits?

For the record, in New South Wales, if you hold a full drivers licence it is illegal for your BAC to be over 0.05. If you hold a learners or provisional licence you must have a BAC level of 0.00.

Drink Driving penalties are severe in New South Wales. Maximum penalties for drink driving include heavy fines, potentially prison time and suspension of your licence. If you are a repeat offender, meaning you have previously been convicted of drink or drug driving, then the penalties are much harsher for subsequent offences.

If you have an accident which has caused death or injury and you are ‘at fault’, or you are caught driving dangerously, you can be charged with additional offences, including, but not limited to, negligent and dangerous driving.

Drug Driving

In June 2021, new offences for combined drug and drink driving were introduced in New South Wales as a result of numerous studies which show that the combined use of illicit drugs and alcohol increases the risk of a fatal crash by 23 times.

Roadside BreathTests (RBTs) can test for both alcohol and drugs. If you fail to pull over for an RBT when directed to, then you can have your license suspended on the spot. You can also be arrested.

In NSW, police have the power to:

  • Stop drivers at random to test for alcohol
  • Arrest drivers who test over the legal limit
  • Require a driver to take a sobriety test in certain circumstances
  • Breath test any driver or supervising driver involved in a crash

Your rights when stopped by Police

You must answer your name and address, and you must show identification to verify those details. If you refuse to take an RBT test, you can be arrested.

If you’re stopped by Police, it’s  important to remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law. Police wear body cameras for this purpose – so interactions with the general public can be recorded.

You can refuse to answer further questions by police, and request a lawyer to be present, but remember that if you don’t cooperate with police you can be charged with other offences, including obstructing a police officer in the line of duty.

The New South Wales Crimes Act 1900, Section 546C states that:

“Any person who resists or hinders or incites any person to assault, resist or hinder a police officer in the execution of his or her duty shall be liable on conviction before the Local Court to imprisonment for 12 months or to a fine of 10 penalty units, ($110 each) or both.”

Cooperate with Police

Drink Driving and Drug Driving offences can be dealt with fairly swiftly and smoothly by the courts if they are straightforward and there are no complicating circumstances or additional charges.

And of course, people do make mistakes from time to time. But Police have been conducting RBTs since the early 1980s, and conduct millions of these tests every year. More than that though, we all know the dangers.

It’s important to be responsible. So, don’t drink alcohol, leave the car at home, or make alternative arrangements, like spending the night on a mate’s sofa.  Also make sure you know the rules about driving and mobile phones, and don’t forget that during the holiday season double demerits are in force.

If you are charged with a drink driving or drug driving offence, get professional legal advice.


This post is informative only. It is not legal advice.
If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.

We service NSW, but specifically the area from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay, Ballina, Mullumbimby and Tweed Heads regions on the Far North NSW Coast.


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