Tweed Heads – Border Town Dilemma
Drink Driving Charges
Tweed Heads is a picturesque border town that not only struggles with the biannual daylight savings shifts in time but residents and holidays goers are often in the dilemma of considerably different drink driving charges and convictions between NSW and Queensland.
In New South Wales, it’s pretty straight forward: drink driving IS a criminal offence, which means that you will get a criminal record if you are convicted. As well as resulting in a criminal record, being convicted of drink driving means that you will be disqualified from driving all vehicles for a lengthy period, face a fine, and for some drink-drive offences, you could be required to have an interlock device fitted, and/or could face prison in certain circumstances.
Drink driving, also known as a ‘PCA offence’ (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol offences), is the most common offence in NSW Local Courts, accounting for around 20% of all cases.
Low range drink driving (LR PCA) is where a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 0.05 and 0.079 – remarkably that level is actually within legal driving limits in other parts of the world, including the UK and parts of America.
Currently in NSW, offenders of LR PAC are immediately suspended for 3 months (if it’s your first PCA offence within 5 yrs) and a court appearance is not necessary.
Mid range PCA (.08 – .14 in NSW) and high range PCA (above .15) offences are significantly more serious criminal offences and require the driver to attend at court to be sentenced. This is often when drivers coming before NSW courts want a lawyer – to try and minimise their sentence, particularly the fine and the period of disqualification. Disqualifications range from 6months to indefinitely (as determined by the Magistrate), and interlock devices need to be fitted for periods in excess of 12 months (depending on the offending), and the driver is then only licensed to drive vehicles that have an interlock device fitted to them. Fines can also greatly vary – from several hundred, to several thousand, dollars.
P and L plate drivers have a limit of zero or .02 BAC limit, so they face different penalties from the above.
In Queensland the levels are slightly different to determine low, mid- and high- range PCA. (Putting aside L and P plater drivers in the information below) looking at full license holders:
To exceed the General Alcohol limit in Queensland is to have a BAC of over .05 but less than .1
Mid range is a BAC of equal to, or more than .1
High range in Queensland is a BAC reading of equal to, or more than .15.
The sentencing regime, fines, periods of disqualification and the rules around whether or not a conviction is recorded, are a little different in Queensland. You can call us for specific advice.
In both New South Wales and Queensland, failing or refusing to provide a specimen of breath is also a serious offence and attracts penalties not unlike High Range PCA offences.
Having a criminal record is a big deal – you should be aware of all the implications of this. You are legally required to inform certain individuals of a criminal record, including employers. You may also be asked to show your criminal record when applying for a job involving children, seeking insurance cover or obtaining an overseas visa.
Some wish to attend Court unrepresented and simply plead guilty, accepting the Magistrate’s decision which is likely to result in a conviction. Drink driving is treated extremely seriously by the courts and even a plea of guilty should be accompanied by an acceptance of responsibility and a demonstration to the Magistrate that you have taken steps to make amends and are unlikely to reoffend. Sentencing submissions should be made, that include information about factors such as the manner of driving, how you came to police attention, number of passengers, distance being driven, circumstances and reasons for driving, the type of vehicle, the road conditions, how co-operative you were with police, your traffic history, your criminal record, if you’ve ever been charged with a PCA offence in the past (or other serious offences), your ability to pay a fine, the programs you have undertaken to show remorse,….and many other factors that the court considers.
Professional advice from a solicitor at The Local Court Lawyers (such as traffic programmes, ideal and preferred references), as well as that experienced solicitor’s persuasive submissions to the court on your behalf, goes a long way to improving your chances of minimising your sentence or avoiding a conviction altogether.
In rare cases, a review of your case might uncover an inaccurate reading or a legal defence that you may have.
What should I do if I am ordered to appear at Court?
Most importantly, should you receive a notice to attend Court whether NSW or Queensland, do not leave it too late to seek legal advice and/or representation.
A good result, in ANY court matter, is all about the preparation – and the more time you have, the better prepared you will be. Ideally 3 weeks prior to your court attendance you should find a lawyer, if that’s what you plan to do. If you plan to self-represent, start getting organized 3 weeks prior.
This is not legal advice, it is merely a resource to give you some guidance and general assistance. Where we have used an ‘*’ above, you should assume there is more information required by your lawyer to determine if you fall in that category.
If you need a Lawyer and want us to represent you, the Local Court Lawyers are experts in all local court matters, Contact us for more information.
See the Traffic Offences articles at the Local Court Lawyers