Sydney Drink Driving Lawyers | Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results


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Choosing the right lawyer for your drink driving case can make a huge difference to the final result.

Your lawyer should be vastly experienced in drink driving cases, respected by the courts and have a proven track record of obtaining superior outcomes.

An outstanding drink driving lawyer will be able to defend and win cases where there is a valid defence.

If you wish to plead ‘guilty’, your lawyer should fight hard to protect your licence and to avoid a conviction.

Of course, certainty of price and access to your lawyer are also very important.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers?

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has a long and proven track record of obtaining outstanding results in drink driving cases – click here to see some of our recent results.

We have represented thousands of clients in drink driving cases since 2001, and have achieved better results in drink driving cases than any other firm in NSW.

If you choose us, you are guaranteed that your lawyer:

  1. Will be an Expert Traffic Lawyer with experience representing clients in drink driving cases to the highest standard;
  2. Will guide and assist you to do what’s necessary to get the best possible result, for example, help you with any character references, apology letter, etc;
  3. Will be familiar with magistrates and prosecutors and highly-respected by them;
  4. Will have an outstanding track record in achieving superior outcomes; and
  5. Will give you a ‘fixed price’ for your drink driving case.

Needless to say, the results achieved by our firm are far better than the official sentencing statistics for drink driving cases (see below) and we pride ourselves on getting ‘Section 10s’ (no conviction or disqualification) in cases where other lawyers simply can’t (see our traffic law results).

We have fixed fees for all drink driving cases (see our ‘fixed fees’ page) so you know how much it will cost upfront.

Our drink driving lawyers have an in-depth knowledge of relevant laws, and are often able to defend and win cases where police have not complied with those rules.

Where appropriate, we can get ‘pharmacologists’ to prepare reports showing that your blood alcohol concentration was less when driving than later when analysed at the police station.

Those reports can, for example, persuade police to reduce a charge of ‘high range’ to ‘mid’ or ‘low range drink driving’.

In many cases, we have used reports to persuade police to withdraw cases altogether or to win cases in court.

We understand how important your licence and good record are, and will fight for you every step of the way.

Our drink driving lawyers will accurately advise you of your options, including the ‘Alcohol Interlock Program’, ‘Traffic Offender Program’, Sober Driver Program and will aggressively defend your licence and your reputation.

Novice Range Drink Driving

Novice Range Drink Driving is where a learner or provisional licence holder drives with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.001 and 0.019.

If you are convicted of ‘novice range drink driving’, you must be disqualified from driving.

However, if you plead ‘guilty’ and the court deals with you under ‘section 10’, you will not be disqualified and a criminal conviction will not be recorded against your name.

1st Offence

The ‘automatic period of disqualification’ is 6 months if you haven’t been convicted of another ‘major traffic offence’ within the previous 5 years.

The Magistrate can reduce that disqualification period to a ‘minimum’ of 3 months.

The maximum fine is $1,100.00.

Sentencing Statistics

The following are official sentencing statistics for novice range drink driving.

They are published by the Judicial Commission of NSW and current as at October 2011.

 Number of Cases  1,488
 Section 10 Dismissal  7%
 Section 10 Bond  33%
 Section 10A (+ disqualification)  1%
 Fine (+ disqualification)  58%
 Community Service Order (+ disqualification)  <1%
 Suspended Sentence (+ disqualification)  0%
 Intensive Correction Order (+ disqualification)  0%
 Periodic Detention (no longer applicable)  0%
 Home Detention (+ disqualification)  0%
 Prison (+ disqualification)  0%

2nd or Subsequent Offence

If it is your 2nd or more ‘major traffic offence’ within 5 years, the ‘automatic period of disqualification’ is 12 months.

The Magistrate can reduce that disqualification period to a ‘minimum’ of 6 months.

The maximum fine is $2,200.00.

In either case, the Magistrate can choose to deal with the matter under ‘section 10’ ie without conviction, disqualification or fine.

Sentencing Statistics – Second or Subsequent Offence

Number of Cases  45
 Section 10 Dismissal  4%
 Section 10 Bond  11%
 Section 10A (+ disqualification)  0%
 Fine (+ disqualification)  84%
 Community Service Order (+ disqualification)  <1%
 Suspended Sentence (+ disqualification)  0%
 Intensive Correction Order (+ disqualification)  0%
 Periodic Detention (no longer applicable)  0%
 Home Detention (+ disqualification)  0%
 Prison (+ disqualification)  0%

Special Range Drink Driving

Low Range Drink Driving

Mid Range Drink Driving

High Range Drink Driving

What does ‘automatic’ and ‘minimum’ period of disqualification mean?

The ‘automatic period of disqualification’ is the period you will normally be disqualified for a particular ‘drink driving’ offence (eg 12 months is the ‘automatic period’ for a mid range pca, first offence).

The ‘minimum period of disqualification’ is the shortest possible time that you can be disqualified (eg 6 months is the ‘minimum period’ for a mid range pca, first offence).

However, you will not be disqualified at all if the Magistrate chooses to deal with you under ‘section 10’ (see below).

Will my disqualification be ‘backdated’?

The short answer is that ‘Yes’, your disqualification period will commence from the day police issued you with a ‘suspension notice’, which is usually the day you were pulled over and tested.

Until October 2011, Magistrates in drink driving cases would simply ‘backdate’ disqualification periods to date of the police suspension.

So, for example, if police suspended you on 1st July 2011 but the case was not finalised until 1st September 2011, the Magistrate would simply order that the court disqualification commences on 1st July 2011.

However, the Supreme Court in RTA v O’Sullivan [2011] NSWSC 1258 found that this ‘backdating’ is not legal.

Rather, Magistrates must now order that the Roads & Maritime Services (formerly the RTA) take into account any suspension period served by the driver.

That requirement is contained in section 205(6)(a) of the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 which states that:

‘the court must take into account the period of suspension… when deciding’ the disqualification period.

This means that the court must give credit for any suspension period already served.

What is ‘Section 10’?

Section 10 is where you plead ‘guilty’ (or are found ‘guilty’) but the Magistrate chooses not to disqualify you from driving or to give you a criminal conviction.

The Magistrate will usually only do this if you are of good character, are remorseful, are unlikely to reoffend, have a very strong need for your licence and where it is justified by the circumstances of the case.

To prove this to the Magistrate, we will suggest that you obtain up to 3 character references from people who have known you for some time eg employers, former employers, long-time friends.

We have a Character Reference Guide to assist you with this.

It will help if at least one of those references is from a work colleague or someone who can outline the importance of your licence for work.

We may advise you to undertake a ‘traffic offender intervention program’, which can help persuade the Magistrate to treat you leniently.

We will do everything possible to obtain the best result in your particular case, and we are proud to often get ‘section 10s’ where other criminal lawyers are unable to do so (see our traffic results page).

What is a Habitual Traffic Offender?

If you are convicted of 3 or more ‘major traffic offences’ (including ‘drink driving’) within a 5 year period, you will normally be declared a ‘habitual traffic offender’.

This means that the Roads and Maritime Services (formerly the ‘RTA’) will automatically add 5 years to the period of disqualification imposed by the court.

If you are in danger of being declared a habitual offender, Sydney Criminal Lawyers will work to persuade the Magistrate to ‘quash’ that declaration, so that the ‘RMS’ cannot impose the additional disqualification period.

If you have already been declared a habitual traffic offender, Sydney Criminal Lawyers can apply to the court at any time to have the declaration quashed.

For more information, see our Habitual Offender Declaration page.

Table of Penalties for Drink Driving
Drink Driving Offence  Penalties  1st Offence  2 + Offence
High Range PCA  Maximum Fine  $3,300  $5,500
 Maximum Prison Sentence  18 months  2 years
 Automatic Disqualification  3 years  5 years
 Minimum Disqualification  12 months  2 years
 Maximum Disqualification  unlimited  unlimited
Mid Range PCA  Maximum Fine  $2,200  $3,300
 Maximum Prison Sentence  9 months  12 months
 Automatic Disqualification  12 months  3 years
 Minimum Disqualification  6 months  12 months
 Maximum Disqualification  unlimited  unlimited
Low / Novice / Special Range PCA  Maximum Fine  $1,100  $1,100
 Maximum Prison Sentence  NIL  NIL
 Automatic Disqualification  6 months  12 months
 Minimum Disqualification  3 months  6 months
 Maximum Disqualification  6 months  unlimited

‘Guideline Judgement’ on High Range Drink Driving

On 8th September 2004, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal handed-down a ‘guideline judgement’ on high range drink driving.

A ‘guideline judgement’ is a set of rules that courts should generally follow when sentencing a person for a particular offence.

The ‘guideline’ for ‘high range drink driving’ is as follows.

The Guideline

(1) In an ‘ordinary case’ of an offence of high range PCA:

  • an order under ‘section 10’ (no conviction) will rarely be appropriate,
  • a conviction cannot be avoided only because the offender has attended, or will attend, a driver education or awareness course,
  • the automatic disqualification will be appropriate unless there is a good reason to reduce the period of disqualification.

A ‘good reason’ to reduce the automatic period may include:

  • the nature of the offender’s employment,
  • the absence of any viable alternative transport, and
  • sickness or infirmity of the offender or another person.

(2) In an ordinary case of a second or subsequent high range PCA offence:

  • a good behaviour bond under ‘section 9’ (with a conviction) will rarely be enough punishment,
  • an order under ‘section 10’ (no conviction) will very rarely be appropriate, and
  • where the prior offence was a high range PCA, any sentence less severe than a community service order will generally be enough punishment.

(3) The ‘moral culpability’ of a high range PCA offender is increased by:

  • the degree of intoxication above 0.15,
  • erratic or aggressive driving,
  • a collision,
  • competitive driving or showing off,
  • the length of the journey,
  • the number of persons put at risk by the driving.

(4) In a case where the moral culpability of a high range PCA offender is increased:

  • an order under sections 9 or 10 would very rarely be appropriate,
  • where more than one aggravating factor is present to a significant degree, a sentence less than prison of some kind, including a suspended sentence, would generally be inappropriate.

(5) In a case where the moral culpability of the offender of a second or subsequent high range PCA is increased:

  • a sentence of any less severity than imprisonment of some kind would generally be inappropriate,
  • where more than one aggravating factor is present to a significant degree or where the prior offence is a high range PCA, a sentence less severe than full time imprisonment would generally be inappropriate.

What is an ‘Ordinary Case’?

An ‘ordinary’ high range drink driving case is where:

  • there was a random breath test,
  • the offender has prior good character,
  • the offender has nil, or a minor, traffic record,
  • the offender’s licence was suspended on detection,
  • the offender pleaded guilty,
  • there is little or no risk of re-offending,
  • the offender would be significantly inconvenienced by a loss of licence.

The guideline makes it clear that the following factors may justify leniency:

  • strong need for a licence,
  • completing a traffic offender program,
  • driving that occurred due to an emergency or safety or another unforeseen reason, rather than for convenience.

If you are charged with high range drink driving, Sydney Criminal Lawyers will work within the guideline to bring about the best possible result.

Defending your Drink Driving case

The most common defences to ‘drink driving’ are:

Unsafe Reading

The most frequent defence to ‘drink driving’ is that a driver’s blood alcohol concentration may have been lower at the time of driving than later when analysed by police.

Studies make it clear that a person’s blood alcohol concentration rises for between 30 minutes and 1 hour after their last alcoholic drink.

This means, for example, that if someone has a few ‘quick drinks’ and gets ‘behind the wheel’ their blood alcohol concentration may be significantly lower when driving than 30 minutes or an hour later when tested on the ‘breath analysis’ machine.

Several factors can determine whether a driver’s reading when driving was likely to be lower than when tested.

These factors include:

  • age, sex and weight,
  • when and what food was consumed,
  • number and type of alcoholic drinks,
  • time of first and last drink,
  • time of ‘roadside breath test’, and
  • time of ‘breath analysis’.

At your first conference with Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we will assess whether your blood alcohol concentration may have been lower at the time of driving than later when analysed.

If there is a possibility, we can obtain a ‘pharmacological report’ that can be used to:

  • request withdrawal of the charge;
  • request reduction of the charge-type, eg from ‘mid range PCA’ to ‘low range PCA’, and/or
  • to defend the charge at a hearing.

The ‘Two-Hour’ Rule

Police are not permitted to breath test a person more than 2 hours after the person last drove.

If they do so, the evidence can be excluded by the court.

If it appears that police may have broken this rule, Sydney Criminal Lawyers will notify them and request that they withdraw the charge.

If they nevertheless proceed with the case, we will fight to have the evidence excluded and costs awarded in your favour.

The ‘Home Safely’ Rule

Similarly, it is illegal for police to require a person to undergo a breath test on his or her own property.

If they do so, the evidence can be excluded by the court.

Honest and Reasonable Mistake

This defence is available to persons who ‘honestly and reasonably’ believed they were under the limit when driving.

It is often easy to prove that a person’s mistake was ‘honest’.

However, it is becoming more and more difficult to prove that it was ‘reasonable’.

This is because there is so much advertising about not ‘drinking and driving’ at all.

Recent Related Cases

No Conviction or Disqualification for High Range Drink Driving Section 10 for Third 'Drink Driving' Charge No Conviction for L Plater Charged With Low Range Drink Driving Client Keeps Licence and Avoids Criminal Record for Mid-Range Drink Driving Police Withdraw Charges of Low Range Drink Driving and Wilfully Alter Alcohol Concentration No Suspension for Traffic Offence While Being on Good Behaviour Licence Habitual Offender Declaration Quashed Despite Long History of Driving Offences Client Avoids Conviction and Disqualification after blowing 0.111 Driver Avoids Conviction after case reduced from High Range to Low Range PCA High Range PCA and DUI Charges Dropped No Conviction for Mid Range Drink Driving, Second Offence No Conviction for High Range PCA

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