This video and blog post is about how to avoid a criminal conviction and licence disqualification when you are pleading guilty to drink driving.
‘Section 10 Dismissals and Conditional Release Orders‘ are when you plead guilty to a criminal offence such as drink driving, but the court decides not to record a criminal conviction against you, or disqualify you from driving or impose a fine upon you.
1. Enrol in a traffic offender program as soon as possible
Traffic Offender Programs are driver education programs run by PCYCs and other organisations throughout NSW.
They are normally run one night per week for 6 or 8 weeks. However, intensive programs are also available which last 1 or 2 weekends.
If you intend to plead guilty to a drink driving offence, completing a traffic offender program can help persuade the Magistrate to treat you as leniently as possible.
If you wont be able to complete a program by the first court date, you should attend court on the first court date and ask the Magistrate to ‘adjourn’ your case to a later date to enable you to finish.
After completing the program, the program coordinator will fax a letter to the court advising that you have satisfactorily completed the program. That letter will also normally contain your feedback about the program.
For a list of traffic offender programs, go to: Traffic Offender Programs
2. Obtain up to 3 character references
Character references can assist the Magistrate to treat you more leniently by:
- providing positive information about your general character,
- showing that you have accepted responsibility by admitting the offence to those close to you,
- showing you are remorseful, and importantly
- outlining the effects of a criminal conviction and/or licence disqualification upon you.
A character reference for drink driving should go into some detail about the specific effects of a licence disqualification upon your ability to perform work duties and/or fulfill family and/or personal obligation.
If you have no previous convictions, the references should also provide some detail about the possible impact of a criminal conviction on your current employment and/or future career prospects.
3. Draft a ‘letter of apology’
A letter of apology shows the Magistrate that:
- you understand the dangerousness of drink driving,
- you accept responsibility for your conduct, and
- you are truly remorseful.
It can speak about the impact of the traffic offender program on you; eg that it brought home the very real dangers of drink driving and other forms of irresponsible driving, and that you were very fortunate not to hurt or even kill another road user or pedestrian.
The letter can also outline the impact upon you of a criminal conviction and/or licence disqualification.
It should start with the words ‘Your Honour’ and you should not make excuses for your conduct.
A guide for Letters of Apology can be found at: Letters of Apology in Driving and Drug Cases.
4. Enter an early guilty plea
An early plea of ‘guilty’ will entitle you to a ‘discount on sentence’; which means that you will be treated more leniently.
If you accept what is contained in the police ‘facts’ and intend to plead ‘guilty’, you should do so on the first court date even if you will need to adjourn your matter to complete the traffic offender program.
5. Get an experienced lawyer and provide them with detailed information
Engaging an experienced lawyer is important because he or she will be able to persuasively present the relevant information in court and thereby give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction and keeping your driver licence – or getting your licence back if you have been suspended by police.
Your lawyer will be able to ask you the right questions in conference and obtain information that is relevant to your case.
Those questions may be about:
- your employment details, working days/hours, salary/wage;
- your living arrangements, rent/mortgage etc;
- your loans, expenses, credit card debts etc;
- any positive contributions to the community;
- the circumstances of the offence; and especially
- the possible affect of a criminal conviction and/or licence disqualification upon you.
Your lawyer can also check your references and letter of apology, and advise you about what is likely to happen in court.