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.
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 a ‘non conviction order’ (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.
This requirement is contained in road transport legislation 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 Non Conviction Order?
A no conviction order – whether a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order – 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 non conviction orders 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
(Where exempted from interlock requirement)
|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|
|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|
|Low / Novice / Special Range PCA||Maximum Fine||$2,200||$3,300|
|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.
(1) In an ‘ordinary case’ of an offence of high range PCA:
- a non conviction order such as a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order 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,
- a non conviction order such as a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order 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 a non conviction order 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:
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.
However, there are a range of circumstances where the defence is available, including where a person’s drink was ‘spiked’ and they believed they were fatigued rather than affected by alcohol, and limited situations where a significant amount of time has elapsed since the last drink, such as where a person drove ‘the afternoon after’ drinking.
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results
Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.
Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.
Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.
We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.
Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
Highest Level of Client Satisfaction
We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.
Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.
We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.
We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.
Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm
We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.
The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.
We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.
We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.
Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.
Free First Appointment
For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.
We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.
Specialist Lawyer Guarantee
We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.
This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.
All NSW Courts
From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.
And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.
All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.
An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.
Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.
Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
Results-Focused Law Firm
Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.
The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.
Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.
No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.
The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
Team of Lawyers Behind You
Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.
Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.
A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.
In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
Familiar with Magistrates and Judges
Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.
Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.
We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:
- the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
- Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
- Parramatta, near the justice precinct.
We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD offices, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.
For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.
If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Success Stories
- No Criminal Record for Mid Range Drink Driving
- Not Guilty of High Range Drink Driving and Police Ordered to Pay Costs
- 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
- Client Avoids Conviction and Disqualification after blowing 0.111
- Driver Avoids Conviction after case reduced from High Range to Low Range PCA
- Roadside Drug Testing Aims to Punish Illicit Users, Not Save Lives
- Road Fatalities on the Rise Despite COVID Lockdowns
- The Laws Relating to Driver Licence Suspensions, Disqualifications and Appeals
- The New Offence of Combined Drink and Drug Driving in New South Wales
- Can I Appeal an On-the-Spot Driver Licence Suspension?