Driving under the influence (DUI) is different to standard drink-driving (PCA) offences.
While PCA offences, such as low, mid or high range drink driving require police to prove that your blood alcohol concentration was a certain level, DUI charges do not require police to prove that you were affected by a specific amount of alcohol – only that you were affected by some amount of alcohol or drugs.
DUI charges are generally based on police observations about your driving, actions or demeanour which may suggest that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, rather than a breath test.
DUI charges often arise when procedures for PCA charges are not complied with; for example, if you are breath tested at the police station more than 2 hours after driving, or where police suspect that you are affected by prescription medication or other drugs.
Being charged with DUI can be a confronting and upsetting experience, especially if it is your first time in court.
However, you can count on the dedicated legal team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® to help you every step of the way; from explaining the charges to your, to representing you in court if necessary.
Your Options in Court
If you’ve been charged with DUI, there may be some way that you can fight the charges to prove your innocence.
You can do this by contesting one of the ‘essential elements’ that the prosecution has to prove before you can be found guilty. There are two essential elements for this offence:
- That you drove a vehicle, or supervised a learner driver
- Whilst under the influence of alcohol or any drug (including prescription drugs such as valium)
As it often involves observations by police rather than actual breath tests, DUI can often be a confusing charge that is based on uncertain or unclear information.
Unlike ‘drug driving,’ where you can be charged for simply having drugs in your system, a DUI charge requires police to prove that you were actually affected by drugs or alcohol while you were driving.
Accordingly, there are often several ways in which you can fight the charge; for example, by obtaining pharmacological reports and expert evidence to prove that you were not affected by drugs or alcohol.
The expert defence team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® can assist you in obtaining this type of evidence.
You may also wish to plead ‘not guilty’ if you have a defence to explain your actions, for example:
- Where you were coerced or threatened into driving under the influence (duress)
- Where you drove under the influence to avoid serious injury or death – for example, driving someone to hospital in a medical emergency (necessity)
- Where you honestly and reasonably mistakenly believed that you were not under the influence (honest and reasonable mistake of fact)
If you want to plead ‘not guilty,’ it’s important that you speak to an experienced traffic lawyer who will be able to advise you of your options in your circumstances.
If you don’t want to fight the charges against you, you can choose to plead ‘guilty’ from the outset.
You will then be sentenced, which is where the magistrate determines the appropriate penalty.
Pleading guilty can be a good step to take as it shows the court that you have accepted responsibility for your actions – this can encourage the magistrate to give you a lighter sentence; otherwise known as a ‘discount’ on your sentence.
However, before you plead guilty, you should speak to an experienced traffic lawyer, who will be able to advise you of whether there is any way to fight the charges.
You should also be aware of the maximum penalties that you could face. The maximum penalty depends on whether it’s your first or subsequent driving offence.
If it is your first DUI charge in the past five years, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment. There is also an ‘automatic’ period of disqualification from driving of 12 months which can be reduced by a magistrate down to 6 months if there are good reasons to do so.
If it is your second or subsequent DUI in the past five years, the maximum penalty is a fine of $3,300 and/or imprisonment for 12 months. The automatic period of disqualification is 3 years which can be reduced by the magistrate to 12 months.
If you were supervising a learner driver under the influence, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200.
However, these are maximum penalties, which means that they will only apply in the most serious cases. Usually, with the help of an experienced traffic lawyer, you will be able to avoid going to gaol.
A good lawyer can even help you get what is known as a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order,’ which is where you are found guilty of the offence but you avoid a criminal record, which can be particularly helpful if you are worried about how a conviction can affect your work or travel plans.
The types of penalties that the court can impose include:
Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
When your licence and freedom are at stake, it’s important to get the right lawyers on your side.
At Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, we represent clients on a daily basis in drink driving and DUI charges; which is why we have developed a reputation as Sydney’s best traffic lawyers.
Our expert lawyers will work with you to achieve the best possible result; by going above and beyond in obtaining expert evidence, pharmacological reports and other evidence to prove that you were not affected by alcohol or drugs at the time that you drove.
If the evidence is favourable, we can try to have charges withdrawn at an early stage by writing to police and highlighting the problems with their case.
On many occasions, when police have refused to withdraw charges despite our evidence, we have had legal costs awarded to our clients.
Even if you simply want to plead guilty, you can benefit from the unparalleled knowledge and experience of our lawyers.
We always push to have matters dealt with by way of non conviction orders – which is where you are found guilty of the offence but no conviction is recorded on your criminal record. You will also get to keep your licence, and you won’t have to pay a heavy fine.
We will assist you to make sure that you have the best possible chance at getting a non conviction order, by advising you about the benefits of the Traffic Offender Program, Alcohol Interlock Program and Sober Driving Program, which may help you get a non conviction order.