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
Pleading Not Guilty
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.
The Magistrate will then receive and read any materials such as character references and a letter of apology, before hearing verbal submissions from your lawyer and determining the appropriate penalty.
The maximum applicable penalty for driving under the influence depends on whether it’s your first or subsequent driving offence within the past 5 years.
If it is your first major traffic offence in 5 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 3 years which can be reduced by the court to 12 months if there are good reasons to do so.
If the DUI involves alcohol (rather than other drugs), a ‘mandatory interlock order’ applies.
This means the court must order you to spend between 6 and 9 months off the road, before installing a device known as an ‘interlock device’ into your vehicle and having it there for 24 months.
You will be required to blow into that device and register a negative reading for alcohol, before the ignition will activate.
You may be exempted from having to install an interlock device if it would cause severe hardship (eg because the devices are costly to install and maintain) or it is otherwise appropriate to exempt you.
In that case, the normal disqualification periods will apply.
2nd or Subsequent Offence
If it is your second or more major traffic offence 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 5 years which can be reduced by the magistrate to 2 years.
Again, if the DUI involves alcohol (rather than other drugs), a ‘mandatory interlock order’ will apply.
In this case, the court will need to order you to spend 9 to 12 months off the road, followed by a period of 48 months with an interlock device installed.
Again, you may apply for an exemption from the interlock program on the basis that it would cause severe hardship or it would otherwise be inappropriate for you to have to comply.
Maximum penalties only
It is important to remember that these maximum penalties, which means that they will only apply in the most serious cases.
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 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.
- Fixed Fees – 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.
- Accredited Specialists
– 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.
- Convenience – 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 and Liverpool locations, 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 email@example.com.
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