I have been charged with Drink Driving. What will happen when I go to court?

If you have been charged with drink driving, you will be required to appear in the local Magistrates Court.  If you have been served a Notice to Appear and fail to attend the first court appearance, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and immediately suspend your licence until such time as you have appeared in court and entered into a bail undertaking.  If you have been released on a bail undertaking requiring your appearance in court and you fail to appear, a warrant will issue for your arrest, you will be charged with a further offence of Fail to Appear and your licence will be suspended until you surrender or are arrested on the warrant and enter into a new bail undertaking.

It is important that you read all paperwork that has been provided to you by the police officers.  If you have been charged with a mid or high range drink driving offence, you will be issued a Notice of Suspension of your licence and cannot drive any vehicle until you have appeared in court and your matter has been finalised. That suspension of your licence remains in force between court dates if it is not finalised at the first appearance.  There is an option to apply for a restricted licence between court dates if you require your licence for employment purposes and you are eligible.

When you do appear in court and if you decide to plead guilty to the offence, the Magistrate will decide on the penalty to be imposed.  The Magistrate will impose either a fine, community based order or term of imprisonment depending on the seriousness of your conduct and previous history for drink driving. The maximum penalties that apply for a first-time drink driving offence are:

  • 0.00 – under 0.05 (learner, probationary or provisional licence) – $1,929 fine OR 3 months imprisonment
  • 0.05 – under 0.10 – $1,929 fine OR 3 months imprisonment
  • 0.10 – under 0.15 – $2,757 fine OR 6 months imprisonment
  • 0.15 and over – $3,859 fine OR 9 months imprisonment

The Magistrate is also required to disqualify your licence if you are convicted of drink driving. For a first-time drink driving offence, the disqualification periods are as follows:

  • 0.00 – under 0.05 (learner, probationary or provisional licence) – 3 – 9 months disqualification
  • 0.05 – under 0.10 – 1 – 9 months disqualification
  • 0.10 – under 0.15 – 3 – 12 months disqualification
  • 0.15 and over – minimum of 6 months disqualification (no maximum provided)

It is mandatory that the Magistrate disqualify your licence for at least the minimum period set out above.  If you have previous convictions for drink driving or dangerous driving, the minimum and maximum penalties that apply and periods of disqualification increase.  Other consequences of repeat drink driving convictions include having your vehicle impounded and being sentenced to a term of imprisonment (it is mandatory for a third high range drink driving offence within five years).

It is important that you apply to have your driver licence reissued to you upon the completion of the disqualification period and before you start to drive again.  If you have been convicted of a mid-range or high range drink driving offence you will be required to participate in the alcohol ignition interlock program and have that device installed in your vehicle at your expense.  There are also mandatory driver education programs that you will be required to complete before your licence is re-instated.

Other matters to consider when charged with drink driving is whether you intend to apply for a restricted licence (also known as a work licence).  You must make that application to the court before you plead guilty to the offence.  You cannot make an application after the court has disqualified your licence.

This post contains general advice only and is not intended as legal advice.