The NSW Government has developed changes to the low range drink driving and drug driving laws. The purpose of these changes is to implement immediate 3 month licence suspensions to everyone caught committing these offences for the first time.
When will these changes start?
As of 20 May 2019 the NSW Government will implement new penalties for those who are caught by Police driving with a low-range amount of alcohol and drugs in their blood.
Who is affected?
Learner and Provisional licence holders who return a blood alcohol concentration reading above 0.00.
Unrestricted licence holders who return a blood alcohol concentration reading between 0.05 and 0.079 (low-range prescribed concentration of alcohol).
What is the old system?
If you were charged with low-range drink driving, you would receive a Court Attendance Notice (“CAN”) with a date to attend Court. The Court would then determine the length of your suspension and whether or not you are to receive a fine. During the time between your arrest and Court you were at liberty to continue driving.
The Court could also impose a conviction, which meant you would have a criminal record.
What are the changes?
As of 20 May 2019 if you are charged with a low-range drink driving offence the arresting officer has the power to immediately suspend your licence for a period of 3 months and issue you with a fine. This will not result in your receiving a conviction or criminal record.
If you accept the suspension and the fine then you no longer have to attend Court.
In addition to losing your licence and paying a fine, you may be given a written notice to attend a traffic education course. If you do not complete the course during your 3 month suspension period, your suspension period will be extended until you complete the course.
There are also changes to the drug driving laws in NSW. If you are charged with driving with an illicit drug present in your system after 20 May 2019 you will face the same new penalty as low range drink driving.
In respect of the course you may be directed to attend, it will either be a traffic education course or a drug education course.
However, this is only applicable if this is your first time being charged with an offence of driving with a drug present in your system.
What are your appeal options?
If you are charged with either a special-range, low-range or drug driving offence after 20 May 2019, you can elect to have your matter dealt with by the Court.
The Court may be able to remove the suspension period as well as the fine.
If you elect to have your matter dealt with in Court, you cannot drive until the Court tells you otherwise. The licence period will still be in force and if you are caught driving during your suspension period you may be charged with suspended driving.
If you receive a penalty notice from a police officer, that officer does not have the power to reduce the suspension period, you must elect to have the matter dealt with in Court.
These new changes are designed to have an immediate effect on drivers detected for a special-range, low-range or drug driving offence. It is therefore important to seek urgent legal advice following receipt of an infringement notice.