Everyone’s had their fair share of traffic offences, whether it’s an unlucky parking fine or accidental speeding we’ve all had our moments. But of all the on-road transgressions – drunk-driving is the one that carries the heaviest punishments and can result in the loss of licence, heavy fines, and even prison time. Just last year someone was caught doing 122km/h in a school zone…while over the limit. While the rest of us would struggle to find enough space to even reach that speed in a crowded school zone – it’s the sort of offence you’d need a lawyer for. So where do people turn in this time of need?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to navigate the law when it comes to drunk-driving charges.
What does the law say about drink driving?
In Australia, the Road Traffic Act 1974 dictates the kinds of offences and their respective punishments. It is illegal to drink-drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or above. For people with extraordinary licences such as bus or truck drivers – the legal limit is zero.
If you’re caught driving above the limit, you will be immediately disqualified for a period depending on how serious the offence is. The detailed offences are arranged so repeat offenders are disqualified for longer with harsher fines. There are three main categories of offences
If your charge has extra features like damage to property, erratic driving, or speeding in a school zone – you’re going to want help from a professional road traffic lawyer that deals with these kinds of charges day in-day out. The higher your BAC – the more serious certain aggravating features can be in a particular case. If you’re not sure whether your charge has these features, or even if you’re worried it might – consult with a criminal lawyer as soon as you can.
What kind of lawyer will I need for a drink driving charge?
Hiring the services of a criminal lawyer who has experience dealing with traffic infringements and drink driving charges will be your best bet. While this area of law is not complex and any lawyer could easily take on a DUI case – it’s always safest to go with a firm that has experience in the area. The more experience the better.
How can lawyers help with a drink driving charge?
Facing your first drink driving charge can be a daunting experience. Most DUI cases are first time offenders who were caught at random breath test checkpoints. As opposed to representing yourself, lawyers take the stand for you in court when it comes time to face the music. It helps to have someone who knows the court procedures and can speak effectively on your behalf. When it comes to protecting your freedom and your good record – getting a good criminal lawyer who has the necessary experience is always worth it.
Typical defences against drink driving charges
Aside from pleading guilty – other options can be pursued in court. Although uncommon, beating a DUI charge has and can be done. Here are a few common defences that have proven to work in the past:
- Honest and reasonable mistake. This is when the driver honestly and reasonably thought they were under the limit.
- Wrong or illegal police procedure. When police fail to follow the proper procedure while undertaking the breath test or arrest procedure.
- Inability to prove actual driving or an attempt to drive. This is rare but can happen when police cannot determine that the person was actually driving at a certain time.
If you think you’re being unfairly treated and want to contest charges, make sure you seek a criminal lawyer and don’t be pushed into an admission by police on the spot.
How much will it cost?
Getting quality representation in court will cost you. Expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $5000 in legal fees. The price will depend on a few factors like the quality of representation you hire. More experienced, senior lawyers will naturally cost more – but in the event that you choose to plead not guilty, an extended trial can also make a relatively cheap lawyer expensive very quickly. While self-representation is the cheapest way – with minimal to zero legal fees – this can be extremely risky.
Can I go to prison on a drunk driving charge?
If you are a first time offender, you don’t need to worry about going to prison. Even if you are a repeat offender, the chances are still small, but not unheard of either. In Australia, offenders can get a maximum of 19 months imprisonment instead of the maximum fine. This would be the result of the most severe cases where a repeat offender has a blood alcohol content above 0.15 and is a repeat offender. But prison is not a mandatory punishment for these crimes. Usually, with the help of a criminal lawyer, you can avoid going to prison and take a plea deal instead.