Drink Drivers In NSW Might Not Have To Face Court For Low-Range Offences

Drink drivers in New South Wales could be given on-the-spot fines and demerits rather than facing court, in a move the NSW government says will declutter the court system.

The proposals under draft Road Safety Plan 2021 would mean that those caught with a blood alcohol level under 0.10 will never have to face a magistrate. This would bring NSW in line with the system currently utilised in Victoria.

“Currently, half of all low range drink driving first offenders in NSW do not receive a conviction or licence disqualification for their first offence,” Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon told The Sydney Morning Herald.

In the Victorian system, if you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.07, you receive ten demerit points and an on-the-spot fine.

The government’s proposal is less popular among some in the legal profession, who argue that the ‘shame’ of appearing in court is somehow important for justice and rehabilitation. Or so former cop and managing partner of Armstrong Partners Law Firm, John Sutton, told the Herald:

The Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act at s.3A sets out the purposes of sentencing [and] denouncing the crime and deterring others from committing similar offences are two of those purposes. How can that work if a person doesn’t even have to go to court to be reprimanded by a magistrate, or so others see them there and see what happens, or if they do not have to speak to family and friends, work colleagues and relatives, to ask for character references to put before the court.

Hmm. One wonders why practicing lawyers would have a specific interest in having more people go through the court system. But I digress.

Under the proposed plan, if you’re nabbed with a blood alcohol level exceeding 0.10, you’d still have to face a magistrate. It’s unknown what this proposal would mean for the current adjacent rehabilitation schemes – like the education programmes for drivers facing disqualification.