People caught mid- or low-range drink driving face new penalties this year, however an Orange solicitor says it would have little effect on court backlogs, and changes for low-range driving would provide less deterrence.
In December, changes were introduced for mid-range drink drivers that require first-time offenders to have an interlock device installed to prove they can separate drinking from driving, while repeat offenders face vehicle sanctions, including licence plate confiscation and vehicle impoundment.
Also under the new laws, any driver who commits a low-range drink-driving offence will be fined $561 and would lose their licence immediately for three months.
Solicitor Neil Jones said for most low and mid-range drink-driving matters it’s mentioned once in court, a guilty plea is made and they complete the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program then once the program is completed they return to court where sentencing takes about five minutes.
[Going to court] it’s got that shaming affect in that this is more serious than a ticket on the side of the road.Solicitor Neil Jones
Mr Jones said court backlogs were because police were making more arrests, leading to more hearings, which each take longer than a sentence, however the number of magistrates hasn’t increased.
“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference at all,” Mr Jones said.
He said on-the-spot fines for low-range drink drivers would also send the wrong message.
“The population would look at a speeding offence and it’s a ticket-only offence and I think for most people it reads as a lesser offence to one that people have to go to court for,” Mr Jones said.
“Even people who get a section 10 [non-conviction] ... they have to go to court, they have to take a day off work and tell people ‘I’ve got to go to court’.
“It’s got that shaming effect in that this is more serious than a ticket on the side of the road.
“Most people who do get a section 10 they go to the TROIP, they are learning something on the way.”
When it comes to installing interlock devices for mid-range drink-drivers Mr Jones said he supported it for second offences but not for first-time offences, especially if the person had a good driving history.
“[Repeat offenders] are the ones [with the] problem, not the poor old housewife who has one extra drink and miscalculates,” Mr Jones said.
He said for a person of small stature a glass of wine could mean the difference between 0.05 or 0.08.
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