In the Australia Capital Territory all drink driving charges have to go before the Magistrate and you will therefore be given a summons to attend court. The penalties available to the Magistrate include fines, disqualification period, and a possible term of imprisonment. The amount of the fine that the Magistrate can order is defined in penalty units. Currently a penalty unit is worth $150, and is reviewed, and increased at least every four years and outlined in Section 133 of the Legislation Act 2001. In regard to the disqualification period the magistrate may order, the legislation states the default disqualification period, and a minimum disqualification period.
The Magistrate can differ from the default period if they believe the circumstances of the offence justify a lesser penalty, but they cannot go below the minimum disqualification period defined in the Act. The penalties are divided into four levels which relate to a persons prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) level. Level 1 is for special drivers (zero alcohol limit), level 2 – 0.05 to 0.079, level 3 – 0.08 to 0.149, level 4 – 0.15 or higher. In the ACT the legislation that defines the PCA levels, offences and penalties is the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977.
Penalties for first driving offences in the ACT
If you are classed as a special driver (level 1) and meant to have a PCA of zero, and it is your first offence, then you can expect to receive a fine of 5 penalty units, and a default disqualification period of 3 months. The Magistrate can reduce this to a minimum of 1 month. For level 2 PCA offences the penalty will include a fine of 5 penalty units, and a default disqualification of 6 months. This can be reduced down to a minimum of 2 months. Level 3 PCA offences will incur a fine of 10 penalty units and/or a term of imprisonment of 6 months, and a default disqualification period of 12 months, which can be reduced down to 3 months as the minimum. All Level 4 PCA offences will result in receiving a fine of 15 penalty units and/or a term of imprisonment of 9 months. You will also be disqualified for a default period of 3 years. The minimum the magistrate can reduce this period to is 6 months, though the likelihood of getting the period reduced this low is remote without very good submissions as to why your personal circumstances, and the offence warrant such leniency.
Penalties for further drink driving offences in the ACT
Repeat offenders will incur a far larger fine, and a longer disqualification period. It doesn’t matter how long ago in the past you committed a previous drink driving offence or what the PCA was, it will still be taken into consideration for the penalty determination. Level 1 and Level 2 PCA offences will incur a fine of 10 penalty units, and a default disqualification period of 12 months, which can be reduced to a minimum of 3 months. Level 3 PCA offences will result in a fine of 10 penalty units, and/or 6 months term of imprisonment, and a default disqualification period of 3 years, which can be reduced to a minimum of 6 months. The penalties for a Level 4 PCA offence will include a fine of 20 penalty units, and/or a term of imprisonment for 12 months. The default disqualification period will be 5 years, with the minimum being 12 months. The more drink driving offences you have the higher risk that a term of imprisonment will be imposed, and the less likely the Magistrate will differ from the default disqualification period.
Penalties for non PCA offences in the ACT
Other drink driving offences which don’t rely on a PCA reading include driving under the influence, refusing to provide a breath sample, refusing to provide a blood sample, and failing to stay for a screening test. For first time offences you will incur a penalty of a fine of the Magistrates discretion, and/or a term of imprisonment of 6 months, and a default disqualification of 3 years. Repeat offenders can expect a hefty fine probably equivalent to a Level 4 PCA offence, and/or a term of imprisonment of 12 months. They will also be disqualified from driving for 5 years. The Magistrate does have the ability to reduce the default disqualification period but not lesser than 6 months for first offences, and 12 months for subsequent offences.