Once a voluntary scheme, Interlock Orders in NSW (New South Wales) have, since 1 February 2015, become mandatory for the courts, subject to very few exemptions, when sentencing those convicted of particular drink driving offences.
The orders require the driver to install and use an interlock device in order to resume driving earlier than would otherwise be the case.
An interlock device is a small electronic appliance which is connected to your vehicle’s ignition and which is used to test a driver’s breath for the presence of alcohol. The vehicle will only start if it measures your BAC at zero.
Interlock orders in NSW are orders of the Court issued to you when you are sentenced for one or more of the relevant offences. They allow the courts to impose a shortened disqualification period, meaning you can resume driving sooner than you would otherwise be allowed, as long as you comply with its requirements.
Interlock Orders in NSW must be imposed whenever a driver is convicted of a serious driving or drink driving offence. The serious driving offences relevant to the interlock program are:
- dangerous driving causing serious bodily injury where the driver was under the influence at the time
- an aggravated form of dangerous driving causing serious bodily injury where the driver’s BAC exceeded 0.15
- an aggravated form of dangerous driving causing death where the driver’s BAC exceeded 0.15.
Other offences to which Interlock Orders apply are:
- driving, or attempting to drive, when you are affected by, or ‘under the influence of’, drugs or alcohol
- refusing when asked to provide a breath, saliva or blood specimen
- refusing when asked to undertake a sobriety test.
You will also receive an interlock order if you were driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of the limits of your licence:
- novice-range (0.00 to 0.019)
- special-range (0.02 to 0.049)
- low-range (0.05 to 0.079)
- mid-range (0.08 to 0.149), and
- high-range (0.15 and higher)
and you were, in the previous 5 year period, convicted of another one or more of those offences, or one or more offences of driving under the influence, or refusing to provide a specimen or undertake a sobriety test.
It is very unlikely you will be able to obtain an exemption from the mandatory interlock program. There are only 3 possible reasons which may give rise to an exemption:
- you must show that the order to have a device fitted is ‘unreasonable’
- you must be able to show the court that you have no access to a vehicle. This will require proof that no vehicle is registered to you or in your name, you are not the owner or part owner of any vehicle, and you do not share a vehicle with another person.
- if the offence is one of refusing to provide a specimen, you must prove that you physically cannot provide a sample as a result of a medical condition.
If you refuse to participate in the interlock program, you will be prohibited from driving for a period of 5 years.
If you are issued with interlock orders in NSW, you will have to pay all costs involved in the installation, monitoring and recalibration of your machine. You must also pay an administration fee to Roads & Maritime Services (RMS).
Though costs vary, you can expect to have to pay approximately $2,200 per year. If you hold a concession card, you may qualify for reduced rates. Concession card holders generally pay about 35% of the normal fee.
Some assistance may also be available if you are suffering severe financial hardship as a result of unexpected or unforeseen circumstances. You will need to discuss the matter with RMS.
When you are issued with Interlock Orders in NSW, you must see your doctor about getting an Alcohol Interlock Program Medical Consultation Certificate. You should do so before your disqualification period ends, but no more than 4 weeks prior.
You must have an approved installer fit an interlock device to your vehicle and complete the Interlock Installation Certificate. At the end of your disqualification period, you may then apply to RMS for a special ‘interlock driver licence’ so that you can resume driving. You will need to take both certificates and an Interlock Driver Licence Statement and Privacy Declaration when you make the application. The licence may take some time to process.
When you have obtained your special licence, to be able to start your car’s engine, you must blow into the interlock device and you must have registered a BAC of zero. Through the course of your journey, the device may also randomly require that you blow into it so that you may continue driving. The device retains a record of any BAC readings above zero. As this record is available to police, it could result in further charges.
Your device must be returned to the authorised installer within the period indicated by the installer to ensure it is properly calibrated and accurately monitoring your driving. If you don’t return the device for servicing, it will automatically shut down after 7 days, and you will probably incur further costs to reactivate it.
The period for which the orders will operate varies depending upon the offence/s the driver has committed.
For a second or subsequent offence for a novice or special licence holder or a low-range offence, the time for which you are disqualified will be between 1 and 3 months. The Interlock Order will last for at least 12 months.
For a second or subsequent mid-range offence, a second or subsequent DUI offence, or a first high-range offence, or if you refuse to supply to police a breath, saliva or blood sample, or you refuse to participate in a sobriety test, you will be off the road between 6 and 9 months, and under Interlock Orders for at least 24 months.
For any second or subsequent high-range offences, or for a second or subsequent refusal to provide a sample or undertake a test, time off the road is set between 9 and 12 months with a minimum Interlock Order of 48 months.
If you breach any of the terms of your order by, for example, committing another drink driving offence or driving while unlicensed, you may be charged with additional drink-driving offences, you could face fines, the duration of your Interlock Orders may be increased, or you may face further disqualification of your licence.
In addition, for the duration of Interlock Orders in NSW, the driver must not:
- allow anyone other than an authorised person to install, service, tamper with, interfere with, or uninstall an interlock device
- allow anyone to label or remove a label from the device
- refuse inspection of the device by police
- allow or ask another person to blow in the device so that you can start the car.
In the event that you record a BAC of greater than zero, it is likely you will receive a notice of your infringement and possibly a referral to a health professional. If this occurs, you should go back to your GP to discuss ways in which you might be able to better manage your drinking.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 23 February 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.