This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to drink driving offences in South Australia, detailing the types of offences, the process of laying charges, the court proceedings, possible penalties, consequences of conviction, and potential defences.
Drink driving is a serious offence in South Australia, as it poses significant risks to both the driver and other road users. The state has implemented strict laws and penalties to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol.
Types of Drink Driving Offences in South Australia
- Exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA): Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit. The legal limit for full licence holders is 0.05. For learners, provisional, probationary, and heavy vehicle drivers, the limit is zero.
Example: A full licence holder driving with a BAC of 0.08.
- Refusing a Breath Test: Refusing to provide a sample of breath or blood for alcohol testing when requested by the police.
Example: A driver pulled over for erratic driving refuses to take a breath test.
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person is incapable of exercising effective control over the vehicle.
Example: A driver swerving across lanes and unable to maintain a steady speed due to intoxication.
How Charges Are Laid
- Roadside Testing: Police officers can request a driver to undergo a preliminary breath test at any time, not only if they suspect the driver to be under the influence of alcohol. If the test indicates a BAC above the legal limit, the driver will be taken to a police station for a more accurate breath analysis test.
- Breath Analysis: At the police station, a more accurate breath analysis is conducted using a breathalyzer machine. If the driver is found to have a BAC above the legal limit, charges will be laid.
- Refusal to Test: If a driver refuses to undergo breath analysis, they can be charged with refusing a breath test.
The Court Process
- First Appearance: The offender will first appear before a magistrate in the Magistrates Court. During this appearance, the offender will be asked to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. If a guilty plea is entered, the court may proceed to sentencing. If a not guilty plea is entered, the matter will be scheduled for trial.
- Trial: During the trial, the prosecution and defence will present their cases. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender committed the drink driving offence. The defence will present evidence or arguments to refute the prosecution’s case or to mitigate the offender’s actions.
- Verdict: After hearing all the evidence, the magistrate or judge will deliver a verdict of either guilty or not guilty.
- Sentencing: If the offender is found guilty, the court will proceed to sentencing. The sentence may vary depending on the severity of the offence, the offender’s driving history, and any other mitigating or aggravating factors.
Possible Penalties for drink driving offences in South Australia
The penalties for drink driving offences in South Australia vary depending on the nature and severity of the offence. Penalties may include:
- Fine: A monetary penalty imposed by the court.
- Demerit Points: Points added to the offender’s driving record. Accumulating too many demerit points can lead to license suspension.
- License Disqualification: The offender’s driver’s license is disqualified for a specified period.
- Imprisonment: A term of imprisonment, either suspended or immediate.
Consequences of Conviction for a drink driving offence
A conviction for a drink driving offence can have long-lasting consequences, including:
- Criminal Record: A conviction for a drink driving offence will appear on the offender’s criminal record.
- Increased Insurance Premiums: A conviction for a drink driving offence may lead to increased insurance premiums.
- Loss of Employment: Some employers may terminate employment or not hire someone with a drink driving conviction.
- Ineligibility for Certain Jobs: Some jobs may be unavailable to individuals with a drink driving conviction, such as jobs that require a clean driving record.
Possible Defences to drink driving charges
There are several possible defences to drink driving charges, including:
- Necessity: The offender was forced to drive due to an emergency situation.
- Duress: The offender was forced to drive under threat of harm.
- Incorrect Procedure: The breath or blood test was not conducted correctly, or the testing equipment was faulty.
Drink driving offences in South Australia are treated with the utmost seriousness due to the potential dangers posed to the community. Understanding the different types of offences, the process of laying charges, the court proceedings, and the potential consequences is crucial for anyone involved in a drink driving case. It is always recommended to seek legal advice to navigate the legal system effectively and ensure your rights are protected.