Appealing a Harsh Sentence for Drink Driving in NSW

This article delves into the process of appealing a drink driving sentence and offers some real-world examples for clarity

Drink driving is a serious offence in New South Wales (NSW), reflecting the potentially devastating consequences of such actions on the road. However, if an individual believes they have received an unduly harsh sentence for a drink driving offence, the legal system does allow for avenues of appeal.

 The Right to Appeal for Drink Driving Charges

If a person is convicted of a drink driving offence in the Local Court and believes the sentence is either harsh, inappropriate or contains errors, they have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal would be heard in the District Court.

The Appeal Process for Drink Driving Charges

  • Notice of Appeal: The first step is to file a Notice of Appeal. This must be done within 28 days of the original sentence. While it’s possible to appeal after this timeframe, one would need to provide reasons for the delay.
  • Hearing Date: Once the appeal is lodged, the court will provide a hearing date. During the hearing, the appellant can provide reasons for their appeal and any supporting evidence. It’s essential to prepare adequately for this hearing, often with the assistance of a lawyer experienced in drink driving cases.
  • Possible Outcomes: The judge in the District Court can decide to:
    • Dismiss the appeal.
    • Vary the original decision.
    • Substitute the original decision with a new one.
    • Annul the original decision and order a new hearing in the Local Court.

Examples of Appeals

  • Example 1: A driver, Mr. Smith, was sentenced to a 12-month driving disqualification for a mid-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) offence. Feeling the sentence was excessive due to his impeccable driving record and the urgent need for his work vehicle, he appealed. The District Court, acknowledging his circumstances and previous good character, reduced the disqualification to 6 months.
  • Example 2: Ms Jones was convicted of a high-range PCA offence and received a two-year driving disqualification. She decided to appeal, citing the inaccurate breathalyzer equipment as her main reason. At the District Court, her lawyer provided evidence showing irregularities with the machine used. The court ordered a retrial in the Local Court.

Points to Consider in the Appeal

Before appealing, it’s crucial to:

  • Assess the Likelihood of Success: Consult with legal professionals to understand if the appeal has merit.
  • Consider the Costs: Appeals can be costly, and there’s no guarantee of success. Legal fees, court costs, and other associated expenses can add up.
  • Potential for Harsher Penalties: It’s important to understand that the District Court can impose a heavier penalty if they believe the original sentence was too lenient.

While the consequences of drink driving are severe and the law is strict, NSW’s legal system provides avenues for those who believe they have been unfairly sentenced. However, it’s always recommended to approach the appeal process with caution and to seek proper legal advice to navigate the intricacies of the law effectively.