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Random breath testing

The likelihood of you being pulled over for a random breath test is much higher during the holidays and weekends than any other time of the year. Random breath testing started in December 1982 in response to a road toll that had been spiralling right out of control.

RBT in NSW began with stationary units waving motorists over and police breath-testing drivers after crashes. A couple of years later, each police car was equipped with breath-testing units so drivers are behaving in a manner that suggested they might be under the influence of alcohol could be pulled over on the spot.

And now, every police car – including unmarked cars – include an RBT unit and can conduct breath tests.

Police have the power to require anyone driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle to undergo a breath test (Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act s.13). The test normally involves the police taking a sample of the driver’s breath using a device known as a Lyons Alcolmeter SD2.

If the breath test shows a reading of 0.05 (or 0.02 for special range drivers) or higher, the person is arrested and taken to a nearby police station or mobile van for a breath analysis.

If the analysis confirms that the driver has exceeded the limit, a court attendance notice is issued showing the amount by which the driver exceeded the limit at the time of the offence.

Drivers who refuse the breath test and then refuse the breath analysis are charged with "refusing breath analysis", which carries the same penalty as a high-range reading.

There are some restrictions on the powers of the police in relation to breath tests and analyses. They may not ask a person to undergo a breath test or breath analysis if:

  • the person is seriously injured, and the test may be dangerous
  • the person is at home
  • it is two hours or more since the person last drove or attempted to drive

In such events, the police may still charge the person with driving under the influence of a drug or alcohol, but not with a prescribed concentration of alcohol offence.

In most circumstances, a person over 15 who is admitted to hospital after an accident is required to undergo a blood test to determine their blood alcohol level.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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