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    A complete guide to facing drink driving charges after a crash or accident including penalties and disqualifications.

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      drink driving charges after a crash or accident

      Drink Driving Charges After a Crash or Accident

      If you are facing drink driving charges after a crash or accident, you may be concerned about being sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

      There will generally be a police investigation after any car accident. This will involve you being submitted to a breath test.

      If any alcohol is detected in your breath, you may be charged with a range of offences.

      Below is a complete guide to the process after a collision and what to expect.

      What Happens After a Crash?

      After a crash, a police investigation will commence. You will be breath tested. If your blood alcohol reading is over the prescribed limit, you be arrested.

      You will then be taken to a police station for a breath analysis. If you refuse a breath test or breath analysis you can be charged with an offence. The penalties for refuse a breath test or breath analysis are the same as high range drink driving.

      It is important to be aware that police can only test your breath for alcohol within 2 hours of you driving.

      If your blood alcohol reading is over the prescribed limit, you will be charged with a drink driving offence.

      Despite the seriousness of the charges, you will usually be released on bail from the police station. You will also receive an immediate driver licence suspension which will stay in place until the case has concluded.

      A court attendance notice will be issued requiring you to attend court. It is important for you to speak to an experienced drink driving lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on your options including what needs to be prepared for the case.

      If you are seriously injured in the accident police will allow ambulance officers to transport you to the hospital.

      Medical professionals can draw your blood at hospital and provide it to police for testing. However, they can only do this in specific circumstances. For example, your blood must be drawn within 4 hours of your driving for the test results to be admissible in court.

      What Drink Driving Offences Can I Be Charged with?

      You can be charged with the following drink driving offences after a crash or accident:

      • Novice Range PCA: if you are a learner or provisional driver and you were driving a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.00 and 0.02.
      • Special range PCA: if you are a special category driver (eg. bus or taxi driver) and were driving a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.02 and 0.05.
      • Low Range PCA: if you drove a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08.
      • Mid-Range PCA: you drove a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.08 and 0.15.
      • High Range PCA: you drove a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 of higher.

      Penalties

      The penalty for drink driving with an accident ranges from a fine to full-time imprisonment. You will also lose your licence for a period of time if you receive a conviction for drink driving.

      Can you go to Jail for Drink Driving with an Accident or Crash?

      Yes, you can go to jail for drink driving with an accident or crash. Whether you are sentenced to gaol will depend on how high your blood alcohol reading was, how severe the damage to property or other vehicles was and whether you have good prospects of rehabilitation.

      Section 10

      A section 10 dismissal is when a person is guilty of an offence but the court chooses not to record a criminal conviction against them.  

      If you receive a section 10, you will also avoid any disqualification or fine. However, it is very rare for a person to be granted a Section 10 for drink driving if there has been a crash or accident.

      Guideline Judgement

      The guideline judgment for high range PCA sets out that a sentence less than imprisonment will rarely be appropriate for drink driving offences with a collision if there are a number of aggravating features.

      Some aggravating features that increase the moral culpability of a drink driving offence include:

      • How hide the reading is (especially if it is well over 0.15);
      • erratic or aggressive driving;
      • a collision between the vehicle and any other object;
      • competitive driving or showing off;
      • the length of the journey at which others are exposed to risk;
      • the number of persons actually put at risk by the driving.

      Where the moral culpability of a high range PCA offender is increased, a section 10 would very rarely be appropriate.  This is so even if it is your first drink driving offence.

      A BOSCAR study found that the penalties for drink driving charges increased significantly following the guideline judgement.

      Dangerous Driving

      You may also be charged with dangerous driving offences following a drink driving accident. Some of the possible charges include:

      • Driving in a manner dangerous: If you were involved in a drink driving crash, you may be charged with dangerous driving. The court will be concerned with degree of ‘potential danger’, as opposed to any actual injury or damage that was caused (McBride v R [1966] HCA 22 ).
      • Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm: The offence of dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment, or 11 years imprisonment where the offence is aggravated by certain factors. A term of full-time imprisonment is usually imposed for this offence, even for a first offence.
      • Dangerous driving occasioning death: The offence of dangerous driving occasioning death carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, or 14 years’ imprisonment where the offence is aggravated. A term of full-time imprisonment is almost always imposed for this offence.

      Drive Under the Influence

      You can also be charged with drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drug following a drink driving accident.

      This charge is usually laid if police are outside of the time limit to breath test you. They can rely on observations of you to make out the offence. Police commonly claim a person smelt of intoxicating liquor, was unsteady on their feet, had bloodshot eyes and were slurring their words.   

      The maximum penalty for a first offence DUI is 18 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $3300. There is also an automatic disqualification of 9 months which increases to 3 years with an interlock exemption order. There is a minimum disqualification of 6 months which increases to 12 months with an interlock exemption order.

      This increases to 2 years’ gaol and/or a fine of $5500 for a second or subsequent offence. The automatic disqualification period is 12 months which increases to 5 years with an interlock exemption order. There is a minimum disqualification of 9 months which increases to 2 years with an interlock exemption order.

      Drink Driving Breath Tests

      When police arrive after an accident they will subject you to a breath test. This will require you to blow or speak into a hand held testing machine.

      If you register a positive blood alcohol reading, you will be arrested and taken to a police station to undergo a breath analysis. This is because breath analysis is more reliable in estimating the amount of alcohol in your system.

      You also have the option of undergoing a blood analysis. This is the most accurate test available, but will need to be organised by you at your expense.

      Insurance After a Drink Driving Crash or Accident

      If you damage a vehicle or property while drink driving, your insurance is unlikely to cover the cost of repairs. Even if you have full comprehensive insurance, there is usually an exception for intoxication.

      However, this is a factor that the court can take into account as ‘extra-curial punishment’. This means that the ultimate sentence imposed can be more lenient because you have already suffered a degree of punishment.

      Compensation

      If you are found guilty of drink driving after a crash or accident, police can obtain an order for you to pay compensation for any damage caused. Most commonly, this relates to damage to another car. You will be required to pay an amount of money to repair the damage.

      It is important for you to engage an experienced drink driving lawyer to assess whether the amount of compensation is accurate.  If it is not, then we will be able to negotiate a lesser amount of compensation.

      If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, contact Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823 or email us at info@astorlegal.com.au.

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