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Interlock Devices

Interlock devices are mandatory for many drink driving charges in NSW. In very limited circumstances a court may allow an interlock exemption order.

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What is an interlock device?

An interlock is an electronic breath testing device. When installed in a vehicle or motorcycle it is linked to the ignition system. Before the vehicle can be started the driver must pass a breath test.  There are presently three approved interlock devices in New South Wales

Interlock devices must be installed by an approved installer – usually an auto electrician.

Smart Start Interlock Device

What is the NSW interlock program?

The NSW interlock program was first introduced in 2015. When first introduced it applied only to drivers convicted of high range pca and drivers who had been convicted of a second alcohol related driving offence within a 5 year period. The program has since been expanded to include all drink driving offences with the exception of special range PCA, novice range PCA and low range PCA.

Under the interlock program drivers face a shorter period of disqualification. This is followed by a period of time where their licence is subject to an interlock condition. This means that they cannot drive a vehicle unless that vehicle is fitted with an approved interlock device.

In August 2018 when legislation was passed to extend the interlock program The Hon Belinda Pavey, MP explained the purpose of the program by saying,

“This means that offenders may return to driving earlier than if they were convicted of this offence and the automatic licence disqualification under the Act applied, but they can only do so on an interlock licence.”

Will I be required to get an interlock device?

If you’ve been convicted of any of the following offences, you will be required to participate in the interlock program unless the court makes an interlock exemption order:

What are the costs of an interlock device?

The average costs associated with an interlock device are $2200 per year. This estimate includes the installation, rental, calibration and removal of the interlock device. There are slight differences in costs between the various providers and some vehicles can be more difficult, and therefore more expensive, to fit an interlock device. There is also a fee payable to TfNSW for an interlock licence which is currently $159.

If you cannot afford the fees concession rates are available for pensioners and holders of health care cards or veterans affairs cards. A severe financial hardship assistance program is also available and is operated by The Salvation Army in conjunction with TfNSW.

How do I get an interlock device?

Once you have served the initial period of disqualification you will need to download the appropriate forms from TfNSW. First you need to visit a GP to complete a medical consultation certificate. This needs to be done within 28 days of applying for an interlock licence. You then need to arrange for the installation of the interlock device through an approved provider. Finally, you can apply to TfNSW for an interlock licence. A condition will be printed on your licence stating that you can only drive vehicles that have an interlock device fitted.

What if I don’t get an interlock device?

Unless an exemption order is made, you are required to complete the interlock period at the end of your initial disqualification period. If you do not install an interlock device your licence will remain disqualified for a period of 5 years. Irrespective of when you install the interlock device you must complete the required interlock period.

Can I get an interlock exemption order?

If a court makes an interlock exemption order you are not required to participate in the interlock program however you will face a longer period of disqualification. An interlock exemption order can only be made in very limited circumstances and must be made at the time your sentence is imposed. Neither the court, nor TfNSW can make an exemption order at a later time. The circumstances in which an interlock exemption order may be made are:

  • If you do not have access to a vehicle

Having access to a vehicle includes being the part or full registered owner of a vehicle or sharing the use of a vehicle with another person. This also applies if you share a vehicle with someone who has a medical condition preventing them from operating an interlock device.

  • If you have a medical condition

If you have a condition diagnosed by a medical practitioner which would prevent you from providing a sufficient sample of your breath into an interlock device the court may allow an exemption order.

  • Severe financial hardship (Applies to mid range PCA first offence only)

If the making of an interlock order would cause severe financial hardship and it is appropriate in all the circumstances, then a court may allow an exemption order. If you only drive one vehicle this would be difficult to prove as there is financial assistance available. It may cause hardship and be appropriate if someone is required to drive multiple vehicles – for example someone who owns and operates a car sales business.

  • Limits on interlock exemption orders

Exemption orders will not be granted merely because a person cannot afford to maintain an interlock device, would be prevented from driving a work vehicle, or has access to a vehicle however the owner refuses to have an interlock device installed.

Effect of an interlock exemption order

The introduction of interlock orders meant that drivers got their licences back sooner provided they had an interlock device fitted. If the court allows an interlock exemption, then the automatic and minimum periods of disqualification also change. The table below shows the applicable disqualification periods with and without an interlock order.

Facing a drink driving charge?

If you’ve been charged with any drink driving or DUI offence and think you may be required to install an interlock device you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Astor Legal offer an obligation free consultation and can advise you on the likely penalties and defences available for any traffic or criminal matter.

 

Disqualification Periods With Interlock Exemption Order

Offence Disqualification with interlock order Disqualification if interlock exemption order made
Novice Range, Special Range or Low Range PCA 2nd offence 1 to 3 months disqualification then 12mth interlock order 6 to 12mths disqualification
Middle Range PCA (First Offence) 3 to 6mth disqualification then 12mth interlock order 6 to 12mths disqualification
High Range PCA (First Offence) 6 to 9mth disqualification then 2yr interlock order 1 to 3yrs disqualification
Refuse/Fail BAS (First Offence) 6 to 9mth disqualification then 2yr interlock order 1 to 3yrs disqualification
DUI (First Offence) 6 to 9mth disqualification then 2yr interlock order 1 to 3yrs disqualification
Middle Range PCA (Second Offence) 6 to 9mth disqualification then 2yr interlock order 1 to 3yrs disqualification
High Range PCA (Second Offence) 9 to 12mth disqualification then 4yr interlock order 2 to 5yrs disqualification
Refuse/Fail BAS (Second Offence) 9 to 12mth disqualification then 4yr interlock order 2 to 5yrs disqualification
DUI (Second Offence) 9 to 12mth disqualification then 4yr interlock order 2 to 5yrs disqualification