As part of a number of changes to drink driving laws in NSW, as of 20 May 2019, drivers charged with low-range drink driving (0.05 – 0.079) can now be suspended from driving by police on-the-spot when charged. The suspension will be in place until the matter is finalised in court or penalty notice.
Previously, only drivers charged with mid or high-range drink driving could be suspended on-the-spot. This reflected the fact that low-range carries a fine only, and in many cases those charged end up receiving no conviction and therefore no licence disqualification.
Often the delay between being charged and having the matter resolved in court can be months. Court delays in listing, and also completion of the Traffic Offenders Program before being sentenced can take time.
What this means is that for many offenders who are ultimately discharged without conviction and loss of licence, they will end up serving a suspension, only to be be discharged by a court without any disqualification. Given the delays in some courts, the suspension period could be close to the minimum disqualification of 3 months they would have received anyway if convicted.
Appeals and “Exceptional Circumstances”?
It may be that this will be a relevant factor in appealing in court an on-the-spot police suspensions for low-range, which requires “exceptional circumstances” to be established. Time will tell.
By Justin Wong