In 2005 there were in excess of 26,500 appearances for alcohol related driving offences in New South Wales Local Courts. Despite increases in penalties and the introduction of a number of Traffic Offender Programs (TOP) around the state, the number of people charged with alcohol related driving offences continues to increase each year and many of the defendants have a prior record that includes an alcohol related driving offence. Alcohol related driving offences remain one of the most common offences heard in the local court (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Recorded Crime Statistics 2005).
Research shows that up to fifty percent of the defendants who appear in the local court for alcohol related driving offences are not legally represented (C Bayari, Sentencing Drink-Driving Offenders in the NSW Local Court, 2003). This book is intended as a guide for those who cannot afford or choose not to engage a lawyer and who represent themselves.
This book is not intended to replace legal representation, and there can be little doubt that quality legal representation is a safe, but often expensive method of dealing with a drink-driving charge. In alcohol-related traffic offences, it is my view that, in almost all cases with some work, and a little preparation, a person can represent him/herself and obtain similar results to quality legal representation (and much better results than those achieved with poor representation). It may be that after reading this book you decide that it would be best to consult a lawyer, either privately or through legal aid. For this reason there are contacts in Further information.
Being charged with a drink-driving offence can be a horrific experience and most people reading this will well know the trauma and indignity of being taken to the police station and charged. The experience is made worse by the potential for losing your licence, having to pay a fine and even the possibility of being imprisoned. For many people it is the loss of licence that is the worst outcome - their livelihoods depend upon their ability to drive and a period of disqualification leads to immediate unemployment, which may not cease just because they can get behind a wheel again.
When the court is deciding what to do with a defendant who has been convicted of drink-driving they are effectively balancing the needs of the community (to ensure that the roads are safe and to deter others) with the needs of the defendant (to have a licence and to manage a fine). The aim of this book is to help you, if you are representing yourself, to tilt that balance a little further in your favour.