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  • Drink driving & DUI penalties in Northern Territory (NT)

    Drink Driving is about the most "serious" offence for any road user in the Northern Territory. And for ammeters treated in the court, it may result in a jail term or prolonged or total suspension of license. However, all these depend on;

    • The severity of the drink driving offence
    • Aggravating circumstances
    • Prior number of offences
    • Non-BAC offences involved; resisting arrest, assaulting police, refusing a Breath test, and so on.

    Less "serious" offences are settled by infringement notices, usually with no licence disqualification. "Serious" Drink driving charges are handled in the Magistrate Court of the NT, where it orders varying levels of punishments to all offenders.

    All legislation, including punishments and period of disqualification imposed on offenders, are provided in the Traffic Act of the NT.

    Drink driving offences appear on an individual’s national police check NT and are disclosed in accordance with the NT’s spent convictions scheme.

    What are the penalties for a drink driving offence in NT?

    The Magistrate imposes punishments on offenders commensurate with the offence and will not issue less than the minimum penalty required. However, the penalties vary depending on the severity of the offence. There are three categories of Drink Driving offences in NT;

    • Low Range Drink driving offences;
    • Drivers with a normal license who get caught with BAC levels between 0.05 and 0.079 are guilty of this offence. They carry the lowest drink driving penalties, but the court can still record a conviction against the individual in their criminal records.

    • Medium Range Drink Driving offence;
    • Those guilty of this offence must have been driving with a BAC level between 0.08 and 0.149. Being convicted of this level of drink driving attracts harsher punishments than previous, especially for repeat offenders.

    • High Range Drink Driving offence;
    • Such drink driving offence means the driver was driving/operating a vehicle at BAC levels above 0.15 when they are accosted. This drink driving offence attracts the heaviest forms of fines, penalties, and in most cases, imprisonment terms.

    • Contravening a Zero BAC order
    • Most drivers may have a running court order that requires them to drive at zero BAC levels. If such drivers are caught with even a tiny level of Alcohol in the Blood, they will face serious punishments.

    Examples of those in this category are;

    • Drivers under the age of 18,
    • Drivers below 25 without a license for the last 3 years
    • Those with special licenses (CPV drivers, Taxi drivers)
    • Those holding a learners or provisional license
    • Drivers of heavy passenger vehicles

    In extreme cases of Drink Driving or DUI, the NT Police has the authority to immediately and indefinitely suspend the License of the defaulter. These and other information are found under various sections of the NT Traffic Act.

    Penalty Units

    If the Magistrate finds you guilty of a drink driving offence, it will impose fines in the form of Penalty units. These are in line with the CPI; currently, each penalty unit is worth $149 -$155. These penalty units are imposed in addition to license disqualification, Demerit points, or imprisonment term depending on the circumstances around the offence

    What are the Penalties for Drink Driving Offences?

    A major factor that affects the penalties or leniency the Magistrate Court grants is the number of prior offences the offender has.

    1. Punishments for First-time offenders
      • Required Zero BAC/Special license Drivers
      • If a driver was required/ordered to drive at zero BAC levels but gets caught driving at BAC levels less than 0.05, the court will impose;

        5 penalty units

        Minimum 3 months license disqualification

      • Low Drink Driving offence; (0.05 – 0.079)
      • Any driver caught operating a vehicle within such BAC levels will be liable to penalties of;

        Traffic infringements of 5 penalty units; can be settled immediately with the official.

      • Medium Drink Driving offence; (0.079 – 0.149)
      • If you are caught operating a vehicle while on a BAC range of the above, you will be liable for punishments between;

        7.5 penalty units fine

        Minimum of 6 months disqualification period

      • High Range Drink Driving offences; BAC levels greater than 0.15
      • Those with such BAC reading while driving a vehicle are liable to penalties of;

        Fines of 10 penalty units

        Minimum of 12 months disqualification period

      Depending on how high or serious the offences are, the fines may be converted to terms of imprisonment between 3 and 12 months.

    2. Second and Subsequent Drink Driving offenders
    3. Having a repeat drink driving offence is not something you want to mess around with, as it could end in permanent license disqualification or jail terms.

      Also, the punishment the court imposes has a lot to do with the history and/or severity of the last offences.

      • Zero BAC level/Special License holders (BAC < 0.05)
      • A repeat offender of this requirement will incur penalties of;

        Fines of 7.5 units

        Minimum license disqualification period of 6 months

        The court may also impose further license disqualification of 6 months to 3 years depending on the number of prior convictions.

      • Low Range offences
      • Repeat offenders of a low range offence will incur penalties of;

        Fines of 5 – 7.5 penalty units

        Minimum of 3 months disqualification on second offences, and 6 months on subsequent offences

      • Medium Range offences
      • Those guilty of contravening a medium-range drink driving offence for second or subsequent times are liable to penalties of;

        Fines of 20 penalty units

        A Mandatory 12 months disqualification period. For subsequent offences, the court will order a further disqualification period between 1 and 3 years.

      • High Range Drink Driving offences
      • These offences are "criminal" enough, and getting subsequent convictions in these offences will be impacting your national criminal history check records. The Magistrate Court imposes the strictest of punishments on repeat offenders for this category, especially if the period between convictions is not far apart. The recommended punishments are;

        Fines of 20 penalty units

        Minimum disqualification period of 18 months

        Further disqualification period between 12 months and 3 years

      Furthermore, all repeat offenders within 3 years of;

      • High, Medium, or Low Drink Driving offence
      • Refusing a Breath/Blood Test
      • Driving Under the Influence

      Any repeat offenders within 3 years in any or all of the above offences will get a minimum disqualification of 5 years.

      However, after serving the mandatory penalties (license disqualification), you can win an appeal to get your license if you agree and adhere to an Alcohol Interlock Scheme/License.

    Penalties for Non-BAC offences

    Other drink driving offences may not require a BAC test (Blood or Breath) to confirm an offence. Some examples are;

    • Refusing a Blood Test
    • Driving under the Influence/Intoxicated driving

    These offences attract penalties of 6 months disqualification period

    Fines of 10 penalty units.

    Subsequent offences incur penalties of;

    20 penalty units in fines

    12 months minimum disqualification period

    Failure to provide a Blood or Breath sample attracts punishments of;

    10 penalty units

    12-month license disqualification period

    Subsequent offenders will get; Fines of 20 penalty units and a mandatory 18 monthly license disqualification.

    These offences will also incur further penalties of 1 to 3 years disqualification if the repeat offence was within 3 years. And the court may grant AIL licenses within this period

    Can I defend a Drink Driving Offence?

    Your best defence against a drink driving offence is to engage the services of experienced lawyers. There are a number of legitimate and plausible defences, including; Faulting Police Breath testing, and so on.

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