Written by Andrew Tiedt
June 5, 2015
Earlier this year amendments were made to the Road Transport Act 2013 that instituted mandatory interlock orders for a number of offences.
Prior to the introduction of the new laws, the Court had a general discretion to order that a person could obtain their licence back early if they were willing to have an “interlock device” installed in their car. This would require them to be breath tested before starting the car and at random times whilst the car was being driven.
The new laws which have effect for any offences committed on or after 1 February 2015 set down a number of offences for which such interlock device is now mandatory.
The relevant offences are any second or subsequent drink driving offence (an offence where there was another offence in the five years previous), any high range drink driving matter, and any charge of refusing to undertake a breath analysis.
For each relevant offence there was a minimum and maximum disqualification and a minimum period of compliance with an interlock device.
If the offender does not get an interlock device installed in their car, there is a mandatory disqualification period of five years that can only be avoided if the offender obtains an interlock exemption order. Those exemption orders are very tightly controlled and there are very strict requirements (including having no access to a car) that need to be met before a Court is to grant the order.
Now that these laws have been in place for a few months, it is possible to discern some general sentencing patterns.
The Court has generally shown a willingness to reduce the period of disqualification prior to going on the interlock licence to the minimum period if the offender can show some good reason why it should be done. This is often demonstrated by completion of the Traffic Offenders Program or reliance upon an otherwise good record.
It has also been unusual for the Courts to increase the minimum interlock period, although it certainly has happened on occasion. It has in our experience typically been only those offenders with some particularly aggravating feature (such as a bad accident or a very poor traffic record) who have been subject to such an increase.
It has also been clear that the Courts have been extremely slow to grant interlock exemption orders. This is unsurprising given that the legislation that sets out quite stringent requirements.
Some Courts have gone so far as to require an entirely separate second hearing on the question of the interlock exemption order, including a requirement that evidence be filed with the Court and served on police in advance of the hearing, an unfortunate consequence of this procedure is an increase in the cost and inconvenience of such matters.
We have not heard any reports of an interlock devices being difficult to obtain for drivers, although many drivers have found the costs to be a significant impediment for them. However, given that this legislation has decreased the minimum period of time that people have to spend off the road pending being able to drive again, we have found our clients are typically quite pleased with the new system and content to have the interlock device installed in their car. Whilst the device is not cheap and can be inconvenient, the general feedback has been that it is vastly preferable to not being able to drive at all.