Written by John Sutton
Published under Proposals
May 15, 2016
A new proposal as part of an ACT Discussion paper may see Police given the power to issue Criminal Infringement Notices (CIN) for level two drink driving offences.
You can be charged with a level two PCA, commonly known as drink driving, if you are the driver of a vehicle and your blood alcohol concentration is between 0.05 and 0.079. The proposal outlines if you are a first offender charged with this offence, you may be given a CIN that includes a fine, demerit points, and a default disqualification period. The definition of ‘repeat offender’ under the road transport legislation will also be changed to class anyone who has received a CIN for a PCA offence at any time in the past as a repeat offender.
The major issue with the proposal is the default disqualification period that may be imposed by Police. This removes the discretion to have the matter dealt with by way of a non-conviction order and asking the Court not to impose a disqualification period. The CIN will come with an appeal process however it is not clear in the proposal whether any mandatory disqualification period will be stayed when an appeal is lodged. It may take a few days for an appeal to be lodged and for someone who relies on their licence for work purposes, even a few days of a disqualified licence may have monumental ramifications.
A CIN is similar to the traffic infringement notice system used for traffic offences. In the ACT if you are caught speeding, the police can issue you with a traffic infringement notice which is a set penalty range for that offence. If you pay the notice the matter is finalised and will not be on your criminal history. CINs operate in very similar way in the ACT, if you commit an offence, which is listed as a CIN offence, the Police have the discretion to issue you with a CIN rather than taking the matter to Court.
Since 2009, CINs have operated in the ACT for certain offences, mainly public order offences such as drunk and disorderly in a public place. Statistics since 2009 show 4% of CINs were appealed to the ACT Magistrates Court. There are a number of benefits to the CIN scheme: it helps to alleviate the quantity of matters going before the ACT Magistrates Court, which in turn saves the ACT Government the cost of running a prosecution case, it allows Police resources to focus on high level criminal activity, and it saves people the inconvenience of attending Court.
The new proposal is an attempt to free up the ACT Courts from a number of more minor prosecutions. Part of the proposal also includes criminal infringement notices for minor theft under $500, fighting in a public place, and trespass.