Driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offence and can have serious consequences. There are a range of penalties written into legislation and it is the role of the Magistrate in the courthouse to determine the penalty and its severity.
Therefore, if you have been charged with drug or drink driving, it’s important to understand exactly what going to court for DUI involves, how it works and the potential outcomes. Below, we explain how to prepare for your hearing, what to expect in Court and why you should seek professional legal support as soon as possible.
What is a DUI charge?
A DUI charge refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the ACT, driving under the influence of alcohol is criminalised under the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (‘the Act’). If you drive under the influence of alcohol, you will be charged under section 19 of the Act for having a prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) in the blood or breath.
There are different penalties for first offenders and repeat offenders. There are also different levels depending on your blood alcohol content. We discuss penalties in more detail below.
What Court do you go to for drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs?
If you have been charged with drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs, you will be summoned to attend the Magistrates Court.
How to prepare for a DUI Court hearing
Professional legal support
You should contact a lawyer to get advice as soon as you receive a Summons to attend Court. It is really important to get quality advice and follow any legal advice you have been given if you are going to Court for DUI.
You should also gather some character references from either friends, family or your employer – essentially any party who can vouch for your good character. These references should be addressed to the Magistrate and refer specifically to the current DUI charges.
Written statement of explanation
You should also prepare a letter of remorse before going to Court for DUI, which serves to explain:
- Any extenuating circumstance that explains why you drove under the influence of alcohol;
- Whether you require a driver’s licence for work or care purposes;
- Your income and expenses (to help the Court to determine a suitable fine); and
- The reasons why the Court should believe that you will not drink and drive again.
DUI Court process: what to expect when going to Court for DUI
Going to Court for DUI can be very daunting. There are a few rules you should know. The following is a general guide and rundown of how Court for a drink driving matter would go. Please get in touch to speak to a lawyer for further information.
You must attend Court on the date you have been given. If you cannot make the date for sentence, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest, or seek an adjournment for a time that is available.
Court has a particular etiquette that must be followed, from dress to how you should address the presiding Magistrate. You should dress appropriately, a suit or business casual is preferable when going to Court for DUI. You must bow your head when you enter the Courtroom.
In a criminal matter such as this where you have been charged, the police are the Prosecution, and you are the Defendant. Once the Magistrate calls your matter, you will approach the bar table. It will be clear which side is for the Defendant. You should not speak directly to the Magistrate unless you have been asked to. The Magistrate should be addressed as ‘Your Honour’. The Magistrate will ask how you plead. You must directly answer the Magistrate with your response of either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
If you have legal representation, your lawyer will be able to speak on your behalf. The police Prosecutor will read the facts onto the record. Your lawyer will hand up the relevant documentation for the Magistrate. Your lawyer will then begin to read their submissions, and advocate for you.
The Magistrate will read out the charge. You must stand when you are being sentenced.
Restricted Work Driver’s Licence in the ACT
In the ACT, there is a chance to be granted a restricted work driver’s licence. It is best to seek specific legal advice on this as there are particular circumstances and requirements which must be met.
Going to Court for DUI but need your licence for work? Please contact our experienced DUI lawyers on (02) 6189 2569 for advice and assistance with securing a Restricted Work Driver’s Licence.
Should I plead guilty to a DUI charge?
As driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be extremely dangerous to you and others, the Courts can impose severe penalties for DUI charges. However, in many circumstances pleading guilty can result in a reduced penalty.
Therefore, it is often advisable to reserve not-guilty pleas for the following situations:
- You were not driving the vehicle;
- You believe you were within the legal limit to drive;
- The incident occurred on private property; or
- You have reason to believe that there were problems with the way in which the police testing was performed or reported
Note that if you plan to plead not guilty, you will be required to build a strong legal case. In these circumstances, it is recommended that you seek the support of an experienced DUI lawyer who can explain your options to you and defend you in Court.
Can I go to jail for a DUI charge?
Yes it is possible to face imprisonment for a DUI charge, depending on the circumstances of the offence. In the ACT, DUI offences are categorised according to the alcohol concentration level recorded and the concentration limit that applies to the driver in question.
A first offence can result in nine months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $2,400. If this is your first time charged with drink driving, your driver’s licence may be disqualified for up to three years.
Repeat drink driving offenders may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $3,200 and/or go to prison for 12 months. Your driver’s licence may also be disqualified for up to five years, and you may be issued an Immediate Suspension Notice. This Notice suspends your licence for up to 90 days.
If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs, you risk losing your driver’s licence for a specified period of time and/or a significant fine. Repeat offenders may face imprisonment.
Do I need a lawyer if I’m going to Court for DUI charges?
While you are not legally required to hire a lawyer if going to Court for DUI charges, it is strongly recommended that you do so. By obtaining professional legal advice from an experienced drink driving lawyer, you can ensure that you understand your options, navigate the hearing effectively and secure a fair outcome.
Going to Court for DUI? Get trusted legal support today
BDN have experienced drink driving lawyers who can provide you with invaluable advice and strong representation in Court. Contact us today on (02) 6189 2569 for reliable legal services and support with going to Court for DUI in the ACT.