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What are the penalties?

This section covers penalties given by the court for these types of offences:

  • drink driving charges (low, medium, and high range)
  • zero blood alcohol charges
  • drug driving charges
  • driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drug charges (DUI).

When the judge decides what your sentence will be, they must apply the Traffic Act (NT). The Traffic Act says that for most drink driving offences committed in the Northern Territory, your licence must be disqualified for a minimum period of time.

If your licence is disqualified in the Northern Territory, there is no way to get a ‘special licence’ for work.

However, you should tell the court if losing your licence will cause hardship for you or your family. This may persuade the judge to not disqualify you for longer than the minimum period required by law.

If you drive while disqualified you are likely to receive a prison sentence.

Home detention or prison is not usually given for a first or second drink or drug driving offence, but is quite likely for a third or subsequent offence, or if your offending was particularly serious. If home detention or prison is likely, you should arrange for a lawyer to represent you in court.

 

Drink-driver education courses
If you are disqualified from driving by the court, you will not be able to get your licence back until your disqualification period has finished AND you have completed a drink driver education course. You can do the drink-driver education course at any time during your disqualification period. Earlier is better so that there is no delay at the end of your disqualification period. Check with the Motor Vehicles Registry about what you have to do before you can get your licence back.

 

Penalty units
The maximum fine amount is calculated using penalty units. For example, a fine might be 5 penalty units. The dollar value of a penalty unit changes each year; for 2018 to 2019, one penalty unit is $155. So, for a fine of 5 penalty units, you would have to pay $775. You can check the current value of penalty units here. You will also have to pay a victims levy of $150.

 

Drink driving charges

A low range drink driving charge is the only type of offence that can be dealt with by a traffic infringement notice. If police give you one of these, you can pay a fine and avoid going to court or losing your licence. This charge does not usually go to court unless you are also charged with other offences or you have received a traffic infringement notice for drink driving within the last 3 years. If it does go to court, you may get other penalties.

Drink driving offences

 First offence*Second or subsequent offence
Low range: Drive at 0.05% but under 0.08% blood alcohol content.Maximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Licence disqualification is not compulsory.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Minimum licence disqualification 3 months.
If third or subsequent offence, minimum licence disqualification is for 6 months.
Medium range: Drive at 0.08% but under 0.150% blood alcohol content.Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for minimum of 6 months.
Must complete driver education course before getting licence back.
Maximum fine of 20 penalty units and/or up to 12 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for minimum 24 months (or 12 months plus 12 months with alcohol ignition lock).
*High range: Drive at 0.15% blood alcohol content or higher; refuse or fail a breath analysis; refuse a blood test.Maximum fine of 10 penalty units and/or up to 12 months prison. Compulsory licence disqualification for a minimum of 12 months.
Maximum fine of 20 penalty units and/or up to 12 months prison.
If more than 3 years since last relevant conviction: compulsory licence disqualification for minimum 30 months (or 18 months plus 12 months with alcohol ignition lock).
If less than 3 years since last relevant conviction: compulsory licence disqualification for minimum of 5 years.

*For second or subsequent OR high range offences, police can immediately disqualify you from driving. Driving while disqualified is a serious offence, which usually attracts a prison sentence. If you were immediately disqualified by police, and a court later finds you guilty of a drink or drug driving offence, your disqualification will be backdated to start on the date police disqualified you. Otherwise, your disqualification period must start on the date the court orders you be disqualified.

Zero blood alcohol charges

The law says that some people must not have any alcohol in their blood while driving:

  • learner licence (L plate) or provisional licence (P plate) driver
  • unlicensed driver (except where you haven’t renewed your license)
  • anyone under 18
  • anyone under 25 who has not had a licence continuously for 3 years
  • a ‘trade-related’ driver, which means:
    • professional driving instructor who is teaching someone how to drive
    • driver of a vehicle with maximum loaded mass of more than 15 tonnes
    • driver of commercial passenger vehicle (e.g. taxi or Uber)
    • driver of vehicle carrying dangerous goods
    • driver of vehicle carrying people in a space designed for the carriage of goods
    • driver of vehicle carrying or able to carry more than 11 passengers.

 First offence*Second or subsequent offence
Learner or provisional licenceMaximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for a minimum of 3 months.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for 12 months (or 6 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
Unlicensed driverMaximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for a minimum of 3 months.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for 12 months (or 6 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
Under 18 yearsMaximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for a minimum of 3 months.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for 12 months (or 6 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
18-25 years on full licence for less than 3 yearsMaximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Licence disqualification at discretion of judge.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for 9 months (or 3 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
For third or subsequent offence, compulsory disqualification is 12 months (or 6 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
Trade-related driverMaximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Licence disqualification at discretion of judge.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for 9 months (or 3 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).
For third or subsequent offence, compulsory disqualification is 12 months (or 6 months plus 6 months with alcohol ignition lock).

*For second or subsequent offences, police can immediately disqualify you from driving. Driving while disqualified is a serious offence, which usually attracts a prison sentence. If you were immediately disqualified by police, and a court later finds you guilty of a drink or drug driving offence, your disqualification will be backdated to start on the date police disqualified you. Otherwise, your disqualification period must start on the date the court orders you be disqualified.

Drug driving charges

There are two categories of prohibited drugs:

  1. Drugs that are prohibited completely. This includes cannabis, methyl amphetamines, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine.
  2. Drugs that are prohibited unless you can show that you took the drug as directed by your doctor. This includes morphine, methadone, and amphetamines.

The police do not need to prove that your ability to drive was impaired to charge you with this offence. Police may deal with a first drug driving offence by giving you a traffic infringement notice. If you are given a notice you can pay the fine and avoid going to court or losing your licence. If your case goes to court, the following penalties apply:

First offence*Second offence*Third or subsequent offence
Maximum fine of 5 penalty units and/or up to 3 months prison.
Licence disqualification at discretion of the judge.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for minimum of 3 months.
You must complete a driver education course and/or treatment course before getting your licence again.
Maximum fine of 7.5 penalty units and/or up to 6 months prison.
Compulsory licence disqualification for minimum of 6 months.
You must complete a driver education course and/or treatment course before getting your licence again.

*For second and third or subsequent offences, police can immediately disqualify you from driving. Driving while disqualified is a serious offence, which usually attracts a prison sentence. If you were immediately disqualified by police, and a court later finds you guilty of a drink or drug driving offence, your disqualification will be backdated to start on the date police disqualified you. Otherwise, your disqualification period must start on the date the court orders you be disqualified.

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drug charges (DUI)

If the police cannot prove you were over the limit, but can still prove you were incapable of exercising effective control of your vehicle, you may be charged with this offence. Erratic driving, failing to stay in the lane of traffic, the smell of alcohol on your breath, unsteadiness on your feet, or having bloodshot eyes may provide police with evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol and/or a drug.

 

Other sections in this guide:

 

What happens in court?

What other penalties could I get?

 

Disclaimer
The information in this guide is current as at February 2019. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. It is correct at the time of publication, but laws change. If you have a legal problem you should seek advice from a lawyer.

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