This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.


The offence of driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug (DUI) is different from other drink driving charges. It does not require evidence from breath analysis to prove that the person’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. Rather, it requires evidence that the person’s driving was affected by the presence of alcohol in their system.

DUI or drink driving?

When a person is charged with drink driving, they are charged based on their BAC reading (ie low range, medium range, or high range drink driving). A person can be found guilty of these offences based on evidence that they were driving and that their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit, even if there is no evidence that their driving was actually affected by their intoxication.

Conversely, a person charged with DUI will be found guilty if there is sufficient evidence to conclude that their driving was affected by their intoxication. This is the case even if their blood alcohol content was not above the legal limit or if there is no evidence of what their blood alcohol content was.


DUI  is an offence under section 24 of the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977.  The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of 30 penalty units.

What needs to be proven for a DUI charge to succeed?

To find a person guilty of the offence of DUI, the police must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were:

  1. Driving a motor vehicle on a road or road related area;
  2. Under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug; and
  3. The influence of the liquor or drug was such as to render them incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.

Evidence in DUI matters

Evidence for a DUI charge is generally in the form of observations by police who attended the scene, for example slurred speech, smelling of liquor, unsteadiness on their feet or a car accident. This is often difficult and is open to subjective reasoning by the attending officer as there is no objective or scientific way of proving whether or not a person is under the influence of alcohol.

The maximum penalty for this charge depends on whether a person is a first or a repeat offender. In either case, the starting point at sentencing would be for the Court to record a conviction, impose a fine and disqualify your licence for three years, for a first offence and five years for a second offence.


It is a valid defence to a charge of DUI if the accused can establish that they were in a vehicle on a road or road related area but had not started the engine or the vehicle or attempted to put the vehicle into motion and that the person did not intend to drive the vehicle while under the influence of liquor or drugs.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.


In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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