Drink Driving and Drug Driving Courses
If you are going to court for a drink or drug driving matter in the ACT, you may want to consider completing one of three courses before you get there. These are courses aimed at reducing the likelihood of people committing further alcohol or safety-related traffic offences.
The courses consist of a series of education sessions that are designed to increase people’s understanding of their:
- legal and social obligations as a road user,
- the seriousness with which the courts treat certain offences and the punishments applicable,
- the impact that traffic offences can have on the community; and
- the steps that people can take to avoid reoffending.
When sentencing a traffic offender, the Judge or Magistrate will give the person credit for completing such a program because:
- It is in the nature of a punishment in itself (and costs between $150 and $230);
- Their attendance shows they are taking their offending seriously and showing contrition;
- People who attend are less likely to re-offend.
The Guideline Judgment on High Range Drink Driving (PCA) offences, which is a NSW judgment endorsed by the ACT Supreme Court, states that completion of such a program is a proper basis for a reduction in the otherwise appropriate disqualification period and fine.
ACT Region Traffic Programs And Enrolments
There are a variety of traffic courses in the ACT region.
Traffic Offender Intervention Program
The Traffic Offender Intervention Program has been running in NSW for many years and has recently been introduced in the ACT. This program is based on the program that runs in NSW PCYCs for Court mandated offenders. TOIP involves presenters with experience and knowledge of road safety and road trauma, educating offenders about the risks and consequences of unsafe driving behaviours.
The program is run by the Police and Citizens Youth Club (PCYC). There are six sessions run over six weeks:
- Week 1: Introduction, the Police force and crash consequences
- Week 2: The accident scene
- Week 3: Alcohol and other drugs
- Week 4: The legal system
- Week 5: Driving facts
- Week 6: Victims of road trauma and final reflections.
The program is held every Monday evening and is designed as a rolling course, meaning there is no specific order that participants must complete the program in. Participants are able to join any week and finish in 6 weeks time, depending on public holidays. This also means if you miss a session you can make it up in the 6 weeks.
The course aims at reducing dangerous driving behaviours and increasing participants understanding of the importance of road safety. At the completion of the course, you will be given a certificate of completion to be used for sentencing.
In the ACT the program is a voluntary program. However, the court, through a condition on a person’s bail or good behaviour order, may mandate it. The court may also delay or adjourn the sentencing of a matter to allow the offender to complete the program.
Details of the program are as follows:
- Cost: $150
- Time: Mondays 7-9pm
- Location: Erindale PCYC, 17 Grattan Court, Wanniassa.
“Think Ahead” is an ACT course for first-time drug-drive offenders or first-time drink-drive offenders with a reading below 0.08 (www.getroadready.com.au; [email protected]). It is a two-hour program and costs $90, with a discount for concession card holders.
Know The Risk
Know The Risk and Reversed are ACT courses for repeat offenders under 0.08 and for first and repeat offenders above 0.08 or repeat drug-drivers or for those who refuse or fail to provide a sample or take a test (whether first offence or subsequent).
Know The Risk involves two three-hour sessions a week apart and costs $230, with a discount for concession card holders. Similarly, Reversed is two three-hour sessions a week apart and costs $220 ($180 concession)
The Queanbeyan Local Court accepts the above programs in mitigation of offences sentenced before it.
SAVE Traffic Offender Intervention Program
Queanbeyan has its own course, too. The SAVE Traffic Offender Intervention Program operates out of the Kangaroos Club, corner Stuart St and Richard Ave and involves a day-long program, usually 9am to 5pm on nominated Saturdays and costs $150.
Goulburn and Yass Local Courts are served by a program run through the PCYC Institute.
There is also a program located at Nowra and Bateman’s Bay called the Serious Traffic Offender’s Program (STOP). This program is not accredited but given the limited options available in the area the court will generally give credit to those who undertake it.
The guideline judgment
The Guideline Judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal in NSW is looked to in almost every sentencing hearing for a drink-drive matter. The judgment was handed down in 2004 and has been accepted into ACT law 10 years later via the judgment of Justice Burns in the case of Tindall v Spalding [2014 ACTSC 253].
The Guideline Judgment has the following to say about intervention programs and drink-driving charges:
“There is evidence that suggests that attendance at such a program lessens the likelihood of reconviction for drink driving. This may be not only because of the educative value in causing the offender to appreciate the consequences of such conduct but also because of the humiliation experienced by an offender in being required to attend such a program.”
The judgment also covers High Range PCA offences specifically:
“Notwithstanding the undoubted beneficial effect upon a driver of participation in a driver education program, that fact can have little impact, in my view upon the appropriate sentence to be imposed for an offence of high range PCA in the usual case, except in so far as the length of disqualification may be concerned or the amount of a fine. The offence, in general, is so serious and the criminality involved in even a typical case so high that, in my view, the participation of the offender in a program cannot be seen as an alternative to punishment for an offence of this nature. In particular, there is no warrant at all for the making of an order under Section 10 [the ACT equivalent is Section 17] simply because the offender has participated in such a program or is to do so as part of the conditions of a bond.”
In our experience participation in a program reduces the fine and period of disqualification or suspension, and in some cases (notwithstanding the Guideline Judgment) it can contribute to the court not imposing any punishment at all but instead dismissing a charge pursuant to s17 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005.
Eligibility for programs
A relevant drink or drug drive course must be completed before a driver found guilty of an offence and disqualified from driving will be re-issued with a licence by the Road Transport Authority of the ACT.
It must be completed inside the timeframe of the person’s disqualification period.
Well-prepared defendants complete, or at least enrol in, a relevant course before coming to court.
In NSW, most Traffic Offender Intervention Programs will allow anyone to attend. However, the course is most appropriate for people who:
- Are a traffic offender.
- Have not been sentenced for their traffic offence.
- Have agreed to participate.
- Some Traffic Offender Intervention Programs insist that a Court provides a specific referral. Most courts will happily refer offenders to the course if they have not yet done it.
What is involved in the programs?
Topics covered vary from provider to provider, and can include:
- Drink, Drugs and Driving.
- Dangerous Road Behaviours.
- Emergency Response.
- The Legal System.
- Crash Casualties.
- Actions and Outcomes.
There is often a workbook that must be completed, including a “final reflection” where you will be required to comment on what you have learned at the course and your reflections on your offence generally.
In NSW, the comments included in the “final reflection” sometimes are automatically included in the completion report that is forwarded to the court, so please take your time and choose your words carefully.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.
WHERE TO NEXT?
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.