DUI Penalties: R v Bloomfield (WA)
If a person is caught driving a motor vehicle on a road while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such an extent as to not have proper control of the vehicle they may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). This offence is contained in section 63 of the Road Traffic Act 1974, which sets out the penalties that apply to a person who commits their first, second or third or subsequent DUI offence. The 2014 WA Court of Appeal decision of R v Bloomfield has established how this penalty system is to be applied in cases of repeat DUI offending.
For a first offence of DUI the courts can impose the following penalties, on an offender:
- A fine of no less than $900 and no more than $2,500;
- A mandatory minimum disqualification from driving for a period of ten months.
DUI second offence
For a second offence of DUI, where the offender has been convicted of the first offence on a separate date, the court can impose the following penalties:
- A fine of no less than $2,100 and no more than $3,500;
- A mandatory minimum disqualification from driving for a period of 30 months; and
- A maximum term of imprisonment for a period of nine months.
DUI third offence
For a third, or subsequent, offence of DUI, where the offender has been convicted of the second offence on a separate date, the court can impose the following penalties:
- A fine of no less than $2,100 and no more than $5,000;
- A disqualification from driving for life; and
- A maximum term of imprisonment for a period of 18 months.
Bloomfield v State of WA
A common law rule was taken from the 2014 Western Australian Court of Appeal decision in Roe v D’Costa and subsequently applied in the 2017 WA Supreme Court of Appeal case of Bloomfield v The State of Western Australia. This rule is that a court cannot convict an offender for a second or subsequent DUI offence, and subject that person to the increased penalty that applies for this unless the person has already been convicted for the previous offences on separate occasions. This means that if a person is charged with their second and third count of DUI and goes to court for both offences on the same day, the court cannot impose a penalty for the third offence that takes into account the second offence as a prior conviction. This is the case even where the actual offences themselves occurred on separate dates.
The rationale behind this is that
“before an offender is exposed to a higher penalty for repeat offending he or she must be lawfully convicted of the prior offending and properly warned of the consequences of such behaviour” (Roe v D’Costa at paragraph 27).
The offence of DUI is established if a person is caught driving a motor vehicle on a road while under the influence of alcohol or drugs so as to not have proper control of the vehicle. The penalties the court will impose on a person for the offence will depend on whether it is a person’s first, second or subsequent offence and whether they have been convicted of any prior offences on separate dates by the court. If the court imposes a higher penalty in a case where the person has not previously been convicted of any prior DUI offences, the person may appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of Western Australia within 28 days of that decision, or sentence, being handed down.
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