Information on Alcohol Interlock Program NSW

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Information on Alcohol Interlock Program in NSW: In this “NSW DUI Court Bible” article we explore all that there is to know about Alcohol Interlock Devices in New South Wales, what they are, what the laws say, the pros and cons and how to go about getting one.

What is an Alcohol Interlock Device?

On 8 September 2003 we saw the introduction of the NSW Alcohol Interlock Program as an alternative type of penalty for drink driving offenders. The alcohol interlock device is a specially designed electronic (digital) breath testing instrument which can be fitted into any motor vehicle and connected to the vehicles ignition interlock. When a vehicle is fitted with such a device it means that the person my submit a breath test into the interlock device before attempting to start the ignition of the vehicle. If the blood alcohol reading recorded on the device is below 0.02 then the vehicle is capable of being started. However, if the interlock device records a blood alcohol reading over 0.02 then the person attempting to start the vehicle will be unable to do so and the interlock device will act as a type of vehicle immobilizer.

In order to be eligible to partake in the Alcohol Interlock Program a Court must make a specific order under section 210 of the Road Transport Act 2013 to allow the defendant the option to reduce their disqualification period so long as they exercise the option of participating in the Interlock Program. But at the end of the day it is up to the Court to make the order for a person to take part in the program. The Court will decide if the defendant would be suitable and would benefit from such an order. If the Court does decide to make an order for an offender to take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program then this means that the Magistrate can order that part of the offenders normal disqualification can be reduce (even beyond the mandatory minimum period).

In order to take part in this program the offender must however:

  1. Complete the reduced period of disqualification ordered by the Court.
  2. Get an approved NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Alcohol Interlock Device fitted into their vehicle by an approved installer.
  3. Obtain a NSW Class C (car) drivers licence with a special licence condition indicating that the driver “May only drive a vehicle fitted with an approved interlock device”.

How does the Alcohol Interlock penalty work?

When a Court convicts an offender for a drink driving related offence, the Magistrate has a discretion to order that a licence disqualification be partially reduced so long as the offender agrees to participate in the Alcohol Interlock program. An offender or the offenders solicitor should request that a specific order be made for participation in the Alcohol Interlock Program at the time that submissions are made to the Court.

Once the order is made it is completely up to the offender whether or not they wish to carry out the full disqualification period or alternatively obtain a special Alcohol Interlock Licence which needs to specifically be issued by the Roads and Maritime Services (‘RMS’) and serve the reduced period of disqualification.

If a Magistrate sees fit to exercise their discretion and issue an Alcohol Interlock order then upon handing down their decision on penalties they will generally give you the full penalty of disqualification as it normally stands and an alternative penalty open to the offender to receive upon participating in the Alcohol Interlock Program. If the offender chooses to take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program then they must first complete the reduced period of disqualification before they will be eligible to obtain an Interlock Licence from the RMS.

Under the Road Transport Act 2013 there are prescribed periods by which the Court can reduce the normal disqualification periods down to if an offender takes part in the Alcohol Interlock Program and there are also prescribed period for how long an Alcohol Interlock participant is required to maintain the interlock device fitted in their car. We discuss these time periods in more detail under the section relating to the laws of the Alcohol Interlock Program.

Once the prescribed Interlock period is finished then the offender can go along to the RMS to obtain a full unrestricted licence. It is generally recommended that if a person is charged with High Range PCA or equivalent drink driving related offence, or if they are a repeat drink driving offender then they should seriously consider seeking that the Court make an order for an Alcohol Interlock Program. Reason being is that whether or not you do decide to take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program you at least have the option of  participating when the end of the reduce disqualification period occurs.

It must be understood that if you fail to request the Magistrate to make an order at the time of sentence in Court but decide that you want that order make after the matter has been finalised then it will be too late.

PLEASE NOTE: If you want the order for an Alcohol Interlock Device then you have got to ask for it to be made as a Court order.

Advantages of the Alcohol Interlock Device?

Obviously the most attractive part about the Alcohol Interlock Program is that it means that you have the opportunity of getting back on the road driving a vehicle a lot quicker than if you do not take part in the program. This can be extremely helpful for someone who relies on their ability to drive in order to earn a living and maintain their employment. In addition to this you may have a real need to be able to drive a car to care for or look after someone. Whatever the case maybe, if it is clear that you or people close to you would suffer extreme hardship due to you inability to legally operate a motor vehicle then the Alcohol Interlock Program could very well be a very positive course to take.

Generally, the Alcohol Interlock Program is reserved for repeat drink driving offenders or offenders charged with very high range drink driving offences. Since this is the case the Alcohol Interlock Device can not only help these people get back on with their lives in a more efficient way but it can also help them to overcome problematic drinking and driving issues that may exist. It will allow them to be able to attend medical appointments to deal with alcohol problems. Furthermore, it will allow offenders to learn to separate the act of drinking from the act of driving.

It is well known that people from all types of areas and social statuses within our society are brought before the Courts on drink driving related charges, needless to say that many offenders care for sick and elderly people and others may be parents in which they have young children that rely on them to transport them to various places. With the Alcohol Interlock Program, offenders will be better able to get back on with attending to their responsibilities in their day to day lives especially when other people rely on them to get by in their own lives.

By indicating to the Court that you are willing to take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program it provides you with options as to whether or not you wish to take part in the program, it will also show the Court that you are willing to put yourself through the program in order to make sure that you get on the offending behaviour.

In a nutshell there are many advantages of seeking an Alcohol Interlock order and taking part in the program, including:

  1. Continue to drive your car legally.
  2. Greater chance of maintaining your job or employment if you are required to operate a vehicle for your work.
  3. Opportunity to see a doctor about your alcohol consumption
  4. Learn to separate drinking from driving
  5. You can continue to look after and care for friends and family by driving them places
  6. You get to maintain your independence

Disadvantages of the Alcohol Interlock Device Program?

Certainly, taking part in the Alcohol Interlock Program is not for everyone since there are a number of responsibilities and commitments attached to taking on such a program. Depending on your situation you may find that getting your licence back quicker is not a top priority, however for most people it is. The other issue is that you may not be able to afford the costs involved with taking part in the Alcohol Interlock Program.

Generally, if a Court makes an order for the Alcohol Interlock Program there is a prescribed period in which you must take part in the program for and this could between anywhere between 2 years and 4 years, and if the matter is of an extremely serious nature the Court has the discretion to increase it beyond these periods.

Of course the costs involved can be far to expensive for some people, since monthly interlock device calibrations need to be undertaken by an approved NSW Roads and Marine Services interlock installer. These costs can often range from $100 to $150 per month for each calibration to take place.

In a nutshell the disadvantages appear to be less than the advantages of taking part in the Alcohol Interlock Program however it will all depend on you need to get back on the road driving quicker and you financial position, some of the disadvantages of the Alcohol Interlock Program include:

  1. Costs
  2. Monthly calibrating appointments
  3. Lengthy participation in program

Laws surrounding the Alcohol Interlock Device

The laws surrounding Alcohol Interlock Program and Devices were introduced into legislation on 8 September 2003. With the advancement in technology, more and more vehicles on the road and the real push to make our roads safer this legislation was inevitable. Many studies have taken place to suggest that Alcohol Interlock Devices can have an impact on preventing drink driving and making offenders accountable to safe driving. We look at some of these studies later in this article. But in relation to the laws that currently exist in the Road Transport Act 2013, the pertinent sections  are:

Division 2 – Use of interlock devices as alternative to disqualification

208.    Definitions

209.    Division does not apply to habitual traffic offenders

210.     Disqualification period may be suspended for participation in interlock program

211.     When person may participate in interlock program

212.     Entitlement to apply for interlock driver licence

213.     When disqualification suspension order has effect

214.     Participation in an interlock program

215.     Effect of successful participation in interlock program

What is of particular relevance and interest to most people considering seeking an order be made for an Alcohol Interlock is the various disqualification period reductions that can be given and the length of time required to undergo the Alcohol Interlock Program. Obviously the more serious the charge the greater amount of time that you will have to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program. Below we have provided a handy table outlining the various offences, the minimum disqualification period after a reduction has been applied and also the minimum period by which the offender must participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program.

DUI COURT TIP: Of great importance is the fact that where a person has been charged with a Middle Range PCA offence which normally carries a minimum disqualification period of 6 months, it must be noted that under the Alcohol Interlock Program the minimum disqualification period for a middle range drink driving offence is also 6 months. So this means that even if you take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program you will not receive any disqualification reduction benefit.

Of course there are many benefit with taking part in the Alcohol Interlock Program however for Middle Range PCA offenders obtaining a reduced period of disqualification is not one of those benefits. For this reason we generally say that the Alcohol Interlock Program is more suited to repeat offenders, high range drink driving types of matter or other situations where an offender can obtain a reduced period of disqualification or other circumstances see that the benefits of an Alcohol Interlock Device being fitted into their vehicle would be of great benefit.

Use the below table below as a guide to see what periods of disqualification and Alcohol Interlock Program participation apply to offenders upon entering into the program.

Details in the below table come from section 210 of the Road Transport Act 2013:

OFFENCE
MINIMUM DISQUALIFICATION PERIOD
MINIMUM INTERLOCK PARTICIPATION PERIOD
Drive or attempt to drive with a high range (>0.15) PCA (prescribed concentration of alcohol) (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

12 Months

48 months

 
Drive or attempt to drive with a high range (>0.15) PCA (where there is NOT a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

6 Months

24 Months

Drive or attempt to drive with a middle range (0.08 to <0.15) PCA (whether or not there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

6 Months

24 Month

Drive or attempt to drive with a low range (0.05 to <0.08) PCA (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related offence within the previous five year period)

3 Months

12 Months

Drive or attempt to drive with a special range (0.02 to <0.05) PCA (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related offence within the previous five year period)

3 Months

12 Months

 
Attempt to drive under the influence of alcohol (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

12 Months

24 Months

 
Attempt to drive under the influence of alcohol (where there is NOT a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

6 Months

24 Months

 
Drive under the influence of alcohol (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

12 Months

48 Months

 
Drive under the influence of alcohol (where there is NOT a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

6 Months

12 Months

 
Refuse or fail to submit to breath analysis test (where there is a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

12 Months

48 Months

 
Refuse or fail to submit to breath analysis test (where there is NOT a previous conviction for any alcohol-related major offence within the previous five-year period)

6 Months

24 Months

 

10 steps of the Alcohol Interlock Program

We want to set out a step-by-step process for you so that it makes it a lot easier to go about getting the Alcohol Interlock Device and participating in the Alcohol Interlock Program. Below we have detailed 10 specific steps that an offender will need to take in order to get involved in the program.

As discussed above there are many benefits to participating in the Alcohol Interlock Program but there is a very specific and strict process which needs to be undertaken in order to do it properly without running the risk falling foul of the Courts orders.

STEP # 1:  OBTAIN A COURT ORDER

First step to being able to obtain a special Interlock Licence is to have the Court make an Alcohol Interlock order at the time when sentence is handed down.

Failing to obtain this order at the time of sentence means that you will be unable to later seek that the Court make an Interlock order down the track.

So it’s very important that you inform yourself of what the Interlock Program consists of and make sure that you make a request to the Magistrate of the Court to make an Alcohol Inyerlock order.

You can indicate to the Magistrate that you want to take part in the Alcohol Interlock Program also known as a Disqualification Suspension Order (DSO).

STEP # 2:   DECIDE IF THE ALCOHOL INTERLOCK PROGRAM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

It is completely up to the offender whether or not they wish to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program, thus it is a voluntary program.

You must do your own research and decide if you think the Alcohol Interlock Program would be suitable for you and your situation. You should consider the following issues when deciding whether or not to participate in the program:

  • Afford initial installation and ongoing service costs .
  • Commit to monthly servicing of the interlock device by an approved interlock installer.
  • Commit to only driving the one vehicle that has the interlock device fitted to it.
  • Understand that you will be required to only drive a vehicle with a fitted interlock device for as long as the Court orders.
  • Understand that if you are caught driving a vehicle without a fitted interlock device then you will be charged with an offence.

After doing your own research and understanding exactly what is required of someone who participates in the Alcohol Interlock Program you have the option of deciding whether or not you wish to take part in the program. If you believe that you will not be able to commit to the program or that it is just not right for you then you can choose to serve the full disqualification period ordered by the Court.

PLEASE NOTE: You only have the option to make this choice so long as Step # 1 above was covered and the Court made an Alcohol Interlock Order.

STEP 3 #: COMPLETE THE (REDUCED) DISQUALIFICATION PERIOD

As mentioned above generally the Court will reduce your licence disqualification period so long as you commit to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program. The shorter period is called the disqualification compliance period and this needs to be completed prior to you beginning the period set down by the Court for an Interlock Driver’s Licence.

At the time of sentence the Court will generally make 2 disqualification orders, 1) for the normal disqualification period, and 2) the reduced disqualification period applied only when the offender takes the right steps to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program.

So in effect before you can begin driving again on a special Interlock Driver’s Licence you MUST have completed the reduced period of disqualification set down by the Court.

STEP # 4: ATTEND MEDICAL CONSULTATION ABOUT YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

One of the compulsory conditions that one must complete in order to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program is attend a medical consultation with a doctor who is trained in providing what is called the “Drink Less Brief – Medical Intervention” which has been specifically developed for the Alcohol Interlock Program.

This medical consultation MUST be carried out prior to 28 days before the reduce disqualification compliance period ends.

The offender will need to obtain an “Alcohol Interlock Program – Brief Medical Intervention Certificate” to be completed and signed by a doctor. Generally, the doctor will assess you and ask you questions about your alcohol consumption. It is seen as a medical consultation so you should not be concerned about being tested or passing or failing because it is not a test.

Once the medical consultation is over you should take the completed and signed “Alcohol Interlock Program – Brief Medical Intervention Certificate” to the motor vehicle registry when you are eligible to apply for an Interlock Driver’s Licence.

Please find a copy of the requisite certificate below:

CLICK HERE – Alcohol Interlock Brief Medical Intervention Certificate

If necessary the doctor can also refer the offender for further medical consultation in relation to treating alcohol abuse and consumption.

STEP # 5: GET THE INTERLOCK DEVICE INSTALLED BY AN APPROVED INSTALLER

When the time comes that your disqualification period is coming to an end you will need to arrange an appointment with an approved New South Wales interlock device installer. It is important to note that you can have a new interlock device installed up to 28 days prior to the end of the reduced disqualification compliance period.

You cannot just get any old interlock installer to fit the interlock device into your vehicle. The installer must be approved and registered through the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) in NSW. The same goes for servicing and removing an interlock device, all services must be conducted by an approved interlock installer.

For a comprehensive list of approved interlock installers please visit the following website and perform a search in your local area:

CLICK HERE – Approved interlock installers and doctors

You will need to undertake some brief training from the interlock installer in order to learn how to properly use the interlock device with its various functions. Also information on dealing with difficulties, breakdowns and lockouts. The interlock installer will also advise you of the various service requirement that you will need to adhere to.

The approved interlock installer will issue you with a signed “Alcohol Interlock Program – Interlock Installation Certificate” once the interlock device has been fitted and the training process has been complete.

You must take the “Alcohol Interlock Program Certificate – Interlock Installation Certificate” with you when you go to see the interlock installer.

Please find a copy of the certificate below:

CLICK HERE – Alcohol Interlock Installation Certificate

STEP # 6: ATTEND THE MOTOR REGISTRY & APPLY FOR A SPECIAL INTERLOCK LICENCE

The next step you need to take is to attend your local Motor Registry which is currently called the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Registry. You will need to take with you the following documents to be produced at the registry:

  1. Signed Alcohol Interlock Program – Brief Medical Intervention Certificate
  2. Signed Alcohol Interlock Program – Installation Certificate
  3. Alcohol Interlock Program – Interlock Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration

Please find the Interlock Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration below:

CLICK HERE – Alcohol Interlock Program – Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration

STEP # 7: AGREE TO SPECIAL LICENCE CONDITIONS

There are approximately 15 conditions on the “Interlock Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration” that you will need to agree to and sign off on before you will be eligible to obtaining the special Interlock Licence.

When you sign off on the Interlock Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration you are basically confirming that you understand all of the restrictions, conditions and requirements surrounding the Interlock Licence and agree to abide by all of those conditions.

These are legal conditions which you need to be absolutely sure that you understand – if you do not understand them they you should seek clarification from someone at the RMS or even seek legal advice.

STEP # 8: OBTAIN YOUR INTERLOCK LICENCE

Once the disqualification compliance period has finished you are eligible to apply for your Interlock Licence the day after. Obviously to be successful in your application for an Interlock Licence you will need to have arranged the above mentioned medical and installer certificates as well as the Interlock Driver Licence Election & Privacy Declaration.

Due to the fact that there is more paperwork to lodge and it is a more unusual process the time involved in processing the application may take longer than applying for a standard drivers licence. Thus, it is recommended that you approach someone at the customer service counter and explain that you are applying for an Interlock Drivers Licence and where you should line up.

There may be issues in processing the Interlock Licence if there are outstanding fines or offences on your traffic record that have not been dealt with. So just because you have followed all of the normal application steps up until this point there is no guarantee that you will be able to obtain an Alcohol Interlock Licence.

If, however, your application can be processed then you need to be aware that the RMS will charge you a fee for the licence application, please contact the RMS or the RMS website for further details on these associated fees.

The Alcohol Interlock Licence is only for a Class (C) type of drivers licence which enables the offender to operate a car. This includes categories of provisional, unrestricted and unrestricted with a good behaviour condition. The Alcohol Interlock Licence is not available for other Classes of vehicles.

The following conditions and restrictions apply to a Alcohol Interlock Licence to a vehicle:

  • Gross vehicle mass no greater than 4.5 tonnes
  • Constructed or equipped to seat no more than 12 adults
  • Not a public passenger vehicle.

You will note that once you have received the Alcohol Interlock Licence, the letter “l” will be placed on the front of the physical licence, in addition to this the words “May only drive vehicle fitted with an approved interlock device” will be printed clearly on the back of the physical drivers licence. So if you are pulled over by police then they will be aware of the licence restrictions and can assess whether or not you are fully complying with the type of licence that you hold.

Provisional licences carry the following requirements:

  1. Provisional P1 licensees who participate in the program will continue to be issued an 18 month driver licence with an interlock driver licence condition that will be valid for the period specified by the court.
  2. Provisional P2 licensees who participate in the program will continue to be issued a 30 month driver licence with an interlock driver licence condition that will be valid for the period specified by the court.

You should know that whilst a person can start a vehicle fitted with an Alcohol Interlock Device so long as their Blood Alcohol Level is under 0.02, it should be understood that Provisional drivers are by law required to have a blood alcohol reading of zero (0.00) and will be duly charged if found operating a vehicle fitted with an Alcohol Interlock Device and having a blood alcohol reading over zero.

STEP # 9: SUBMIT YOUR CAR & INTERLOCK DEVICE FOR MONTHLY SERVICE

You should be aware that you will be required to satisfy the condition of the Alcohol Interlock Program for you to submit your vehicle that is fitted with the Alcohol Interlock Device in for a monthly servicing. This needs to be scheduled with an approved interlock installer every 30 days. The idea behind these monthly services is for the approved installer to run tests on the fitted Alcohol Interlock Device and make sure that it is correctly calibrated, in good working order and to make sure that it has not been tampered with. Where the 30th day falls on a weekend or a public holiday then the monthly service may be extended out to 34 days but no longer.

It is an offence for a person to who is not an approved interlock installer to carry out testings and services.

All electronic data that has been collected from the Alcohol Interlock Device will be sent to a central computer and you will be able to obtain access to this data after each service.

STEP # 10: COMPLETE THE INTERLOCK PARTICIPATION PERIOD & APPLY FOR NORMAL LICENCE

When you are coming to the end of your Alcohol Interlock period then you should contact the RMS to confirm the exact finishing date:

Telephone the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) – 13 22 13

The reason why you need to contact the RMS is because you are not legally permitted to remove or allow someone else to remove the Alcohol Interlock Device prior to the Alcohol Interlock Period expires. If you do happen to remove the Alcohol Interlock Device prior to the Alcohol Interlock Period expires then you run the risk of having the Alcohol Interlock Program cancelled and be required to carry out the full remaining disqualification period issued by the Court.

In order to apply for a new driver’s licence once the Alcohol Interlock Program has finished then you should speak to a customer service representative at the RMS to assess exactly what is required for you to be re-issued with a full unrestricted licence. It may or may not involved further knowledge testing depending on the time that you have been disqualified without a licence for.

 

Summary

What we have aimed to do in this article is to provide you with a basic overview of what the Alcohol Interlock Device and Program is, what the pros and cons of participating in the program is and of course how to go about taking part in the program.

You will now be aware that there are many benefits from partaking in the Alcohol Interlock Program including getting back on the road driving again sooner. However, this obviously comes at a cost which involves ongoing financial servicing costs, strict conditions and requirements of using an Interlock Driver’s Licence and adhering to a stringent application process.

But at the end of the day if you have shown that you have a real need to get back on the road driving in order to earn a living or take care of someone then these costs can be but a small concession in getting back on with your life quicker.

Most importantly what the Alcohol Interlock Device does is it forces an offender to separate the actions of drinking to the actions of operating a motor vehicle.

More information can be found here on the Mandatory NSW Interlock Laws.

 


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