Did you know that drink driving charges are one of the most common criminal offences seen before the courts in Australia? Getting caught drink driving can be embarrassing and most people plead guilty so they can put it behind them quickly and move forward. We have put together our top ten 10 tips for those representing themselves to increase their chances of receiving a more lenient disqualification period and fine.
1. Enrol in a traffic offender course
Traffic Offender Intervention Programs are run by community organisations such as PCYC and you typically have to attend one night per week for around 6 to 8 weeks or some offer intensive courses that run over a weekend. While this is not necessary, it will be looked at favourably by the judge. This shows that you are taking the offence seriously and being proactive about making positive changes for the future which may lead to a lighter penalty.
2. Get some character references
Providing character references shows the court that you have taken full responsibility for your actions. Your character references should be from people that can vouch for your qualities and character as a person. Good examples are employers, family members, a mentor, coach, or a religious leader. The person writing it should state that they acknowledge you are pleading guilty to drink driving and note the seriousness of the offence. It should summarise how well they know you and for how long. It needs to be signed, dated and the original copy needs to be given to the judge.
3. Write a letter of apology
This isn’t a must-do but taking the time to write down a genuine apology to the court for your actions and the negative impacts your drink driving could have had on others may lessen the severity of your charge.
4. Consider counselling if necessary
If you believe your drink driving was a result of personal issues or if you have a problem with alcohol, it may be beneficial to not only your penalty but your overall wellbeing to seek help from a counsellor. The Magistrate may give you a more lenient penalty and disqualification period if you have a letter from a counsellor or psychologist supporting your actions to seek appropriate help to deal with any underlying problems you may have.
5. Be prepared
You’ll be asked by the magistrate if there’s anything you would like to say in your defence and whether you would like to plead guilty or not. You need to state that you take full responsibility for your drink driving and you may like to express that you are sorry for partaking in a dangerous act. Do not attempt to make excuses that aren’t valid. You can explain your situation if you wish, your character, job and any events that may have influenced your choice to drink-drive. If you are applying for a work licence, you should mention the reasons why you need it.
6. Be honest
There’s no point making up a story or excuses for your actions, magistrates are highly trained professionals and will figure out if you’re lying quickly. Getting caught out lying or contradicting yourself will just see yourself receive a harsher penalty.
7. Don’t wait to plead guilty
In most cases, drink driving hearings get adjourned, however, you should make it clear to the magistrate that you are pleading guilty. This shows that you are accepting the consequences and it may entitle you to a lesser disqualification period and fine.
8. Dress appropriately
Do not attend court in:
- Short shorts or mini skirts
- Offensively labelled clothes
- Hat or sunglasses
- Singlets, tops you can through or strapless tops
If you don’t dress appropriately, you may be asked to leave.
You should make the effort dress in business attire if you can to ensure you make a good impression on the magistrate. Approved clothing includes:
- A suit, for those representing themselves we recommend wearing a jacket
- Below knee-level skirts or pants
- Collared button-up shirt
- Closed in shoes that are neat and tidy
9. Don’t be late
If you are late to court, it is a high possibility that it will be harshly frowned upon. The courts typically open at 9 am but you can contact the court registry before your hearing to find out what time they open. You need to allow enough time to find which courtroom you are in; they normally post a list of cases and the room number next to the names on a noticeboard. Many have a registration desk, and the court officer will ask you if you are pleading guilty or not guilty.
10. Be respectful to the magistrate
The magistrate is the one who determines your punishment so, make sure you are always courteous and respectful when in the courtroom. Do not use your phone or speak to others. When the magistrate is speaking, do not interrupt them or argue. Address the magistrate as ‘Your Honour’ and if you do not agree with what they are saying withhold from disagreeing with them. If you believe you have been punished unfairly, you can appeal it.
If you are facing a serious drink driving charge and there is a possibility that your penalty made include a jail sentence, its a good idea to speak to a Drink Driver Lawyer to discuss your options.