Person charged with combined alcohol and drug driving offence

Tough penalties for new combined alcohol and drug driving offence

Last week, Parliament introduced a new law that imposes punishment for people driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. Previously, the Road Transport Act 2013 did not cater for a combined alcohol and drug driving offence. Instead, there were individual charges for drink driving and drug driving.

Penalty for combined alcohol and drug driving

Under the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 the maximum penalty for this new combined offence is a fine of $11,000, and/or imprisonment for 2 years. In addition, the new laws:

  • Impose licence disqualifications, and
  • Expand the mandatory alcohol interlock order for the combined offence, and
  • Require drivers to undertake a drivers education course, and
  • Allow for vehicle sanctions.

By comparison, driving under the influence of drugs alone carries a maximum penalty of $3,300 and/or 18 months imprisonment. Similarly, a first offence High Range PCA carries the same penalty. Evidently, the penalties for the new law have increased significantly. The law is designed to send a message to the community about the seriousness of this type of offending.

High risk drivers: How the new law will work

When introducing the Bill, the Hon. Jonathan Richard O’Dea explained how the new laws will work in practice. Essentially, the process currently imposed for drug and alcohol testing in NSW will remain the same, with the difference being to detect “high risk” drivers. For example, if a driver returns a positive reading for alcohol within the low range and they have a prior offence on their record, they then need to undertake a drug test.

Four Angels Law

The new law was first drafted in response to the tragic death of four young children, as a result of a driver who was under the influence of both alcohol and drugs while driving. When introducing the Bill, the Speaker stated, “This bill is for Antony, Angelina, Sienna and Veronique and will forever be known as the Four Angels Law.”

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