ACT News

Plan for criminal infringement notices for low level drink-driving in new paper

Police could issue criminal infringement notices for a series of new offences and low level drink-driving as part of a proposal included in a new ACT government discussion paper. 

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said level two drink-driving, consisting of between 0.05 and 0.079 blood alcohol content for first time offenders, and other crimes including trespass, minor theft and property damage are among seven new offences that could be added to the scheme. 

Criminal infringement notices were established in the ACT in 2009 to help deal with low level public order offences and low level criminal activity. The scheme was designed to allow police to focus resources on proactive law enforcement activities, including targeting and investigating more serious offences.

More than 20 offences are already included, including urinating in a public place, supply of liquor to intoxicated people, failure to leave premises when directed, possession of prohibited items and failure to permit a police search. 

For level two drink-driving, the proposed penalties could include a default disqualification period, a fine and demerit points. Level one drink-driving would not be included in the expanded scheme, as the offence applies only to special category drivers, including learners, provisional drivers and those with probationary and restricted licences. Level 1 offences would still require court attendance.

Victoria has an infringement notice scheme for first time drink-driving offenders with full licences who returning blood alcohol readings of between 0.05 and 0.15. These  drivers receive fines of $1400 and face discretionary loss of licence for up to two years. Some first time offenders with an alcohol reading below 0.07 may also lose up to 10 demerit points.

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Mr Corbell said the proposed expansion in the ACT would see penalties made "clear and swift once the offence is committed".

"In order to make sure the courts are able to properly consider any drink-driving history the government is also considering changing the definition of 'repeat offender', for drink-driving offences only, to include people who have been issued a criminal infringement notice for drink-driving offences," Mr Corbell said.

The closing date for public submissions is March 7.

The discussion paper says the scheme alleviates pressure on the courts and the territory Director of Public Prosecutions by avoiding court action for a range of minor offences. First time and low level offenders can also benefit by being diverted from the courts through issuing of fines. 

Criminal infringement notice schemes, similar to those operating in all other Australian jurisdictions, are an "offer by the government to not proceed with a prosecution" if a nominal amount is paid in a fine. Paying the penalty is not an admission or acceptance of guilt and the fines are not recorded on a person's criminal history. 

If a person fails to pay the fine within 28 days, police can take the matter to court.

Since 2009, more than 60 per cent of fines have been paid without contest in the ACT and 4 per cent proceeded to prosecution.

The discussion paper shows more than 1330 infringements have been issued for people urinating in public places in the same offence period, as well as more than 570 for consuming alcohol in certain public places. 

There have been 50 notices issued for defacing premises in a public place and 11 for failure to cease noise from premises.

Among other proposed changes are making the offences including fighting, failure to obey police move on orders and offensive behaviour strict liability offences and a new offences of damaging property, minor theft and leaving premises without paying  for less than $500 in value be created. 

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