12 April 2021

‘Four Angels Law’ Introduces New Combined Drink and Drug Driving Offences in NSW

The NSW Parliament has passed new laws that will result in harsh penalties for drivers caught with both alcohol and drugs in their system.

In February 2021 the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 passed both houses of Parliament. The bill, known as ‘The Four Angels Law’ was introduced following the tragic deaths of four children Antony, Angelina, Sienna and Veronique, who were hit by a driver that was found to be effected by both drugs and alcohol.

New offences:

The key purpose of the bill is to amend the Road Transport Act 2013 to introduce combined alcohol and drug offences for drivers caught with a prescribed concentration of alcohol combined with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug.

The act introduces three new offences:

  • Driving with a high range prescribed concentration of alcohol and the presence of a prescribed illicit drug;
  • Driving with a middle range prescribed concentration of alcohol and the presence of a prescribed illicit drug;
  • Driving with a novice, special or low range drink driving offence and the presence of a prescribed illicit drug, only if the person has been convicted of one of the above offences in the past five years.

 

The penalties:

These offences carry significant penalties, based on the idea that if people believe they are likely to be caught and receive a harsh and swiftly delivered punishment, they are less likely to commit an offence.

The bill introduces tougher penalties compared to those available for separate Drink and Drug driving offences, including increased fines, licence disqualifications and periods of imprisonment. Courts can also order that an offender attend an education and behaviour change program, to address the broader issues that lead to people engaging in this sort of conduct.

 

Drivers convicted of the new combined offence will be required to undertake an ‘alcohol interlock period.’ During this period, drivers will be required to have an electronic breath testing device linked to the ignition of their car and pass a breath test before they can start their car.

A court can make an ‘interlock exemption order’, where the offender:

  • does not have access to a vehicle in which to install the interlock device
  • has a medical condition that prevents them from providing a sufficient sample to operate the interlock device

If an interlock exemption order is made, the offender will have to complete a longer period of licence disqualification.

 

The following maximum penalties can be imposed for the new offences:

High range combined offence

Where it is a first offence:

  • Fine: $5,500
  • Imprisonment: 2 years
  • Licence Disqualification (with interlock period): 6-9 months
  • Interlock period: 24 months
  • Licence disqualification period (without interlock): 18 months – 4 years

Where the offender has been convicted of another combined offence in the past 5 years:

  • Fine: $11,000
  • Imprisonment: 2 years
  • Licence disqualification (with interlock): 9-12 months
  • Interlock Period: 48 months
  • Licence disqualification (without interlock): 3-6 years

 

Middle range combined offence

Where it is a first offence:

  • Fine: $3,300
  • Imprisonment: 18 months
  • Licence disqualification (with interlock): 3-6 months
  • Interlock Period: 12 months
  • Licence disqualification (without interlock): 12 months – 2 years

Where the offender has been convicted of another combined offence in the past 5 years:

  • Fine:  $6,600
  • Imprisonment: 2 years
  • Licence disqualification (with interlock): 6-9 months
  • Interlock Period:  24 months
  • Licence disqualification (without interlock): 2-4 years

 

Novice, special or low range combined offence, if the driver has been convicted of one of the above combined offences in the past 5 years

  • Fine: $5,500
  • Licence disqualification (with interlock): 1-3 months
  • Interlock Period: 12 months
  • Licence disqualification (without interlock): 18 months – 2 years

  

Other changes:

The legislation is introduced alongside a change in the standard practice for police. Now, a driver who is breath-tested and returns a mid or high range alcohol level, will be required to undertake a drug test. Similarly, a driver who returns a novice, special or low range alcohol level and who has a previous offence, will also be required to undertake a drug test.

Road-side drug tests are used to test for the presence of four prescribed illicit drugs:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, from cannabis;
  • Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine, commonly known as MDMA or ecstasy;
  • Methamphetamine, otherwise known as speed or ice; and
  • Cocaine

 

Those charged with the new combined offences, will also have their licence suspended immediately by Police. In the usual case, this period of suspension will continue until the matter is finalised by the court.

 

If you, or someone you know has been charged with a drink or drug driving offence, you can book a free consultation with one of our expert criminal and traffic lawyers here or by calling (02) 4227 3505.


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