New Drink Driving Limits

Thursday November 20, 2014

THE NEW DRINK DRIVING LIMITS

From 1 December 2014, pursuant to the Land Transport Amendment Act (No.2) 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers aged 20 years and over lowers from 400 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg.  The blood alcohol limit lowers from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08), to 50mg (0.05).  For those drivers under 20, the limit remains at zero.[1]

The law states that a person must not drive a motor vehicle if the amount of alcohol in that person’s breath or blood exceeds these limits.

What are the penalties for drivers aged 20 years and over?[2]

If a breath screening test shows that a driver has more than 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath, the driver will be asked to take an evidential breath test (which are conducted usually in a ‘booze bus’ or at a police station).  If the breath screening test confirms a driver is over 250mcg, the driver will most likely be forbidden to drive for up to 12 hours.[3]

The New Zealand Police have prepared a helpful table outlining the changes and the new penalties (including the new infringement regime[4]) for those drivers who exceed the new limits.

If You ...
Fail an evidential breath test 251-400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath
What happens?
$200 infringement fee + 50 demerit points
Notes
No option to elect an evidential blood test.

If You ...
Fail an evidential breath test over 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath
What happens?
No change – you will face criminal charges.

If You ...
Refuse or fail to complete an evidential breath test, or can’t complete it for genuine reasons (such as a medical condition)
What happens?
You will be required to have an evidential blood test.   

If You ...
Show blood test result of 0-50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
What happens?
No infringement or criminal charge.
Notes
You may be liable for costs associated with the blood test.[5]

If You ...
Show blood test result of 51-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
What happens?
Infringement fee of up to $700 + 50 demerit points
Note
The total costs you must pay may vary depending on the circumstances leading to your blood test.[6]

If You ...
Show blood test result of more than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
What happens?
No change – you will face criminal charges.

If You ...
Fail or refuse to permit an evidential blood sample to be taken
What happens?
If convicted for a first or second offence, you face a fine of up to $4,500, a licence disqualification of at least 6 months and a prison sentence of up to three months. Higher penalties apply for a third or subsequent offence.

If You ...   
Accumulate 100 or more demerit points from driving offences within 2 years
What happens?
You will receive a 3 month driver licence suspension.   

A person who is suspended from driving is eligible to apply for a limited licence.  There is no mandatory stand-down period and a person can make an application immediately once their licence is uplifted by a bailiff or police officer.

How much can a person drink and legally drive?

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) advises that the average person can drink two standard drinks over two hours and legally drive under the new legislation.

However, there are of course many factors which determine how quickly alcohol is absorbed into your system, including body type, gender, weight and food intake.

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect a driver’s judgement, and the best advice is to keep it simple and avoid any doubt by making the informed choice not to drive if you are going to drink.

Summary

If you fail an evidential breath test recording in the new range of 251-400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath, you cannot elect an evidential blood test and you will now face an infringement fee of $200, 50 demerit points and most likely be banned from driving for 12 hours.  You will not face a criminal conviction.

If you refuse the evidential breath test and you show a blood test result of 51-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, you will receive an infringement fee of $700, incur 50 demerit points and most likely be banned from driving for 12 hours.  You will not face a criminal conviction.

If you fail an evidential breath test recording over 400mcg (or a blood test result of more than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood) you will face criminal charges.

If you receive 100 or more demerit points over two years, your licence will be suspended for three months.  If you are facing criminal charges or are suspended (or disqualified) from driving and need a licence for work, we suggest you contact us directly to discuss your specific situation.

Jeremy Sparrow
Solicitor

The information contained in this article is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal or other professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Readers should obtain specific advice before making any decisions or taking any action based upon information contained in this document.

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[1] Pursuant to section 57 of the Land Transport Act 1998.
[2] For drivers under 20, or those with an alcohol interlock licence or a zero alcohol licence, the limit stays at zero and the penalties remain unchanged.
[3] The driver will need to arrange a lift or have someone come and drive their car.
[4] The infringement regime is intended to minimise any additional pressure on the court system.  Infringement offences do not enter the court system unless the person does not pay the infringement fee by the due date, or they challenge the infringement offence.  If the infringement offence is challenged, the person has the right to a court hearing.
[5] Police will now be required to inform drivers of their liability for blood test costs so they can make an informed decision about whether to request a blood test.
[6] Drivers who face a $700 infringement fee because they failed or refused the evidential breath test will not be liable for blood test costs as these costs are covered by the higher infringement fee.