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What happens first Drink Driving offence?

Updated: May 12, 2022

Short answer?


If you are convicted you will be disqualified from driving.

I'm sorry to say that.

It is zero tolerance. If you plead guilty or are found guilty of drink driving, you will be disqualified.

That’s 100% guaranteed.

No exceptions.

What does this mean?

It means that your options are limited.

Very limited.

The only rational, logical thing for a person who absolutely needs their car for work or day-to-day living, is to plead not guilty.

This is because there is almost zero benefit for pleading guilty.

If you plead guilty, even if it is your first drink driving offence, you will still be put off the road.

So, if you cannot exist without your car, logically you have no option but to fight it.

If people were given the opportunity
of paying a substantial fine (e.g. percentage of
their annual income) to avoid a disqualification
that would make far more sense.

If you plead guilty you will face an automatic ban, regardless of your circumstances.

If you’re the sole breadwinner at home with 5 children to rear and you need your car for driving it makes no difference.

It doesn’t matter.

You will still be disqualified from driving.

That seems very harsh.

I happen to agree.

Most of the people coming to court for drink driving do so for the first time.

By that I mean they’ve never been in trouble before.

They’ve never even been to court before.

If those people were given the opportunity of paying a substantial fine (e.g., a percentage of their annual income) to avoid a disqualification that would make far more sense.

A percentage of a person’s income, not a fine.

A set fine might allow the well-off to escape disqualification because they could afford it.

Most people would choose this approach and it would cut down on the lengthy court cases involved as well as many of the appeals.

The monies saved could be used to fund educational initiatives designed to warn people of the dangers of drink driving.

They do this sort of thing on the continent you know.

You get fined severely and are made to re-sit your drivers test but you’re not automatically thrown off the road for a first offence.

Its sort of a rehabilitative approach: they want the motorist to feel the pain, but not the agony of immediate disqualification.

But we don’t do that here.

Instead, we adopt the penal approach: we punish the offender.

Punishment is the aim of the legislation.

We force them down the path of pleading guilty or pleading not guilty.

And because most people simply cannot imagine not being able to drive, many are forced to choose the path of pleading not guilty.

Thus clogging up the court system.

But they don’t see it as “clogging up” the court system.

They see it as being offered no choice, of being forced into this position.

Obviously, this approach wouldn’t be open to everyone arrested for drink driving.

And it would only be open to a motorist once: get caught a second time and you’re out of luck.

If someone dies or is seriously injured this option shouldn’t obviously be open.

But the majority of drink driving cases involve simple roadside stops that don’t involve any injury to a third party.

Wouldn’t it make sense to allow this majority to pay a huge fine to avoid a disqualification?

Back to zero tolerance.

In Ireland you have 2 choices: plead guilty and go off the road or plead not guilty and hope that you will be acquitted at trial.

Zero tolerance is a political concept: politicians like talking about “zero tolerance” because they want to be seen as “tough on crime”.

But does it really make economic sense to throw a first-time breadwinner off the road where he’s in danger of losing his job and his mortgage and maybe end up on the dole?

How do the rest of us benefit from that?


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