Tough new State Government laws in Queensland cracking down on drink-drivers contain a serious flaw, according to Brisbane criminal defence lawyer Michael Bosscher.
New provisions impose immediate licence suspension on a driver tested with at least three times the legal alcohol limit after a fatal or serious accident, but this was effectively presuming guilt before the courts even heard the matter, he said.
Bosscher, managing partner of Brisbane-based national criminal defence law firm Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers, said an immediate suspension of a suspected driver’s licence would mean the driver would be banned from the roads for more than a year, until their case reached the courts.
“A crackdown on drinking drivers is one thing, but eroding a person’s existing legal rights is not on. These new laws presume that everyone charged is guilty, but the innocent drivers’ rights are simply swept away,” he said.
As some blood-alcohol tests were not taken until hours after an accident, it meant drivers who drank after the accident could be retrospectively charged with drunk driving, even if they were sober when the accident occurred.
Bosscher quoted the case of a young client who borrowed his employer’s $250,000 car and crashed it. He notified the police and went home where he had several drinks to steady his nerves. When police arrived two hours later to breath-test him, he was well over the limit, and charged, later to be acquitted. ”The point is, he should not have been charged,” said Bosscher.
At present a driver caught drink-driving can have their licence suspended for 24 hours for suspected drink driving. The Queensland Government is yet to specify the length of time licences will be suspended under the new laws.