My personal brush with the law and finding out what it is like to sit in the back of a paddy wagon.
My Saturdays are usually very routine. Bring the kids to Chinese School in the morning, clean up the house for the weekend, play badminton with my friends followed by dinner with the badminton players.
Last Saturday, 7 February 2009 took a slightly different turn. At dinner, there was a bottle of red wine shared between my wife and another couple. We did not even finish the bottle though I must admit I had more than the other 3 drinkers.
I decided to drive home instead of getting the missus to drive as it was a short trip and I was sure I was under the limit.
While driving back home from Victoria Park to Kensington, I saw the flashing and blinding lights of a copper’s wagon.
I pulled to the side and got out of the car.
Yes, it is always better to get out of the car so that you can have a friendly chat with the cops to see what you have done. I find that sitting in your car while being questioned usually causes a bit more tension.
It is usually intimidating dealing with the law even though I am a lawyer and well versed in the criminal laws. This is especially where you are the suspect.
Constable Worthington, a very pretty constable and Constable Vellaquex (I think), an equally charming copper said they did not think I was turning the car properly when I turned right into Berwick St. The next thing I know, I was being breathalysed.
The reading was just above 0.05 which is an offence liable to a fine and demerit points but no suspension for a 1st offence.
I was then asked to return to the Kensington Police Station where I was to be tested again on one of their more sophisticated machines.
This is a picture of me getting into a police car taken by my sister in law.
However, once you are sitting inside the paddy van, life takes on a different perspective. There are no cushions or seatbelts, and there is but a small window that you look out of. I am sure there was also no airconditioning. My mind immediately flashed back to a recent case where an Aboriginal elder collapsed in a prison van while being transferred to Kalgoorlie in stifling heat. He died a short time later in hospital.
Luckily for me the ride was just a couple of minutes.
At the station, I had to wait for over 1/2 an hr before the machine could take my reading. I had a good chat with the coppers about the law and their side of it compared to my perspective of it.
My final breathalyser reading was finally done and the reading was 0.059. However, the police then reduce the reading by the time of your last drink.
Under : ROAD TRAFFIC ACT 1974 – SECT 71
71 . Determination of blood alcohol content at material time
(1) In any proceeding such as is mentioned in section 70(1) a person’s blood alcohol content at any time which is or may be material in the proceeding (the material time ) shall be calculated having regard to —
(a) the time of the person’s last drink containing alcohol taken at or before the material time; and
(b) the material time; and
(c) the time at which the sample of the person’s breath or blood was provided or taken for analysis (the time of sampling ); and
(d) the person’s blood alcohol content at the time of sampling,
so as to give effect to the presumption that after a person’s latest drink containing alcohol the person’s blood alcohol content increases at the rate of 0.016g of alcohol per 100ml of blood per hour for a period of 2 hours and, after that period, decreases at the rate of 0.016g of alcohol per 100ml of blood per hour.
(2) For the purpose of making a calculation under subsection (1) in any case where any one or more of the times referred to in that subsection can only be ascertained as falling within a period of time, the calculation shall be made taking such time within that period as produces the result most favourable to the person charged.
(3) For the purpose of making a calculation under subsection (1) but subject to subsection (2), in any case where the time of a person’s last drink containing alcohol is not ascertained, the time of the person’s last drink containing alcohol shall be taken to have been such time as produces the result most favourable to the person charged.
(4) In any proceeding such as is mentioned in section 70(1), the concentration of alcohol calculated to have been present in the blood of a person at any time under the preceding provisions of this section shall be conclusively presumed to have been present in the blood of that person at that time.
Based on the assumption that I had a last drink 1 hr ago, the reading was reduced by
0.016 which brought my reading of 0.059 to below 0.05 or 0.43 to be exact.
That meant I had not broken the law by drink driving.
Well, with a handshake to my police friends, I bade them good night as my wife Annie, was waiting for me to drive me home.
I was glad to have been able to experience part of the process of drink driving arrests. I was even more relieved that I did not have to go through the whole process by being charged.
I do suggest to my friends and clients that drink driving offences are very serious offences as it can cause the loss of lives or injury. It will also result in financial hardship especially when you cannot drive to work.
Any person who commits a 0.08 drink driving offence automatically gets a 3 mths suspension. For certain categories of drivers, the tolerance is below 0.02.
The court system does however allow a person who has been disqualified to apply for an extraordinary licence. These licences are getting harder and harder to get as the courts get serious about drink driving.
One of the lessons learnt is that if you had a last drink 1 to 1 1/2 hrs ago the police will give you the benefit of the doubt by taking the lowest reading possible.
Conversely as the alcohol level is presumed to decrease after the 2nd hr you will not get the benefit of a reduced reading if your last drink was 3-5 hrs before being breathalysed.
However, the best lesson is that if you drink, you should not drive.
Till my next blog, drive carefully.