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Case Study - Drink driving on a golf course

Facts

 

Our client played a round of golf at a local golf course. As usual, he hired a motorized golf cart to drive during his round. After a good round, the client celebrated his birthday at the clubhouse where he consumed half a dozen full strength beers and several shots of vodka over a two hour period.

 

At around 6.00 pm, he drove the cart to the course storage shed, a distance of 200 metres along a sealed path. All but 20 metres of the path runs along the edge of the course fairway. A 20 metre section deviates outside the fairway onto public land where it skirts the golf course. The outside path is at least 15 metres distance from the public road.

 

At all times he was driving the cart in a responsible manner, never leaving the path. Upon arrival at the storage shed, he was confronted by a Police Officer who made a requirement for him to provide a specimen of breath. Our client complied and recorded a blood alcohol concentration of 0.174%.

 

He was charged with Driving a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Liquor. This carries a mandatory minimum licence disqualification of 6 months.

 

Issue

 

This scenario presented two issues:

 

  1. Was our client driving a motor vehicle?

  2. Was the location of the driving illegal?

 

Under the relevant legislation, a motor vehicle is defined as “a vehicle propelled by a motor that forms part of the vehicle”. A motorized golf cart meets the definition of a motor vehicle.

 

The charge only requires that a person ‘drives’ a motor vehicle. There is no requirement that the driving be on a public road or path. The fact that the driving took place on and off a golf course is immaterial to the charge.

 

Action

 

Given the nature of our client’s conduct, a submission was prepared and forwarded to Police Prosecutions urging them to offer no evidence. Particular weight was given to the lack of public interest in prosecuting this type of offending.

 

Unfortunately, Police Prosecutions rejected the submission. Our client did not have a sustainable defence. He pleaded guilty to the charge.

 

Submissions were made to the sentencing Magistrate highlighting the unusual facts of this offence. It was submitted that this was an example of low level, technical offending. The Magistrate was urged to impose only the mandatory minimum disqualification and to discharge our client without further punishment.

 

 

Result

 

Our submissions at sentence were accepted.

 

Our client received the mandatory minimum disqualification period of 6 months. The Magistrate did not impose any further penalty upon our client. He was discharged absolutely without a conviction being recorded.

 

 

Key Points

 

  1. Drink and drug driving offences are not restricted to traditional vehicles such as cars, motorbikes and trucks.

  2. Police can proceed with drink or drug driving prosecutions regardless of the location of the driving, including if it is on private land.

  3. A BAC of 0.150% or over attracts a mandatory minimum 6 month disqualification. This commences on the date of conviction, not the date of the offence. It cannot be backdated or reduced.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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