Mandatory Interlock Program in NSW

Certain driving offences in NSW are subject to the Mandatory Interlock Program and are known as ‘Mandatory Interlock’ offences. The Mandatory Interlock Program has been in place since February 2015 for all High Range drink drivers and repeat offenders and since December 2018 for all Mid-Range drink drivers and those convicted of Driving under the Influence. Previously, an interlock order was a discretionary sentencing option however is now mandatory scheme with very limited exemptions. The Mandatory Interlock aims to reduce the incidence of drink driving on our roads, hence improving public safety.

What is the Mandatory Interlock Program in NSW?

The Mandatory Interlock Program mandates that drivers convicted of certain drink and drug driving offences to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle for a specified period of time after serving an initial licence disqualification period.

An interlock device is an electronic breath testing device wired to the ignition system of your vehicle. A driver must provide a breath sample that the device analyses for the presence of alcohol before the vehicle starts. If a positive sample is detected, the vehicle will not start. The device is also programmed to include randomly timed breath tests during a trip and should one of these tests detect a positive sample, the vehicle will sound an alarm of horn and lights until the ignition is turned off and a further test is required for the ignition to turn back on.

Importantly, all program participants must have a zero blood alcohol concentration when driving. The device records all results, a photograph of the person providing the sample and any detects any attempts to tamper with the device.

Why does the Mandatory Interlock Program Exist in NSW?

Ultimately the aim of the Mandatory Interlock Program is to reduce drink driving related deaths and injuries on NSW roads. The program is designed to help drink drivers separate drinking and driving and reduce road safety risk. It allows offenders to be closely monitored with the interlock device physically preventing drink driving.

Research has shown that the interlock program significantly reduces the number of offenders who reoffend while a device is installed in a vehicle.

Who is required to participate in the Mandatory Interlock Program in NSW?

Section 209 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) defines what is a ‘mandatory interlock offence.’ These include where a first time or repeat offender commits the offence of:

  1. Novice Range Drink Driving (Second or Subsequent Offence)
  2. Special Range Drink Driving (Second or Subsequent Offence)
  3. Low Range Drink Driving (Second or Subsequent Offence)
  4. Mid Range Drink Driving
  5. High Range Drink Driving
  6. Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs
  7. Refusal to provide a breath sample
  8. Combined offences of Drug and Drink Driving.

Disqualifications and the Mandatory Interlock periods

Mandatory Interlock OffenceMinimum Disqualification PeriodMaximum Disqualification PeriodMinimum Interlock Period
Novice, Special or Low Range – Second or Subsequent Offence  1 month  3 months  12 months
Mid Range – First Offence 3 months 6 months 12 months
Mid Range– Second or Subsequent Offence 6 months 9 months 24 months
High Range– First Offence 6 months 9 months 24 months
High Range– Second or Subsequent Offence 9 months 12 months 48 months
Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drug- Second or Subsequent Offence  6 months  9 months  24 months
Refuse or Fail to comply with directions for breath analysis or blood test- First Offence  6 months  9 months  24 months
Refuse or Fail to comply with directions for breath analysis or blood test- Second or Subsequent Offence  9 months   12 months    48 months

How does the Mandatory Interlock Program work?

When the court has imposed a Mandatory Interlock period as part of your sentence, it will commence once you have completed your licence disqualification period and to have complied with all requirements to obtain your Interlock Licence. You will be required to have the interlock device installed by an accredited interlock service provider and regular check-ups are required throughout the interlock period.

Under Section 211 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), If you do not apply to Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) NSW for your interlock licence or you do not complete the interlock period, you will remain disqualified from driving for at least 5 years from the date of your conviction.

The cost for the program is estimated at $2,200-$2,500 per year. The RMS does offer financial hardship assistance for those who may not be able to afford the installation and maintenance of the device as well as discounts for concession card holders. An inability to afford the costs of an interlock device and its maintenance is not sufficient to warrant an application for exemption from the Mandatory Interlock Program.

To find out more about the program, please visit the Transport for NSW website here.

Can you apply for an Exemption to the Mandatory Interlock Program?

Under Section 212 (3) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), the Court may make an interlock exemption order if the offender proves the following to the Court’s satisfaction:

  1. The offender does not have access to a vehicle in which to install an interlock device, or
  2. The offender has a medical condition diagnosed by a medical practitioner that prevents the offender from providing a sufficient breath sample to operate an approved interlock device.

An exemption application must be made at the time of sentence. Under Section 212(5), an offender cannot apply for an exemption purely on financial grounds or if the offender is required to drive in the course of their employment. However, under Section 212(3)(c), if the offender is convicted of a Middle Range Drink Driving offence, or a combined offence of Mid Range Drink Driving whilst also having an illicit drug present classified as a first offence, they can make an exemption application on the grounds of severe hardship.

One important consideration of any exemption application is that if an exemption if granted, an exempted offender will serve the applicable driver licence disqualification under Section 205. These disqualification periods are significantly longer than those which apply under the Mandatory Interlock Scheme.

The RMS also require offenders who have been granted an interlock exemption order to complete, at their cost, a drink driver rehabilitation program before they apply for their licence to return to driving.

What if I drive a vehicle that does not have the interlock device fitted to that vehicle?

If you were to breach any terms of your order including driving a vehicle that does not have an interlock device fitted, you may be charged with additional offences which could result in further disqualification of your licence, fines, an increase in the duration of your interlock Orders and potentially further serious penalties. There is no limit to the maximum interlock period that may be ordered by the Court.

Why Choose Australian Lawyers and Advocates?

Drink driving matters which result in a mandatory interlock order are serious offences. It is important that the circumstances and evidence of each case be carefully examined by an experienced criminal defence lawyer. It is therefore important that you consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible after you have been charged with an offence. Many law firms claim to be ‘the best’ or ‘leading’ firms. At Australian Lawyers and Advocates, we let our results, reputation and high level of client service and satisfaction speak for themselves. Our team of lawyers are highly experienced, highly skilled and respected advocates.

The content contained within this guide is expressed as a general guide as to this area of law and is not intended to contain legal advice specific to an individual’s case. If you, or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence and requires legal advice, do not hesitate to contact Australian Lawyers and Advocates to discuss any criminal law or traffic law matters further.


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