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Drink-driving infringement regime lacks basic safeguard

Drink-driving infringement regime lacks fundamental safeguard

The New Zealand Law Society agrees with the Attorney-General that a provision in the Land Transport Amendment Bill is inconsistent with the right to be presumed innocent, affirmed under the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The bill creates new infringement offences, punishable by fines and demerit points, for adults driving with a breath alcohol level of 251 – 400 micrograms/L or a blood alcohol level of 51 – 80 milligrams/100mL.

Law Society spokesperson Graeme Edgeler has told Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee that clause 9 of the bill removes an important safeguard by denying those who receive a breath alcohol reading of 251 – 400 micrograms/L the option of a blood test.

“The Supreme Court has noted the importance of the right to a blood test, because it allows human error to be challenged and the accuracy of the scientific evidence to be tested,” he says.

“For someone who already has demerits, the consequences of an infringement notice and a further 50 demerits may be serious.”

Mr Edgeler says the reliability of evidential breathalysers is good, but not infallible.

“If someone blows just over 250mcg/L and believes they are below that level, they should be permitted to choose a blood test.”

The Law Society agrees with the Attorney-General that unless the right to choose a blood test is available, the proposed infringement regime for drivers with breath alcohol levels of 251 – 400 mcg/L would represent an unreasonable limitation on the right to be presumed innocent.

The select committee was urged to pay close attention to the Attorney-General’s report on the bill, with a view to making amendments to recognise the right to be presumed innocent.


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