Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Jess' Law - deadly drunk drivers face 20 years' jail from January 1

    2/01/2005 10:00 AM

    New laws to jail drunk drivers who kill or maim others on the road come into effect from January 1, 2005.

    Attorney General Jim McGinty said drivers with a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.15 who were involved in fatal or serious accidents would now be charged with dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm.

    They faced prison terms of up to 20 years for causing a fatal accident and up to 14 years for accidents causing serious injury.

    “This is a tough law to make sure that drunk drivers are held responsible for the consequences of their actions,” Mr McGinty said.

    “The community deserves to be protected from dangerous drivers who kill or injure people because of their drunken stupidity.

    “Hopefully now people will think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car when they are drunk.”

    Known as Jess’ Law, the changes to the Road Traffic Act that passed through State Parliament in October were prompted by the tragic death of Jess Meehan in August 2003.

    The 10-year-old girl was hit by a car driven by an unlicensed driver who had a blood alcohol level of 0.165 - more than three times over the legal limit.

    The 19-year-old driver pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and driving without a licence.

    He was fined $1,700 and banned from driving for two years but initially escaped more serious charges because of deficiencies in the law.

    Police eventually charged the man with dangerous driving causing death more than a year after the accident.

    “From January 1, drunks who get on the road and kill and maim will be brought to justice and punished quickly and appropriately,” Mr McGinty said.

    “It means that families like the parents of Jess Meehan won’t have to go through a long period of pain and anguish waiting to see justice done.

    “The community expects our roads to be as safe as possible and that is why we need to keep drunk drivers off our streets.”

    The new laws mean that:
    • drunk or drug-affected drivers are liable to a maximum penalty of up to 20 years' imprisonment for accidents causing death; 14 years for accidents causing grievous bodily harm; and seven years for bodily harm;
    • a driver whose blood alcohol content exceeded 0.15 per cent is deemed to be incapable of having control of a motor vehicle;
    • it will be a defence for the person charged to prove that the death or injury was in no way attributable to the fact that he or she was under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both;
    • circumstances of aggravation exist when drivers exceed the speed limit by more than 45km/hour cause accidents, or where the driver involved was in a stolen vehicle or where the driver was attempting to escape police pursuit. The same maximum penalties listed above apply; and
    • drivers suspected of being involved in a serious accident who failed to provide breath, blood or urine for analysis when requested by a police officer face a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.
    Mr McGinty said although a jail term of 14 years for failing to comply with a breath, blood or urine test appeared harsh, it was necessary to ensure that drivers involved in fatal accidents did not avoid the consequences of their actions.

    Minister's Office - 9220 5000