What should I do if the police want to question me?
If you are likely to be a suspect to some crime or in some way associated with it, dealing with the police requires great care and you should always endeavour to have a lawyer present.
When approached by the police, you should find out if you are a suspect in their inquiries. If you are, it is almost always best not to answer any questions other than to give your name and address. You have a right to remain silent.
If you are arrested or the police want to question you, you should ask for the opportunity to get legal advice before answering any questions in an interview or “informally”.
Police rarely interview a suspect that they are not proposing to charge with an offence and any interview a suspect has with the police nearly always causes a problem when any charges come to Court.
In some fairly rare circumstances, answering questions and giving an interview is a good idea and can help you deal with the situation you are in, but these are very much the exception. If in any doubt, don’t answer questions, but contact a solicitor.
I have been breathalysed and the police have told me I will receive a summons for a drink driving offence. What will happen to me?
First, the summons will be served on you by the police. A police officer will serve the summons on you, usually at home, but it can be at work if they know where you work and they have not managed to serve you at home. You will have to attend the Magistrates Court on the date nominated in the summons.
When you attend Court, you will find that your matter is in a list with 20 to 30 other people also attending Court to answer a summons. You will be asked to say whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. It is usually very hard to successfully plead not guilty to a drink driving matter. You can usually get an adjournment on the first day to get legal advice or to obtain more details of the matter from the prosecution.
The Court will impose a penalty if you plead guilty or are found guilty. Drink driving carries a heavy fine, which gets heavier the higher your blood alcohol reading. The Court is also obliged to suspend your drivers licence and in appropriate cases can do so for up to 5 years. That sort of penalty is reserved for repeat offenders, but even a first offender can lose his licence for a year or more if the reading is high enough. The actual fine and the period you will lose your licence depends on the circumstances of the offence, your driving record and your character. Good character is usually established by providing character references to the Court. You can usually get time to pay a fine, especially if it is substantial.
You can apply to the Court for a work licence to take effect when you are disqualified from driving. Your application will generally be successful if you can prove you have a genuine need to drive for the purposes of work, but will be restricted to the minimum required to carry out your duties or conduct your business. It often helps to show that you have taken steps to educate yourself about drink driving, such as taking the course at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
As with most legal matters, it is worthwhile consulting a solicitor to get some advice on the matter prior to going to Court. You can then decide whether you need representation and whether the benefit you get from having representation is worth the likely cost.
I have been injured. Can I claim compensation?
Your right to claim compensation for injury depends largely on the circumstances of the injury and where it took place. What follows is a general description of your rights in the ACT. The three main areas are motor vehicle accidents, work related injuries and criminal injuries compensation but the categories are much broader. You generally have a claim where your injuries are someone else’s fault or even partly someone else’s fault.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In a motor vehicle accident you can claim if you were a passenger or if you were not the driver at fault. In general terms, you can claim for medical expenses, time lost from work, reduced earning capacity and pain and suffering. Your compensation can be reduced where the accident is partly your fault. Where your injuries seriously affect your ability to work in the future, your compensation can be substantial.
Work Related Injuries
There are two kinds of compensation for work related injuries.
The first is workers compensation (statutory), which is designed to meet your medical expenses and provide some income support (but not income replacement) in the event of injury arising at work or while travelling to and from work. All private employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance. A similar system exists for public sector employees.
The second kind of compensation is similar to that for motor vehicle accidents (ie common law): you can claim if your injuries are someone else’s fault. The kinds of things you can claim for are similar to those summarised in the previous paragraph as employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment.
Criminal Injuries Compensation
You may be able to make a claim for criminal injuries compensation in the ACT where your injuries arise from someone else’s criminal conduct, although your conduct at the time of the incident can affect the amount of compensation. Most cases arise from assaults, although many cases arise from the effects of armed robbery or burglary. Cases can also arise from acts of criminal negligence such as leaving obstacles across a bike path near a blind corner.
While the entitlement to claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in the ACT has been substantially narrowed, we recommend that you consult a solicitor for advice as to whether or not you are entitled to make a claim.
In all compensation cases, there are generally time limits for making a claim, which vary from 12 months to 6 years. If you are injured, the best thing to do is promptly obtain legal advice about your circumstances so you can make an informed choice about whether to make a claim.