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You’re convicted of drink driving: do you need to notify AHPRA?

29 October 2018 | Dr Victoria Phan, Doctor in Training Medical Adviser, BMed MD, MClinUS, DCH, FPAA Cert, Avant

Its 6.48 pm, your last discharge summary has been finalised and it’s the first time that you have actually managed to finish before 7.00 pm. It also marks the last day of your first term as an intern and you feel a real sense of achievement.

Now it’s time to let off a little steam at the end-of-term party. You arrive at the bar and the party is in full swing. It feels good to be around other people who understand how challenging your first year as an intern can be.

The following day, you’re not rostered on, but you get a call at 6am from the hospital who need you to work a weekend afterhours shift, as sick relief cover.

You had a your last drink at mid-night, so you don’t believe you are over the legal drink driving limit, and decide to drive to the hospital.

Five minutes into your journey you see flashing red and blue lights ahead and realise the police are conducting random breath tests.

You are pulled over and your blood alcohol count (BAC) is 0.070, which is a low-range prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) offence.

Thoughts go racing through your mind - How will I get to work if I lose my licence? What does this offence mean for my AHPRA registration? Will I still get a training position?

Consequences of drink driving

Drink driving is one of the most common offences in Australia and whether your BAC is low, mid or high range, you have still committed a criminal offence. In NSW penalties can vary from a fine of $1,100 up to $5,500, maximum two years imprisonment and/or automatic disqualification for six months up to three years, depending on the nature of your offence1 and factors such as whether it is a first or subsequent offence.

If you plead guilty to the offence, it may be possible to avoid your conviction being recorded under section 10 of Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. However, failing this, offences will generally stay on your record for 10 years from the date of the conviction.

After the 10 years, your conviction will then be ‘spent’, which means it will no longer appear on your criminal record.

Your AHPRA registration

When you first apply for your registration with the AHPRA, the National Board requires you to declare your criminal history in all countries, including Australia. This includes:

  • Every conviction of a person for an offence.
  • Every plea of guilty or finding of guilt by a court of the person for an offence, whether or not a conviction is recorded for the offence.
  • Every charge made against the person for an offence.

Once registered, you must inform the AHPRA if specified ‘relevant events’ occur and this notification must be made within seven days of you becoming aware that the ‘relevant event’ has occurred. ‘Relevant events’ in relation to drink driving include being:

  • charged with an offence punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more; or
  • convicted or found guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment in Australia and/or overseas2

AHPRA conducts an Australian criminal history screening on every registration applicant and if applicable, an international criminal history check may also be required. It’s important to note that your application will be significantly delayed if you do not declare your criminal history in your application and a criminal history is found during the screening process.

While every case is decided on an individual basis, your criminal history will be considered based on a number of factors, such as the nature and gravity of the offence or alleged offence, and its relevance to health practice. For more information, view the criminal history registration standard.

In the case of a low range drink driving offence, this would not be notifiable to the AHPRA as the offence is not punishable with imprisonment. However, middle or high range drink driving offences can result in imprisonment, so they would need to be reported.

Your cover

Our indemnity insurance policies may cover your legal fees and expenses for motor licence defence arising from the direct provision of healthcare to a patient where, if convicted, you may lose or have your driving licence suspended.

Expert advice whenever you need it

If you find yourself in a situation similar to the scenario above, visit our website, or for immediate advice, call our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) on 1800 128 268, 24/7 in emergencies

Useful resources

AHPRA – registration

Road Transport Act 2013, section 110

Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) section 130

References:

  1. Armstrong Legal, Drink driving penalties, NSW - dui penalties NSW, viewed 04 October 2018
  1. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency,  Criminal history checks, viewed 05 October 2018

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