A teenager who plummeted 30m over a bank in her car - resulting in her third drink-driving charge in six months - has been told she will go to jail if convicted of the offence again.
Tracey Danielle Roberts, 19, appeared in Rotorua District Court this week and was sentenced to six months' community detention and 12 months' intensive supervision on two charges of drink driving. She was also banned from driving indefinitely.
Her sentencing comes amid figures showing the number of drink drivers under the age of 20 prosecuted in Rotorua has decreased only marginally since police lowered the alcohol tolerance level to zero for drivers aged under 20.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show that 45 people under 20 were convicted in the Rotorua District Court of drink driving between August 7, 2011, and December 31 2011. That number is just one fewer than the 46 convicted in the same period in 2010.
On May 2, Roberts was breath tested in Ohakune, recording 399 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. Since August last year, the legal limit for drivers aged under 20 has been zero, while previously it was 150 mcg. On June 28, Roberts was driving on Mountain Rd, Rotorua about 2am in wet conditions. She lost control of the car while taking a corner at speed and crashed 30m down a steep embankment. Her breath alcohol reading was 967 mcg - almost six times the former youth limit and more than double the adult limit.
Judge Chris McGuire said these two charges had come "hot on the heels" of a conviction in Whakatane earlier this year when Roberts blew 1281 mcg - three times the adult limit and eight times the old youth limit.
He told Roberts she had a "massive problem" with alcohol and it was only due to good fortune that nobody was killed in the June crash.
"What I need to get home to you is that it will not be 'if' but 'when' you manage to kill somebody if you don't do something," he said.
"It may well be that you have a real challenge ahead of you to get on top of your alcohol addiction. If you can't it's not any excuse to come to court and complain you have an alcohol problem.
"If you can't control your intake, don't drive." Judge McGuire told Roberts he would have been justified in sending her to jail.
"You need to understand that next time it will be jail," he said. "If it sounds like a bit of a lecture, yes it is."
The judge said letters would be sent to the owners of the vehicles Roberts was driving when she offended warning them if she was caught drink driving in their vehicle again the car would be confiscated.
Meanwhile, Manuella Peato, 43, has also appeared this week before the court on his sixth drink-driving charge.
He, too received a strong warning from Judge McGuire.
"You do this once more and you will be in jail for at least a year and your poor family will have to get by somehow without you."
Judge McGuire said he did not accept Peato's excuse that because he had a sleep before driving he thought he would be okay.
"What utter nonsense. You've been caught five times before, you know what the score is. You just didn't give a damn. You thought you might be lucky and not get caught, but you were."
Peato was sentenced to six months' home detention with a further six months' supervision. He was also disqualified from driving for 18 months and ordered to pay $203 costs.