A fourth-year law student has avoided conviction for drink driving because the judge thought it could be a barrier to his career and professional development.

Nicholas James Clapshaw Neutze, 21, was discharged without conviction but he didn't escape penalty when he appeared in Dunedin District Court yesterday, being fined $800 and disqualified from driving for 12 months for driving in the city on September 18 with a breath alcohol level of 862mcg.

He admitted the offence, which duty lawyer Steve Turner said was "a bad judgment call". Neutze had no prior convictions and had never been in trouble with the law.

Judge Michael Crosbie said the alcohol reading was high and he was aware a drink driving conviction wasn't an absolute bar to admission as a lawyer. But it would create great difficulties for Neutze's career, especially for overseas practice. He did not believe there should be "a blanket approach" for law students. The test was whether a conviction would be out of all proportion to the seriousness of the offending.


He would make the licence loss longer than usual, but was satisfied a conviction would be out of proportion to the offending because of the lack of previous convictions and the effect on Neutze's career.