O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors logo 500x500

Drink Driving

Criminal Defence Factsheets

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

‘Drink driving offences’ describes a broad range of offences in New South Wales that the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) legislates.

Most people charged with drink driving have been charged after police stopped them for a random or roadside breath test.

A more extreme example might see a person charged with a drink driving offence after involvement in a motor vehicle accident, upon an analysis of a person’s blood, or in circumstances where a person might be charged with a range of other offending and pulled over and arrested driving a motor vehicle.

nsw police conducting rbt

Upon providing a reading or blood result in excess of the prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA)limits, police may issue a person with one or more of the following penalties:

  • immediate suspension of their drivers’ licence;
  • a penalty notice;
  • a Court Attendance Notice (CAN)- advising the person charged with an offence of the first mention date the proceeding is listed before the Local Court.

It is important to note that at the time of issuing someone with a Court Attendance Notice for a drink driving offence a NSW police officer can immediately suspend that persons’ licence.

Drink Driving laws in NSW

Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) limits

If you don’t already know your required alcohol limits, it’s best to memorise them now.

  • Learner or probationary driver (L or P platers) – 0.0 – no alcohol
  • Holders of full licence (car or motorcycle) – under 0.05 – very small quantity of alcohol permitted prior to driving a motor vehicle
  • Public passenger vehicle drivers – bus or taxi – under 0.02 – not even worth thinking about a drink as it may as well be 0.0
  • Coach or heavy vehicle drivers – under 0.02 – not even worth thinking about a drink as it may as well be 0.0
  • Dangerous goods driver – under 0.02 – not even worth thinking about a drink as it may as well be 0.0

For holders of a full licence, there are three ranges you can fall into if you’re over the prescribed limit:

  1. LOW RANGE PCA – Blood alcohol is between 0.05 and 0.08
  2. MID-RANGE PCA – Blood alcohol is between 0.08 and 0.15
  3. HIGH-RANGE PCA – Blood alcohol is over 0.15

For those with an alcohol limit of 0, anything over that is classified as “NOVICE”.

For those with an alcohol limit of under 0.02, anything over that is classified as “SPECIAL”.

Immediate suspension of drivers licence

Since May 2019, a NSW Police officer can, at the time of issuing a Court Attendance Notice, immediately suspend a person’s drivers licence for a period of 3 months if they are charged with a drink driving offence.

An immediate suspension will apply to drivers even if they are charged with low range drink driving offences.

In addition to immediate licence suspension of 3 months, police will issue a driver with an on the spot fine, by way of penalty notice, of $572.00 as of the time of writing this article in February 2021.

Drink driving in NSW avoid RBT
A campaign from NSW Government on drink driving avoid RBT

Ability to appeal immediate suspension of drivers’ licence and fine

Whilst police powers continue to grow it is pleasing to advise that the issuing of immediate licence suspension and penalty notice can be appealed by electing to have the matter determined by a magistrate in the Local Court.

Should a person receive an on the spot suspension and fine it is highly recommended to speak with a driving offences lawyer so that steps can be taken to prepare your matter for election to Court. It is critical to act quickly as a person issued with an immediate licence suspension will remain suspended and not permitted to lawfully drive until their matter is listed and finalised before court, or their licence suspension period concludes (whichever being earlier).

Importantly, a Court has the discretion to impose differing periods of licence suspension and penalties for a drink driving offences. In some circumstances, if the Court does not record a conviction, no licence suspension will follow.

Failure to comply with breath testing

Drink Driving BreathalyserWhen a NSW Police officer requires a breath test from you, it’s best to comply.

Failure to comply with request or signal given to participate in random breath test can result in a maximum penalty of $1100.

Refusal or failure to submit to test, analysis or assessment – including breath test & breath analysis can result in a maximum penalty of $1100 for a breath test, and $5500 and 2 years imprisonment for breath analysis if it’s not your first offence.

Refusal or failure to provide samples or preventing sample taking – blood samples can result in a maximum penalty of between $3300 & 18 months imprisonment or both (first offence), or $5500 & 2 years imprisonment or both (second offence).

Alcohol interlock devices

The punishment for drink driving offences does not stop at licence suspensions, fines and in serious cases, imprisonment. Regrettably alcohol interlock orders are further painful impositions that accompany a conviction for some drink driving offences.

An alcohol interlock order applies to persons convicted of ‘Mid Range’, ‘High Range’ or ‘Drive under the influence’ offences. The alcohol interlock device prevents the ignition working on a vehicle until the driver proves that their breath shows that they don’t have too high a level of alcohol.

A person subject to an alcohol interlock order must pay any relevant installation and service fees for the device throughout the duration of the alcohol interlock order.

Loss of driver’s licence

A loss of licence by way of suspension and disqualification is common place for persons convicted of drink driving offences.

The length of a court-imposed disqualification will vary depending on a range of factors including the applicable law, the relevant offence, the circumstances of the offender and any driving record of the offender.

A helpful table outlining offences and penalties for drink driving offences is contained below:

High range PCA (0.15 or above), refuse breath analysis, a blood sample and/or alter concentration in the blood

Note: If an offender receives an alcohol interlock order, the disqualification period may differ from those listed in this table.

PenaltyFirst offenceSecond or subsequent offence
Maximum court- imposed fine$3,300$5,500
Maximum prison term18 months2 years
Minimum disqualification12 months2 years
Maximum disqualificationUnlimitedUnlimited
Automatic disqualification (disqualification period that applies in the absence of a specific court order)3 years5 years
Immediate licence suspsionYesYes
Subject to an alcohol interlock orderYesYes

Mid range PCA (blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 to less than 0.15)

Note: If an offender gets an alcohol interlock order, the disqualification period may differ from those listed in this table.

PenaltiesFirst offenceSecond or subsequent offence
Maximum court- imposed fine$2,200$3,300
Maximum prison term9 months12 months
Minimum disqualification6 months12 months
Maximum disqualificationUnlimitedUnlimited
Automatic disqualification (disqualification period that applies in the absence of a specific court order)12 months3 years
Immediate licence suspensionYesYes
Subject to an alcohol interlock orderYesYes

 

Low, novice or special range PCA

  • Low range PCA:blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to less than 0.08
  • Novice range PCA:blood alcohol concentration more than zero for learner, P1 or P2 drivers
  • Special range PCA:blood alcohol concentration over 0.02 for special category drivers

 

Note: If an offender receives an alcohol interlock order, the disqualification period may differ from those listed in this table.

PenaltyFirst offenceSecond or subsequent offence
Penalty notice fine$572N/A
Immediate licence suspensionYesYes
Maximum court- imposed fine$2,200$3,300
Maximum prison termN/AN/A
Minimum disqualification3 months6 months
Maximum disqualification6 monthsUnlimited
Automatic disqualification (disqualification period that applies in the absence of a specific court order)6 months12 months
Subject to an alcohol interlock orderNoYes

Drive under the influence of alcohol or another drug

Note: If an offender has an alcohol interlock order, the disqualification period may differ from those listed in this table.

PenaltyFirst offenceSecond or subsequent offence
Maximum court- imposed fine$3,300$5,500
Maximum prison term18 months2 years
Minimum disqualification12 months2 years
Maximum disqualificationUnlimitedUnlimited
Automatic disqualification (disqualification period that applies in the absence of a specific court order)3 years5 years
Subject to an alcohol interlock orderYes (alcohol offences only)Yes (alcohol offences only)

“I’ve been charged with drink driving, what do I do?” The first step is to consult a lawyer. We offer free initial consultations from our criminal solicitors. Contact us today!

Call Now Button Scroll to Top