Drink Driving Offences in NSW: What you need to know

In May 2019, the processes and penalties for drink driving offences in New South Wales changed considerably. Those changes included an ability to have a drink driver’s license suspended immediately, even if categorised as a ‘low range’ offence. Also, on the spot fines can now be issued for a first offence if the blood alcohol reading is below 0.079. This means that it is no longer always necessary to attend court for a low range drink driving offence.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

In NSW, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits vary according to the type of licence and vehicle that is being driven. These limits are zero, 0.02 and under 0.05.

A zero BAC reading while driving applies to:

  • Learner drivers or riders
  • Provisional 1 drivers or riders
  • Provisional 2 drivers or riders
  • Visiting drivers or riders holding an overseas or interstate learner, provisional or equivalent licence

The requirement to have a BAC reading under 0.02 while driving applies to:

  • Drivers of vehicles of “gross vehicle mass” greater than 13.9 tonnes
  • Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods
  • Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers

The requirement to have a BAC reading under 0.05 while driving applies to:

  • ALL other licences (including overseas and interstate licence holders) not subject to a 0.02 or zero limit
  • A BAC reading of 0.05 is the legal limit for most drivers.

 

Drink Driving Offences

Under the Road Transport Act 2013, if you are found the have a BAC concentration above the legal limit you will be committing what is commonly referred to as a ‘PCA’ (prescribed concentration of alcohol) offence.

These are as follows:

Novice Range prescribed concentration of alcohol a concentration of more than zero grams, but less than 0.02 grams, of alcohol in 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.
Special Range prescribed concentration of alcohola concentration of 0.02 grams or more, but less than 0.05 grams, of alcohol in 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.
Low Range prescribed concentration of alcohola concentration of 0.05 grams or more, but less than 0.08 grams, of alcohol in 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.
Middle Range prescribed concentration of alcohola concentration of 0.08 grams or more, but less than 0.15 grams, of alcohol in 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.
High Range prescribed concentration of alcohola concentration of 0.15 grams or more of alcohol in 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

On the spot penalties for Drink Driving Offences

If you are found to commit a novice range, special range, or low range drink driving offence, and it is your first drink driving offence, police can suspend your licence for a period of three months and issue an on-the-spot fine of $561.

If you receive an immediate licence suspension, you will be required to surrender your licence on the spot and make other arrangements for getting home. You will also be told your suspension period on the spot. If you are summoned to attend court, the court will fix a disqualification period and backdate it to the day your licence was surrendered.

If it is your second or subsequent offence, or if your offending falls within the higher range category, you will be required to attend court and the penalties below will be applicable.

Court imposed penalties for a Drink Driving Offences

If you are required to attend court, the maximum penalties are much higher and vary depending on the level of the ‘range’ of the offence that is committed. At present, one penalty unit equates to $110.00

OffenceMaximum penalty (1st offence)Maximum penalty (2nd offence)

S110(3)(a)

Drive with novice, special or low range prescribed concentration of alcohol

[0.05-0.079]

Imprisonment: NIL

Fine: $2,200

Disqualification: Automatic 6 months – Minimum 3 months

Imprisonment: NIL

Fine: $3,300

Disqualification: Automatic 12 months – Minimum 6 months

If 12-month Interlock period: Maximum 3 months – Minimum 1 month

S110(4)(a)

Drive with middle range prescribed concentration of alcohol

[0.08-0.149]

Imprisonment: 9 months

Fine: $2,200

Disqualification: Automatic 12 months – Minimum 6 months

If 12-month Interlock period: Maximum 6 months – Minimum 3 months

Imprisonment: 12 months

Fine: $3,300

Disqualification: Automatic 3 years – Minimum 12 months

If 24-month Interlock period: Maximum 9 months – Minimum 6 months

S110(5)(a)

Drive with high range prescribed concentration of alcohol

[0.15 +]

Imprisonment: 18 months

Fine: $3,300

Disqualification: Automatic 3 years – Minimum 12 months

If 24-month Interlock period: Maximum 9 months – Minimum 6 months

Imprisonment: 2 years

Fine: $5,500

Disqualification: Automatic 5 years – Minimum 2 years

If 48-month Interlock period: Maximum 12 months – Minimum 9 months

An “unlimited disqualification period” will only be applicable where an interlock order is not made.

It is important to note that with the above penalties, offences falling within the middle and high range categories are considered ‘mandatory interlock offences,’ where unless an interlock exemption order is secured, you will be subject to a ‘mandatory interlock order’ that disqualifies you from driving for an initial period where after you will be required to fit (at your own expense) an interlock device for a period not less than 12 months.

If you or someone you know has been charged with or awaiting sentence for, a drink driving offence, you can contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyers 24/7 by calling 4038 1666.

Written By
James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia

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