Author: Phillip GibsonCriminal Defence Lawyer Phillip Gibson at our Sydney Office

What is the offence of High Range Drink Driving?

You can be charged with the offence of High Range PCA if you meet the following

criteria:

 A breath or blood analysis is conducted with a reading of 0.150 or more.

 Your blood alcohol content was 0.150 at the time that you were driving a vehicle or attempting to put a vehicle in motion while occupying the driver’s seat.

Potential penalties for High Range PCA

Given the serious nature of the offence, the penalties for High Range PCA can be severe, even for a first offender. The penalties include the risk of a prison sentenceof up to 18 months, and a maximum fine of $3,300.

If you are charged with High Range PCA, your driver’s licence will be suspended for at least six months and a maximum of nine months under the mandatory Interlock program. Once your disqualification ends, your car will be fitted with an Interlock device that prevents it from starting unless you provide a breath sample. For a first offence, the Interlock period is two years.

While it is sometimes possible to secure an exemption from Interlock, it’s generally uncommon. And if the courts do grant an exemption, the periods of disqualification will be longer.

If you have been convicted of a previous drink driving matter or any other major offence in the previous five years before being charged with High Range PCA, the potential penalties you face are substantially increased, with longer prison sentences of up to two years, and a fine of up to $5,500. Again, the Interlock program is mandatory. The minimum disqualification is nine months and the maximum 12 months, and the device can be fitted to your car for up to four years.

The guideline judgment

Several years ago, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal handed down a guideline judgment for high range drink driving in order to establish a common framework for courts sentencing people for this offence. The guideline judgment is intended to ensure uniformity among sentencing procedures.

The guideline judgment operates by setting out the circumstances of an "ordinary case", namely a set of factors which are common to most high range drink driving offences. We can give you advice as to whether you fit within the "ordinary case", and whether the usual sentencing provisions are to be applied.

If you fall outside the ordinary case, the court will consider the level of moral culpability involved in your commission of the offence and impose an appropriate penalty accordingly.

What factors are taken into account?

The court will take into account whether your offending involved a collision or other accident, whether you drove erratically or irregularly, and by how much your blood alcohol reading exceeded 0.150. Obviously, the higher the reading, the higher your moral culpability is considered to be.

In some circumstances, the guideline considers it appropriate for community service orders or even suspended prison sentences to be imposed as a minimum penalty.

We can provide you with advice and recommendations on whether any other subjective or objective circumstances may apply which would assist the court to impose a more lenient penalty on you.