Offence provisions

Driving with a high range of prescribed concentration of alcohol (high range PCA) in your breath or blood, is an offence under section 110(5) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).


What is high range drink driving

High range drink driving / PCA occurs when you drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or above.

Typically, police will administer a breath test, often by the side of the road. This requires you to speak or breathe into a device, which will provide an indicative reading. If the reading is positive, you will be required to attend a police station for a breath analysis to determine your BAC.

Provided the breath analysis was taken within two hours of driving, the breath analysis is deemed to be the concentration of alcohol present in your blood at the time of driving.


Licence suspension

If you are charged with high range PCA, the police can suspend and confiscate your licence within 48 hours of the charge or penalty notice being issued. The suspension will remain in place until the offence is heard by a court. If your licence is disqualified by the court, the magistrate will consider the licence suspension in deciding the disqualification period.

Both a licence suspension and disqualification prohibit you from driving for the specified period. While a licence suspension can be imposed by the RMS or NSW Police without a formal conviction for the offence, a licence disqualification is imposed by a court as part of the penalty for a formal conviction.


High Range PCA penalties in NSW

High range PCA is viewed as a serious offence and penalties can be harsh. Prison is a possibility, even for first time offenders.

If you are charged with high range PCA the potential penalties include:


PenaltyFirst offenceSubsequent offence
Maximum fine$3,300$5,500
Maximum term of imprisonment 18 months2 years
Minimum disqualification12 months2 years
Maximum disqualificationUnlimitedUnlimited
Automatic disqualification 3 years5 years
Immediate licence suspensionYesYes
Mandatory interlock orderYesYes


Consequences of a conviction

If you are convicted of high range PCA, you will have this offence noted on your criminal record and have your licence disqualified.

The automatic disqualification period will apply unless the court makes a specific order. The court can disqualify your licence for any length of time within the minimum and maximum periods listed above.

You will also be required to participate in the alcohol interlock program, and an interlock device will be fitted to your car. This is an electronic breath testing device which stops the car from starting unless the driver provides a zero-alcohol breath sample.

These consequences can be avoided if the court applies section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.


Traffic Offender Intervention Program

The court may give a more lenient sentence to a person who participates in the Traffic Offender Intervention Program. This program covers traffic laws and rules, and the potential consequences of breaching the laws. When the course is finished, a certificate will be sent to the court and it can be considered in determining the sentence.


Frequently Asked Questions

In which court will high range PCA charges be heard?

High range PCA charges are heard at a Local Court before a magistrate.

What will the court consider in deciding my penalty?

The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal has handed down a guideline judgment for offenders found guilty of high range PCA, which included a description of the “ordinary case” of an offender who has committed this type of offence.

We can advise you on whether you fit within the ordinary case or not. If you fall outside the ordinary case, the court will consider your moral culpability, taking into account potential aggravating factors including:

  • How intoxicated you were at the time of the offence.
  • Whether you were driving particularly aggressively or erratically when you were detected.
  • If you were driving competitively or otherwise “showing off”.
  • The length of the journey.
  • Whether you had any passengers or specifically put other people at risk.

Can I get a section 10?

High range PCA is the most serious drink driving offence and may be dealt with severely by the courts. A section 10 is rarely an option for a high range PCA.

A section 10 may only be appropriate in rare circumstances, including when drivers are compelled by the specific circumstances. An example of this might be when a driver is required to take someone to hospital.

Despite the serious nature of the charge, we have previously helped clients obtain a section 10, and can assist you in maximising your chances of leniency. We can help you obtain the lowest possible disqualification period in your circumstances by preparing mitigating arguments.

How can we help?

We have over 55 years of experience in successfully defending drink driving and traffic offences.

Book a free consultation or call us on 1300 668 484 for 24/7 legal advice.