What is High Range PCA?High Range PCA / Drink Driving

The offence of High Range Drink Driving / PCA (Prescribed Content of Alcohol) is committed when a person drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or above. This is viewed as a very serious offence and penalties can be severe. Prison is a possibility, even for first time offenders.


What are the penalties for High Range Drink Driving / 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 sentence of 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 free of alcohol. 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.


High Range Drink Driving/PCA Penalties NSW
First major offence within 5 years
Maximum fine$3,300
Minimum disqualification under Interlock6 months
Maximum disqualification under Interlock9 months
Interlock Period2 years
Maximum prison sentence18 months
Second major offence within 5 years
Maximum fine$5,500
Minimum disqualification under Interlock9 months
Maximum disqualification under Interlock12 months
Interlock period4 years
Maximum prison sentence2 years


Factors in the court’s decision on penalties

The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal has handed down a guideline judgment for offenders found guilty of High Range Drink Driving / High Range PCA, which includes 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”.
  • How long your journey was (and therefore how long other people were at risk from your driving).
  • Whether you had any passengers or specifically put other people at risk.


How severe is the charge against you?

High Range Drink Driving / High Range PCA is the most serious of the drink driving offences, and is dealt with stringently by the courts.

In fact, although for many traffic offences you may be able to argue that you should have the charge against you dismissed without conviction in accordance with section 10, this is rarely an option a court is prepared to consider in the case of High Range PCA.

However, despite the serious nature of the charge, we have helped clients obtain a section 10, and we can assist you in maximising your chances of leniency.

It’s usual to disqualify a first-time High Range PCA offender from holding a driver’s licence for between nine and 12 months.

We can help you obtain the lowest possible disqualification period in your circumstances by preparing mitigating arguments.


The Traffic Offender Intervention Program

If you are charged with High Range Drink Driving / High Range PCA, the court may reduce your sentence if you participate in the Traffic Offender Intervention Program, a course on traffic laws and the consequences of breaking them.

More information about Traffic Offender Intervention Program


The Interlock program

If you are convicted of High Range Drink Driving / High Range PCA, you must participate in the Interlock program. After your disqualification period has ended, a device will be fitted to your car which you will be required to blow into before you turn on the ignition. If you record any blood alcohol level at all, your car will not start.

More information about the Interlock program


What happens next if charged for High Range Drink Driving / High Range PCA?

Although High Range Drink Driving/PCA is a serious offence, depending on your circumstances and the steps you take immediately after you have been charged, there may be defences available to you.

Nyman Gibson Miralis can provide you with advice on likely penalties, potential defences, and any further actions you should take.

High Range PCA FAQs

Can I Get The Interlock System?

Yes – at the discretion of the Court. You can potentially reduce the overall disqualification in return for having a device hard-wired into your car for a specified period of time at a cost to be paid for by you. The device needs to be maintained and you will have to blow into it to demonstrate that your blood alcohol concentration is below 0.02. Call one of our specialists if you want advice about the Interlock Program.

Can I Go To Prison For High Range Drink Driving?

Yes. See our website article on the Guideline Judgment. It is possible to be gaoled even for your first offence although such a penalty is rare. The Court might however impose a direct alternative to imprisonment. Contact one of our criminal law specialists or drink driving lawyers for immediate legal advice.

Is It Possible That My Blood Alcohol Reading Could Be Lower?

Yes. As alcohol is absorbed into the blood system, the reading obviously goes up. It takes between 20 to 40 minutes normally for alcohol to be fully absorbed – depending on a number of factors including whether you have eaten food, your metabolism rate, age, weight, fitness and other factors. If you were detected driving while the alcohol was still in your stomach, and not absorbed, there is the possibility that your reading might have increased by the time you did the breath analysis.

We can advise you of whether or not your circumstances lend themselves to challenging the breath analysis, how much it will cost, how long it will take and exactly what needs to be proved. In some circumstances we are able to establish on the balance of probabilities that your reading was in a lower range than which you were charged – eg. Police may claim that your reading was above 0.150 when in reality it was in the mid range which carries less severe penalties.

Would It Be Beneficial To Attend The Traffic Offender Intervention Program?

Ordinarily yes – the court must take into account the fact that you have successfully completed the program. The Guideline Judgment noted that for high range offenders, ‘participation in the program might have an impact on the amount of the fine and the period of disqualification – and coupled with strong subjective features should allow the court to consider all appropriate options at the time that sentence is handed down.’ The program will also give you insight to avoid further offending.