Drink driving, or driving with a low range of prescribed concentration of alcohol (low range PCA) in a person’s breath or blood, is an offence under section 110(3) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).
What is low range PCA?
Low range PCA occurs when a person drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08.
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.
If you are charged with low 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.
If a low range PCA offence is your first alcohol or drug-related driving offence in the past five years, the police may give you a penalty notice, which requires you to pay an on-the-spot fine of $572 instead of attending court.
Paying the fine means accepting that the offence was committed, and your licence will be suspended for a period of three months. However, the offence will not be recorded on your criminal record.
Low range PCA penalties in NSW
Low range PCA is a “fine only” offence, and cannot lead to imprisonment. If you are convicted, the potential penalties include:
|Penalty||First offence||Second offence|
|Penalty notice fine||$572||N/A|
|Minimum disqualification||3 months||6 months|
|Maximum disqualification||6 months||Unlimited|
|Automatic disqualification||6 months||12 months|
|Immediate licence suspension||Yes||Yes|
Consequences of a conviction
If you are convicted of low 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 you provide 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 you a more lenient sentence if you participate 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.