Offence provisions

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.

 

Licence suspension

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.

 

Penalty notice

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:

 

PenaltyFirst offenceSecond offence
Penalty notice fine$572N/A
Maximum fine$2,200$3,300
Minimum disqualification3 months6 months
Maximum disqualification6 monthsUnlimited
Automatic disqualification 6 months12 months
Immediate licence suspensionYesYes
Interlock orderNoYes

 

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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will the matter be heard?

Low range PCA offences are heard at a Local Court before a magistrate.

What is the difference between low range PCA and DUI?

To charge low range PCA, the police must have evidence of your BAC from within two hours of you driving. To charge driving under the influence, the police must simply state that your behaviours led to them to believe that you were under the influence of a substance.

Should I pay the penalty notice?

In some circumstances, the police may provide you with a penalty notice instead of a Court Attendance Notice. It may be easiest to deal with the charges and simply pay the fine, however there are consequences in doing so. Once you pay the fine, your licence will be suspended for three months.

You should seek legal advice before paying the penalty notice. Our drink driving lawyers can advise you whether this is the best option for you under the circumstances.

How much can I drink while staying under the BAC limit?

Alcohol stays in the body for different periods of time depending on your body type, gender, age, amount of food in your stomach and how long you spent drinking. Your BAC will continue to rise even once you have stopped drinking.

It is therefore difficult to quantify how much alcohol you can consume while staying under the limit. If you intend to drive, particularly if you do not have your full licence, it is best thing to avoid drinking altogether.

How can we help?

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

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