Offence provisions

Special range drink driving / PCA is an offence under section 110(2) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).


What is special range drink driving?

Special range drink driving occurs when a “special category driver” drives, or attempts to drive, a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.02 and 0.05.

A special category driver is typically someone who has a zero alcohol limit, or is a professional driver. This includes:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Bus drivers.
  • Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods.
  • Drivers of heavy vehicles (exceeding 13.9 tonnes).
  • Drivers who have a disqualified, suspended, or cancelled licence.
  • Drivers who have never been granted a licence.
  • Learner licence holders.
  • Provisional licence holders (P1 or P2).

Typically, police will administer a roadside breath test 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.

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


Penalty notice

If special range drink driving is your first alcohol or drug-related driving offence, 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 three months. However, the offence will not be recorded on your criminal record.


Licence suspension

If you are charged with special range drink driving, 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.


Penalties for special range drink driving in NSW

Special range drink driving is a “fine only” offence, and cannot lead to imprisonment. If you are charged, the potential penalties include:


PenaltyFirst offenceSubsequent 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 special range drink driving, 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

In which court will special range drink driving charges be heard?

Special range drink driving charges are heard at a Local Court before a magistrate.

How serious is the charge?

The courts may take a poor view of professional drivers who have been charged with drink driving, however the most common penalty issued by the Local Court for a special range drink driving offence is a fine.  If you receive a fine in court, this means you have been convicted of the offence, which may limit employment and travel opportunities. Our drink driving lawyers can assist you with an application to avoid a conviction pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act .

What are the possible defences?

It is important to remember that there may be defences available to you if you have been charged with special range drink driving. Being charged does not mean that you will be convicted, and does not necessarily mean that you should plead guilty.

We can advise you on the best arguments to make to avoid a conviction or to get the most lenient sentence possible. We will consider whether you should tender character references to the court, participate in the Traffic Offender Intervention Program, or voluntarily apply to participate in the Interlock Program.

We will also provide you with an honest and realistic appraisal of your prospects of successfully defending the charge.

If my licence is suspended, when can I drive again?

You will not be able to drive until:

  • The end of the suspension period for the offence, which is typically three months,
  • You successfully appeal the suspension at the Local Court,
  • You defend the offence at court and are found not guilty, or
  • You defend the offence at court and the court records no conviction.

Should I pay the penalty notice?

In some circumstances, the police officers 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 can we help?

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

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