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Drink Driving Charges in NSW

In the eyes of the Court, drink driving is considered to be a serious offence and can attract heavy fines, licence suspensions and/or

terms of imprisonment. Sydney Traffic Lawyers may be able to help you reduce any penalties handed down

by the Court. Depending on the circumstances of the case, our Sydney Traffic Lawyers may be able to help you reduce any penalties handed down by the Court.

In some instances, it is possible to receive a Section 10 dismissal or bond, particularly for low or some mid range PCA offences.

PCA charges relate to the specific measurement of your blood alcohol level, calculated after a breath test, and a

subsequent breath analysis, or even through blood tests. Different classes of licences set different PCA limits. For regular

unrestricted licences, the limit is 0.05. For licences with special conditions (professional drivers), such as bus, truck or taxi

licences, the limit is 0.02. For L-Plate or P-Plate drivers, the limit is strictly 0.00. PCA charges are

issued in direct response to breath test results.

Drink Driving Charges in NSW based on PCA include:

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    Novice-range PCA Charges

    Are you on your L-Plates or P-plates? Have you been charged with Novice-range PCA offences?

    Call 02 8059 7121 for experienced drink driving lawyers.

    Novice-range PCA Charges

    Novice-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges apply to Learner or

    Provisional Licence holders (L-Plates or P-Plates), when a breath test shows that their blood alcohol level

    is shown to be between 0.00 and 0.02. If an L-Plate or P-Plate driver is found driving with any amount of

    alcohol in their body, they will be charged and will have to go to court. The penalties can be

    severe – they could include a fine of up to $2,200 and a 12-month licence suspension for subsequent offences.

    However, with the help of Sydney Traffic Lawyers in court, it may be possible to be treated leniently or

    have the charges dismissed under Section 10.

    Defending a Novice-range PCA Charge

    If you are an L-Plate or P-Plate driver, the police can charge you with Novice-range PCA offences even if

    you are not necessarily seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol. Your case will go to court.

    If you have experienced legal representation, you are more likely to be treated leniently, with reduced penalties.

    The Court is unlikely to be lenient if you represent yourself, since most offenders don’t

    know how to properly and persuasively present their case.

    Challenge the Reading

    If you are charged with Novice-level PCA offences, the crime the police are alleging you committed is

    driving while your blood alcohol level was over the limit set by your licence (which is zero). However, not

    all blood alcohol test results are exact. Alcohol levels can go up and down over time depending on an individual’s tolerance, and it takes

    time to go to an RBT or a police station for further testing. Your blood alcohol level may have been

    lower, even at 0.00, when you started driving, and may have risen just before the breath test.

    In any event, you do have the right to challenge your breath test results. This could lead to your penalties being

    reduced or even to your charges being dismissed under Section 10. This result is more likely if you are a first time offender

    and you are represented by an experienced traffic lawyer.

    Other Defence Options for Novice-range PCA Charges

    You could also base your defence on a number of other arguments:

    • An honest and reasonable mistake: Proving this is not easy, but you could argue that you believed your blood alcohol level was at 0.00 at the time of the offence. Strong character references will be important if you choose to rely on this defence.
    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot force you to do a breath test if more than 2 hours have passed since you drove a car. If you are tested and have not been driving for 2 hours, then that evidence may be rejected in court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot make you do a breath test while you are at home. If you are tested at home, that evidence may be inadmissible.
    • An emergency: You may have driven while over your PCA because you faced, or had to respond to, an emergency situation.
    • Duress: You may have driven while over your PCA because another person threatened you or otherwise forced you to do so.

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence: how much alcohol was consumed, in what time-frame, and what food was consumed during this period in time.
    • Your traffic record and prior good character.
    • Other potentially important matters, such as how a suspended licence or criminal record would affect your life and any future plans.

    Penalties

    Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
    Automatic Minimum
    First Offence
    $1100 nil 6 months 3 months
    Subsequent Offences
    $2200 nil 12 months 6 months
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    Low-range PCA Charges

    If you are charged with Low-range PCA offences, an experienced drink driving lawyer can get you a

    Section 10 or reduced penalties in court. Call now on 02 80597121 to obtain further information.

    Low-range PCA Charges

    Low-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges are issued after a breath test when a

    driver returns a blood alcohol reading of between 0.05 and 0.08. These charges might seem less

    serious than others, but they will mean you have to go to court, and the penalties can still be

    severe. You could face fines of between $1,100 and $2,200 and could lose your licence for up to a year. The

    court is also quite unlikely to be lenient if you represent yourself. Sydney Traffic Lawyers can

    help reduce the penalties in court. In the right circumstances – especially if yours is a first

    offence – we can even have the charges dismissed under Section 10.

    Defending a Low-range PCA Charge

    The police can charge you with Low-range PCA charges even if you are not physically “under the

    influence” of alcohol. Your case will have to go to court. The qualified legal representation offered by Sydney

    Traffic Lawyers will increase your chances of being treated leniently by the Court.

    Challenge the Reading

    In any case involving PCA charges, the offence that is alleged is driving while your blood alcohol level is

    above the legal limit set by your licence. However, blood alcohol tests are not all precise. After an

    on-road breath test is conducted, it takes time to travel from an RBT unit to a police station for further testing, and

    alcohol levels in your blood go up and down during this time. Your blood alcohol level may have been lower,

    even below the PCA, when you started driving, compared to when you took the breath test.

    You have the right to challenge the breath test reading. This could lead to your penalties being

    reduced or even to your Low-range PCA charges being dismissed under Section 10, especially if it is

    your first offence.

    Other Defence Options for Low-range PCA Charges

    You could also base your defence argument on:

    • An honest and reasonable mistake: This is not easy to prove, but you may be able to argue that you genuinely believed you were still below the PCA at the time of the offence. Good character references will be critical if this defence is relied on.
    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot make you do a breath test if you have not driven a vehicle within the past 2 hours. If more than 2 hours have passed and you are tested, then that evidence cannot be used in court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot force you to do a breath test while you are at home. If you are tested while at home, that evidence may be thrown out of court.
    • Duress: You may have driven while over your PCA because you were threatened and forced to do so by another person.
    • An emergency: You may have had to respond to an emergency situation.

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence: how much alcohol was consumed, over how long, and what amount and type of food was consumed.
    • Your good character and traffic record.
    • Any other potentially important matters, such as how a criminal record or suspended licence would affect you.

    Penalties

    Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
    Automatic Minimum
    First Offence
    $1100 nil 6 months 3 months
    Subsequent Offences
    $2200 nil 12 moths 6 months
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    Mid Range PCA

    Have you been charged with Mid-range PCA offences? An experienced drink driving traffic lawyer can

    get you lighter penalties or a Section 10. Call 02 80597121 now to discuss your matter with us.

    Mid-range PCA Charges

    Mid-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges are issued after a breath test when a

    driver returns a blood alcohol reading of between 0.08 and 0.15. These are serious drink driving

    charges and can attract harsh penalties, including: up to a one year term of imprisonment, a maximum fine of $3,300 and a suspension

    of your licence for up to 3 years. However, in certain circumstances, Sydney Traffic

    Lawyers can have these penalties reduced in court, or even dismissed completely under Section 10.

    Defending a Mid-range PCA Charge

    Even if you are not seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol, the police can still charge you with

    Mid-range PCA offences. In these cases, having an experienced Traffic Lawyer on your side can be the difference between

    severe and light penalties, or even the main factor that secures a Section 10 dismissal. You will be better off with

    legal help, rather than representing yourself in court.

    Challenge the Reading

    All PCA charges arise from the police’s allegation that your blood alcohol level was above the limit

    set by your licence, while you were driving. But blood alcohol readings are rarely exact. Alcohol

    levels in your blood go up and down over time, and after an on-road breath test is conducted, it takes time to go

    to an RBT unit or police station for a further breath analysis. Your blood alcohol level may have changed

    several times, becoming higher at the time of the test than when you first started driving.

    One of your defence options is to challenge the breath test reading. This could help reduce your

    Mid-range PCA charge to Low-range, which carries less severe penalties, or even see it dismissed

    under Section 10, especially in the case of a first offence.

    Other Defence Options for Mid-range PCA Charges

    You could also base your defence argument on:

    • An honest and reasonable mistake: When the charges relate to a blood alcohol reading of between 0.08 and 0.15, this is not easy to prove, but you may be able to argue that you believed you were still below the PCA at the time of the offence.
    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot force you to take a breath test if more than 2 hours have passed since you drove a car. If you are tested after more than 2 hours have passed, then that evidence may be thrown out of court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot breath test you while you are on your own property. If that does happen, that evidence may be deemed inadmissible.
    • Duress: You may have been threatened and forced into driving by another person, while over your PCA.
    • An emergency: You may have driven while over your PCA because you were responding to an emergency situation.

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence: how much alcohol was drunk, over how much time, and what amount and kind of food was consumed.
    • Your traffic record and prior good character.
    • Any other matters that may be relevant, such as how a criminal record would affectyou.

    Penalties

    Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
    Automatic Minimum
    First Offence
    $2200 9 months 12 months 6 months
    Subsequent Offences
    $3300 12 months 3 years 12 months
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    High-range PCA charges

    High-range PCA charges are serious, but an experienced traffic lawyer can get you lighter penalties.

    Give Sydney Traffic Lawyers a call on 02 8059 7121.

    High-range PCA Charges

    High-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges apply when a driver returns a blood

    alcohol reading of more than 0.15 during a breath test, far above any legal limit. These are the most

    serious drink driving charges and the penalties can be very severe. They could include imprisonment

    for up to 2 years, a $5,500 fine and a 5-year licence suspension. In these cases Section 10 dismissals

    are not given as often as in low- or mid-range PCA cases, but a reduction in penalties is possible,

    in the right circumstances.

    Defending a High-range PCA Charge

    The police can charge you with High-range PCA offences even if you are not seen to be “under the

    influence” of alcohol. In these cases, you are more likely to be treated leniently if you do not

    represent yourself in court, but seek the advice and representation of an experienced Traffic Lawyer.

    Challenge the Reading

    With any PCA charge, the alleged crime is driving while your blood alcohol level is over the limit

    set by your licence. However, every person’s blood alcohol level goes up and down over time,

    following body processes, and it takes time for you to arrive at a police station or RBT unit for

    breath analysis. The reading of the meter during your breath test may not match your blood-alcohol

    level at the time you were driving.

    A High-range PCA charge is much harder to defend than other PCA charges. It is difficult to argue

    that driving with a blood alcohol reading of 0.15 or higher is the result of an honest and reasonable

    mistake. However, there are other defences and options.

    Challenging the test reading might not see your High-range PCA charges dismissed, although that is

    possible. A more likely result is to have them reduced to Mid-range, which would greatly reduce the

    potential penalties.

    You could also base your defence on some other arguments:

    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot make you take a breath test if you have not driven a car in the last 2 hours. If you were tested more than 2 hours after driving a car, that evidence maybe ruled inadmissible in court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot make you take a breath test while you are on your home property. If you are tested at home, that evidence may be thrown out of court.
    • An emergency: You may have driven while significantly over your PCA because you were responding to an emergency situation.
    • Duress: Another person may have threatened you and forced you to drive, while your blood alcohol level was significantly over your PCA.

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence and the charge: how much alcohol was consumed, in howmuch time, and with what amount and type of food.
    • Your character and traffic record.
    • Any other relevant matters, such as how a criminal record would affect your life or work.

    Penalties

    Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
    Automatic Minimum
    First Offence
    $3300 18 months 3 years 12 months
    Subsequent Offences
    $5500 2 years 5 years 2 years
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    Special-range PCA Charges

    If you drive for work, or have special licence conditions, Special-range PCA charges can be serious and could affect future employment.

    For drink driving traffic lawyers, call 02 8059 7121.

    Special-range PCA Charges

    Special-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges apply to professional drivers – like

    bus, truck or taxi drivers – or L-Plate and P-Plate drivers, who when breath tested show a blood

    alcohol reading between 0.02 and 0.05.

    For professional drivers, 0.02 is the maximum blood alcohol level allowed while driving. For L-Plate

    and P-Plate drivers, the maximum is 0.00, so a reading between 0.02 and 0.05 reflects a serious

    breach of the limit.

    In either case, the penalties can be harsh. They can include a fine of up to $2,200 and a 12-month

    licence suspension, which could severely affect your prospects for future work, or even stop you from working. Your case

    will go to court, but with help from Sydney Traffic Lawyers your penalties could be reduced,

    or your charges could even be dismissed under Section 10.

    Defending a Special-range PCA Charge

    If you are a professional driver, or an L-Plate or P-Plate driver, you can be charged with Special-

    range PCA offences even if you are not necessarily seen to be directly “under the influence” of alcohol. Every PCA case

    has to go to court, but you are more likely to receive leniency if you have experienced legal

    representation on your side. The Court is not going to be likely to treat you leniently if you choose to represent yourself.

    Challenge the Reading

    In any case involving PCA charges, the alleged crime is driving while your blood alcohol level was

    over the limit set by your licence. If you are a professional driver, your limit is 0.02. If you are

    a learner or provisional licence holder, your limit is 0.00, and the court will treat you more harshly for a

    reading between 0.02 and 0.05 compared to a reading between 0.00 and 0.02.

    With this said, blood alcohol tests do not always display exact readings. Blood alcohol levels have been known to change over time,

    sometimes quickly, and it takes time to go to an RBT or a police station for more testing. During this time, your blood

    alcohol level may have increased while you were driving, and gone over the limit. When you started

    driving, your blood alcohol level may even have been at 0.00.

    In court, you have the right to challenge your breath test reading. In the right circumstances, this

    could lead to your penalties being greatly reduced, or even to your charges being dismissed, under

    Section 10. If this is your first offence, then you are more likely to be treated leniently.

    Other Defence Options for Special-range PCA Charges

    There are some other arguments which could possibly support your defence:

    • An honest and reasonable mistake: This is often hard to prove, but you could argue that you believed your blood alcohol level was at 0.00, or below the professional driver limit of 0.02, at the time of your test. If you offer this defence, good character references will be essential.
    • The 2 hour rule: If it is more than 2 hours since you drove a car, the police cannot force you to take a breath test. If have not been driving for 2 hours and you are still tested, then that evidence may be inadmissible in court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot make you do a breath test while you are on your own property. If you are tested at home, that evidence may be thrown out of court.
    • Duress: Someone may have threatened you and forced you to drive, while you were over your PCA.
    • An emergency: You may have had to drive while over your PCA in response to an emergency situation.

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence: how much alcohol was consumed, over how much time, and the amount and type of food consumed.
    • Your character and traffic record.
    • Other potentially relevant matters, such as how a suspended licence or criminal record would affect your life and work.

    Penalties

    Fine Imprisonment Disqualification
    Automatic Minimum
    First Offence
    $1100 nil 6 months 3 months
    Subsequent Offences
    $2200 nil 12 months 6 months

DUI Charges

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges are Drink Driving charges that are issued without a breath test or other tests, mostly in cases where

there is a clear suspicion that a driver is affected by alcohol. For example, the police or witnesses

may notice that a driver’s speech is slurred, they are walking unsteadily, their breath smells of

alcohol or the circumstances of an incident (for example, the angle of a crash) suggest that alcohol

affected their driving.

PCA charges are more precise than DUI charges and may determine more severe penalties, however DUI

charges can be just as serious, as they can aggravate other charges that may have been issued. For

example, if a road incident has caused a death, a DUI charge may make the penalty for the offending

driver much worse.

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    How to defend a PCA Charge

    A certain level of “Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol” allows police to charge you with drink

    driving, regardless of whether you are seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol.

    • High Range PCA: 0.15 or higher
    • Mid Range PCA: 0.08 – 0.15
    • Low Range PCA: 0.05 – 0.08
    • Novice Range PCA: 0.00 – 0.02
    • Special Range PCA: 0.02 – 0.05
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    Challenge the reading

    The offence that a person is charged with is driving while their PCA level is over the limit. It takes time to be taken to the

    station or mobile RBT unit and test your PCA accurately, and because alcohol in the blood goes up and

    down over time, the reading of the meter at the time may not be the same as the reading at the time

    you were driving. This will be important to dismiss the charge completely, or reduce the charge from

    a High range to Mid range, or a Mid range to Low range PCA charge.

    • Honest and reasonable mistake: You may be able to argue that you honestly and reasonably believed that you were not drunk at the time of the offence, although it is difficult.
    • Two hour rule: The police cannot force you to take an alcohol reading if more than 2 hours has passed since you drove a car. If you are tested more than 2 hours after driving a car, it may be possible to have that evidence thrown out of court.
    • At home rule: It is illegal for the police to require you to submit to a test at home. If this is done, this evidence may be inadmissible.
  • + -

    What you need to show

    • The circumstances of the offence, including the amount consumed, over what time, what amount and type of food was consumed.
    • Your traffic record and prior good character
    • Any other circumstances that may be relevant, such as impact of criminal charge on yourrecord.
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    Drink Driving Penalties

    Offence

    Maximum fine

    Maximum jail

    Automatic disqualification 

    Minimum disqualification

    Drink driving penalties in NSW
    – First Major offence* within 5 years

    Novice range PCA
    0.01 – 0.019

    $1,100

    Nil

    6 months

    3 months

    Special range PCA
    0.02 – 0.049

    $1,100

    Nil

    6 months

    3 months

    Low range PCA
    0.05 – 0.079

    $1,100

    Nil

    6 months

    3 months

    Mid range PCA
    0.08 – 0.149

    $2,200

    9 months

    12 months

    6 months

    High range PCA
    over 0.150

    $3,300

    18 months

    3 years

    12 months

    Driving under the influence (DUI)

    $2,200

    9 months

    12 months

    6 months

    Refuse breath analysis

    $3,300

    18 months

    3 years

    12 months

    Wilfully alter blood concentration

    $3,300

    18 months

    3 years

    12 months

    Refuse breath test

    $1,100

    Nil

    6 months

    Nil

    Drink driving penalties in NSW
    – Second or subsequent major offence within 5 years

    Novice range PCA (0.00 – 0.019)

    $2200

    Nil

    12 months

    6 months

    Special range PCA ( 0.02 – 0.049 )

    $2200

    Nil

    12 months

    6 months

    Low range PCA ( 0.05 – 0.079 )

    $2200

    Nil

    12 months

    6 months

    Mid-range PCA ( 0.08 – 0.149 )

    $3300

    12 months

    3 years

    12 months

    High range PCA ( over 0.150 )

    $5500

    2 years

    5 years

    2 years

    Driving under the influence (DUI)

    $3300

    12 months

    3 years

    12 months

    Refuse breath analysis

    $5500

    2 years

    5 years

    2 years

    Wilfully alter blood concentration

    $5500

    2 years

    5 years

    2 years

    Refuse breath test

    $1100

    Nil

How can Sydney Traffic Lawyers help?

Our Traffic Lawyers will carefully consider your case, advise you on all your legal options, and recommend the best way forward.

Call us now on 02 8059 7121 or contact us after hours on 0420 998 650 or text 24hrs to book an appointment with one of our solicitors.

The initial consultation is free.