Courts and Legislation
In NSW all drink driving offences will require you to attend at the Local Court.
While there are automatic disqualification periods for drink driving offences, you will be able to make submissions to the Court if you believe your offence and personal circumstances warrant leniency by the Magistrate. The Magistrate will then have the option to order a lesser suspension period if you can convince them to do so. The minimum suspension that can be ordered is legislated, but it does allow the Magistrate discretion to differ from the automatic period set.
In NSW there are five categories of drink driving offences. These include:
- the novice range (0.00 to 0.019)
- the special range (0.02 to 0.049)
- low range (0.05 to 0.079)
- mid range (0.08 to 0.149), and
- high range (0.15 and higher).
Each range has a different penalty and suspension period that can be imposed. Also if you have been convicted of another major offence in the last five years the penalties will be increased.
Drink driving penalties, and offences, in NSW are governed by the Road Transport Act 2013.
Penalties for first time drink driving offences
If you have been charged with drink driving, and it is your first offence you can expect to receive a disqualification anywhere from 3 months to 3 years depending on your reading.
Novice range, special range, and low range PCA offences have an automatic suspension of 6 months, and a maximum fine of $1,100. The magistrate does have the discretion to reduce the period of suspension, but not less than 3 months.
Mid range PCA offences will receive an automatic suspension period of 12 months, and a maximum fine of $2,200. The minimum period of disqualification that can be ordered by the Magistrate is 6 months. They can also order a term of imprisonment of up to 9 months.
High range PCA offences have an automatic suspension period of 3 years, and a maximum fine of $3,300. The Magistrate may reduce the suspension period, but no less than 12 months. They can also order a term of imprisonment for up to 18 months.
Other drink driving offences include driving under the influence, which will incur a $2200 fine and an automatic suspension of 12 months, and a term of imprisonment of up to 9 months. You can also be charged with wilfully altering blood concentration, and this will incur a maximum fine of $3300, an automatic suspension of 3 years, and a possible jail term of 18 months.
If you refuse to provide a breath sample for analysis the penalties are the same as if you had a PCA in the high range, and therefore considered a serious offence. This offence can incur an automatic suspension for 3 years, a maximum fine of $3,300, and a term of imprisonment for 18 months.
Penalties for further drink driving offences
If you have previously in the past 5 years been convicted of another major offence the penalties will be increased. A major offence includes any previous drink driving offence, and traffic offences such as driving negligently.
For subsequent novice range, special range, and low range PCA offences the automatic suspension is increased to 12 months with a maximum fine of $2,200. The minimum the Magistrate can reduce the suspension is to 6 months.
Mid range PCA offences for repeat offenders will see the automatic suspension increased to 3 years, and a maximum fine of $3,300. The Magistrate at their discretion can reduce the suspension to a minimum of 12 months, but they can also order a term of imprisonment for up to 12 months.
High range PCA offences will be increased to a maximum fine of $5,500, and an automatic suspension of 5 years. This can only be reduced by the Magistrate to a minimum of 2 years. The Magistrate can also order a term of imprisonment for 2 years.
Driving under the influence with a previous offence in the last 5 years will incur an automatic suspension of 3 years, and maximum fine of $3,300, with a possible jail term of 12 months.
Refusing a breath sample for analysis, or wilfully altering blood concentration, will incur an automatic suspension of 5 years, and a maximum fine of $5,500. The Magistrate may also order a term of imprisonment for up to 2 years.
If you are convicted of certain drink driving offences, it is mandatory for the NSW courts to make Interlock Orders. Very few exceptions exist.
If you receive an Interlock Order, sometime within the 4 week period prior to the end of your disqualification period, you must go to your doctor to obtain a ‘Drink-less’ medical certificate. Once your disqualification period has ended, you must apply for an interlock driver’s licence. To qualify, you must have an interlock device expertly fitted to your vehicle.
An interlock device requires that, in order to start your car, you must blow into the device and register a zero BAC result. You may also, at random times, be required to repeat this process to continue driving. You must not drive any other car while you are under the interlock order.
The interlock device will keep a record of any time you record a BAC over zero and, as police will be able to access the record, you can be charged with additional offences.