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Drink Driving Penalties (NSW)

Updated on Apr 19, 2023 6 min read 1226 views Copy Link

Michelle Makela

Published in Jul 17, 2019 Updated on Apr 19, 2023 6 min read 1226 views

Drink Driving Penalties (NSW)


In New South Wales, drink driving offences carry heavy penalties including fines, terms of imprisonment and periods of licence disqualification. This article outlines the penalties for drink driving offences in New South Wales.

Will I have to go to court?

On-the-spot fines can be issued for a drink driving first offence if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) reading is below 0.079. However, for second or subsequent offences, the driver will have to attend court.

Alcohol interlock program

New South Wales has an alcohol interlock program.

An alcohol interlock order requires a driver to have an alcohol interlock device fitted to their vehicle at their own expense. This device will prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver has alcohol present in their system.

Drivers who are sentenced to an alcohol interlock order are subject to much shorter periods of licence disqualification than those who are not placed on an interlock order.

Drink driving offences

Drink driving offences and the penalties they attract are set out in the Road Transport Act 2013. In New South Wales there are five levels of drink driving. These are:

  • Novice range (0.00 to 0.019 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver)
  • Special range (0.02 to 0.049 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver or a bus or taxi driver)
  • Low range (0.05 to 0.079)
  • Mid-range (0.08 to 0.149)
  • High range (0.15 and higher)

Each level of drink driving carries a different maximum penalty and different maximum and minimum licence suspension periods.

Under the Road Transport Act, a person who uses a vehicle after drugs or alcohol can also be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug (section 112) or with driving with an illicit drug present in their system (section 111).

Novice, low range or special range

A person found guilty of novice range, special range, or low range drink driving for the first time can expect to have their licence suspended for a period of three to six months and to be issued with an on-the-spot fine of $2200.

If it is the person’s second or subsequent offence, they will be required to attend court. The court can impose a fine of up to $3300 and can disqualify them from driving for up to 12 months. 

Mid-range

A person found guilty of mid-range drink driving for the first time faces a fine of up to $2,200 or imprisonment for nine months. They will also be disqualified from driving for a period of between 6 and 12 months (or for 6 months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 12 months).

A person found guilty of mid-range drink driving for a second or subsequent time will be fined up to $3,300 and imprisoned for up to 12 months. They will be disqualified from driving for a period of between 12 months and 3 years (or for a period between 6 and 9 months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 24 months).

High range

A person found guilty of high range drink driving faces a fine of $3,300 for a first offence and up to $5,500 for a second or subsequent offence. This offence can attract a prison term of up to 18 months for a first offence and up to two years for a second or subsequent offence.

Anyone charged with high range drink driving will get an immediate licence suspension. A first offender may be disqualified from driving for up to 3 years (or for up to 9 months with an alcohol interlock order for a further 24 months). A person being sentenced for their second or subsequent offence will be disqualified from driving for up to 5 years (or for up to 12 months with an alcohol interlock order for a further 48 months).

Driving under the influence

A person who is found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or another drug for the first time faces a fine of $3300 or imprisonment for 18 months or both. They will also be disqualified from driving for a period of between 12 months and 3 years (or for a period of between 6 months and 9 months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 24 months). For a second or subsequent offence, the driver will be fined $5500 or imprisoned for two years, or both. They will be disqualified from driving for between 2 years and 5 years (or for between 9 months and 12 months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 24 months).

Driving with a drug present

A person who is found guilty of driving with an illicit drug present in their oral fluid, blood or urine faces a fine of $2200 for a first offence or $3300 for a second or subsequent offence. They will also have a licence disqualification period of 3 to 6 months imposed.

However, it is a defence to this charge if the drug was consumed for a medicinal purpose.

Immediate licence suspension

If you receive an immediate licence suspension, you will be required to surrender your licence and make other arrangements for getting home.

If you are dealt with by way of an on-the-spot fine, you will be told your suspension period on the spot. If you are summonsed to attend court, the court will fix a disqualification period and backdate it to the day your licence was surrendered.

Interlock Devices

It is mandatory for the courts in New South Wales to make Interlock Orders for certain drink driving offences.

If you have an Interlock Order made when you are sentenced, you may approach a doctor to ask for an Alcohol Interlock Program medical certificate sometime within the four weeks prior to the end of your disqualification period. Once your disqualification period has ended, you may apply for an interlock driver’s licence. To qualify, you must have an interlock device fitted to your vehicle.

Once an interlock device has been fitted, you must blow into the device and register a zero BAC result in order to start the vehicle. You may also, at random times, be required to repeat this process to continue driving. You must not drive any other vehicle while you are under an interlock order.

The interlock device will keep a record of any time you record a BAC over zero. Police will be able to access the record and you may be charged with additional offences.

If you require legal advice or representation in a drink driving matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Published in

Jul 17, 2019

Michelle Makela

National Practice Manager

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 
Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela

National Practice Manager

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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