Drink Driving Charges in NSW

Drink driving is considered a serious offence and may attract heavy fines, licence suspensions and/or jail sentences. Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers may be able to help reduce any penalties handed down by the Court. A Section 10 dismissal is possible, particularly for low or mid range PCA levels, depending on the circumstances.

PCA charges relate to the specific measurement of your blood alcohol level, via a breath test, and subsequent breath analysis, or even blood tests. Different licences set different PCAs. For regular licences, the limit is 0.05. For licences with special conditions, such as bus, truck or taxi licences, the limit is 0.02. For L-Plate or P-Plate drivers, the limit is 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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    Mid Range PCA

    Have you been charged with Mid-range PCA offences? An experienced drink driving defence lawyer can get you lighter penalties or a Section 10. Call 1300 885 646.

    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: a year in prison, a $3300 fine and a suspension of your licence for up to 3 years. However, in the right circumstances, Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers can have the 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, an experienced Traffic Lawyer can make the difference between severe and light penalties, or even secure you 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 it takes time to go to an RBT unit or police station for 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 aftermore 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 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 good character.
    • Any other matters that may be relevant, such as how a criminal record would affect you.

    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 defence lawyer can get you lighter penalties. Call Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers on 1300 885 646.

    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 $5500 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 may be 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 how much 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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    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. Call1300 885 646.

    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 be fined between $1100 and $2200 and could lose your licence for up to a year. The court is also unlikely to be lenient if you represent yourself. Sydney Criminal Defence 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 seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol. Your case will have to go to court. Experienced legal representation will increase your charges of lenient treatment.

    Challenge the Reading

    In any case involving PCA charges, the alleged crime 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 it takes time to go to an RBT unit or a police station for further testing, and alcohol levels in your blood go up and down over time. Your blood alcohol level may have been lower, even below the PCA, when you started driving than 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 yours is a 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 essential in this case.
    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot make you do a breath test if you have not driven a car in the last 2 hours. If more than 2 hours have passed and you are tested, then that evidence may not be used in court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot force you to do a breath test while you are on property that you own. 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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    Novice-range PCA Charges

    Are you on your L-Plates or P-plates? Have you been charged with Novice-range PCA offences? Call 1300 885 646 for experienced drink driving defence lawyers.

    Novice-range PCA Charges

    Novice-range PCA (Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol) charges apply to drivers with Learners or Provisional Licences (L-Plates or P-Plates), when a breath test shows that their blood alcohol level is between 0.00 and 0.02. The fact is that if an L-Plate or P-Plate driver is found driving with any alcohol in their body at all, they will be charged and will have to go to court. The penalties can be severe: they could include a $2200 fine and a 12-month licence suspension. However, with the help of Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers in court, it is possible to be treated leniently, or have the charges dismissed under Section 10.

    Defending a Novice-range PCA Charge

    If you are anL-Plate or P-Plate driver, the police can charge you with Novice-range PCA offences if even you are not seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol. Your case will go to court. You are more likely to be treated leniently, with reduced penalties, if you have experienced legal representation. The court is unlikely to be lenient if you represent yourself.

    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). Not all blood alcohol tests are exact, however. Alcohol levels go up and down over time, 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.

    You have the right to challenge your breathtest 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 yours is a first offence.

    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 offer this defence.
    • The 2 hour rule: The police cannot force you to do a breath test if it is more than 2 hours since you drove a car. If you are tested and have not been driving for 2 hours, then that evidence may be thrown out of court.
    • At home rule: The police cannot make you do a breath test while you are at your 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 and forced you to do so.

    What you need to show

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

    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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    Special-range PCA Charges

    If you drive for work, or have special licence conditions, Special-range PCA charges can be serious. For drink driving defence lawyers, call 1300 885 646.

    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 $2200 and a 12-month licence suspension, which could severely affect your work, or even stop you from working. Your case will go to court, but with help from Sydney Criminal Defence 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 seen to be “under the influence” of alcohol. Every PCA case has to go to court, but you are more likely to receive leniency if you have experience legal representation. The court is not likely to treat you leniently if you 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 an L-Plate or P-Plate driver, your limit is 0.00, and the court will treat you more harshly for a reading between 0.02 and 0.05 than for one between 0.00 and 0.02.

    However, blood alcohol tests and results are not all exact. Blood alcohol levels change over time, sometimes quickly, and it takes time to go to an RBT or a police station for more testing. 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 a first offence for you, 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 areon 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

DUI charges are Drink Driving charges that are issued without a breath test or other tests, but when 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, but 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 crime is driving while your PCA content is over the limit. It takes time to be taken to the station or mobile RBT unit and test your PCA accurately. 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 High range to Mid range, or 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.
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    What you need to show

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

How can Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers help?

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

Call us now on 1300 885 646 or contact us after hours on 0413 317 391 or text 24hrs to book an appointment with one of our solicitors.

The initial consultation is free.

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