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Drink driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol, is one of the major causes of road accidents in New South Wales. Where you are convicted of a drink driving offence, the Court will generally suspend or disqualify you from driving any motor vehicle for the minimum period as set out in the traffic legislation. Similarly if a maximum period is set by law, the Court cannot impose a greater period. The automatic period of disqualification is the period of disqualification that you can expect to receive unless you can show the Court reasons why your licence should not be disqualified for this period.

High Range Drink Driving

The offence of high range drink driving or high range PCA occurs where a person drives a vehicle with a prescribed blood alcohol concentration PCA above 0.150. The maximum penalties for a first offence high range PCA are:

  • A maximum fine of $3,300,
  • A maximum term of imprisonment for 18 months,
  • A minimum disqualification period of 12 months,
  • An automatic disqualification period of 3 years,
  • An unlimited maximum disqualification period. 

On 8 September 2004, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal delivered what is known as a 'guideline judgement' on high range drink driving. Broadly speaking, a 'guideline judgement' is a set of rules that Courts should generally follow when sentencing a person for a particular offence. In broad terms, the judgment is the 'guideline' that the Court will generally follow when determining how to deal with a person who has been charge with a 'high range drink driving' offence. 

The Court will usually examine the following issues and apply the following considerations when looking at sentencing a person for high range drink driving: 

In an 'ordinary case' of an offence of high range PCA:

  • an order under 'section 10' (no conviction) will rarely be appropriate,
  • a conviction cannot be avoided only because the offender has attended, or will attend, a driver education or awareness course,
  • the automatic disqualification will be appropriate unless there is a good reason to reduce the period of disqualification.

A 'good reason' to reduce the automatic period may include:

  • the nature of the offender's employment,
  • the absence of any viable alternative transport, and
  • sickness or infirmity of the offender or another person.

In an ordinary case of a second or subsequent high range PCA offence:

  • a good behaviour bond under 'section 9' (with a conviction) will rarely be enough punishment,
  • an order under 'section 10' (no conviction) will very rarely be appropriate, and
  • where the prior offence was a high range PCA, any sentence less severe than a community service order will generally not be enough punishment. 

The 'moral culpability' of a high range PCA offender is increased by:

  • the degree of intoxication above 0.15,
  • erratic or aggressive driving,
  • a collision,
  • competitive driving or showing off,
  • the length of the journey,
  • the number of persons put at risk by the driving.

In a case where the moral culpability of a high range PCA offender is increased:

  • an order under sections 9 or 10 would very rarely be appropriate,
  • where more than one aggravating factor is present to a significant degree, a sentence less than prison of some kind, including a suspended sentence, would generally be inappropriate 

In a case where the moral culpability of the offender of a second or subsequent high range PCA is increased:

  • a sentence of any less severity than imprisonment of some kind would generally be inappropriate,
  • where more than one aggravating factor is present to a significant degree or where the prior offence is a high range PCA, a sentence less severe than full time imprisonment would generally be inappropriate.

The Court stated in the guideline judgement that an 'ordinary' high range drink driving case is where:

  • there was a random breath test,
  • the offender has prior good character,
  • the offender has nil, or a minor, traffic record,
  • the offender's licence was suspended on detection,
  • the offender pleaded guilty,
  • there is little or no risk of re-offending,
  • the offender would be significantly inconvenienced by a loss of licence.

Further, the Court stated that the following factors may justify leniency when the Court is determining the penalty the offender should receive for the offence:

  • strong need for a licence,
  • completing a traffic offender program,
  • driving that occurred due to an emergency or safety or another unforeseen reason, rather than for convenience.

Mid Range Drink Driving

The offence of mid range drink driving or mid range PCA occurs where a person drives a vehicle with a prescribed blood alcohol concentration PCA between 0.08 and 0.150. The maximum penalties for a first offence mid range PCA are:

  • A maximum fine of $2,200,
  • A maximum term of imprisonment for 9 months,
  • An unlimited maximum disqualification period,
  • A minimum disqualification period of 6 months,
  • An automatic disqualification period of 12 months.

Low Range Drink Driving

The offence of high range drink driving or high range PCA occurs where a person drives a vehicle with a prescribed blood alcohol concentration PCA between 0.05 and 0.08. The maximum penalties for a first offence mid range PCA are:

  • A maximum fine of $2,200,
  • An unlimited maximum disqualification period,
  • A minimum disqualification period of 6 months,
  • An automatic disqualification period of 12 months.

Other drink driving offences

There are other drink driving offences, which a Navado Traffic Lawyer can provide you with legal advice about or for which a Navado traffic lawyer can appear with you at Court.  These offences include the offences of Special Range Drink Driving or Novice Range Drink Driving.

Navado’s Traffic drink driving lawyers and solicitors regularly appear in drink driving matters in Local or District Courts across the Sydney area. If you are charged with a drinking driving or DUI offence, we suggest that you speak with one of our drink driving lawyers. Our experienced drink driving lawyers will be able to give you specific legal advice in relation to your DUI offence and guide you in the best way to deal with the drink driving offence you have been charged with. You are able to speak with one of our drink driving lawyers in our Sydney CBD office, or arrange a free initial consultation at one of our branch offices located across the Sydney area including, North Sydney, Gordon, Bondi Junction and Liverpool.

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This webpage (and any material or wording appearing on this webpage) is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute any Legal Advice. It does not take into account your objectives, your instructions or all of the relevant facts and/or circumstances. Navado accepts no responsibility to any person who relies on the information provided on this website. We further refer you to our Disclaimer.

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