Drink Driving Laws & Penalties NSW: Complete Guide

Table Of Contents
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  1. Key Takeaways
  2. Drink Driving
  3. How Much Can I Drink Before Driving?
  4. What are Your Options in Court?
  5. How Long Do You Lose Your Licence for Drink Driving?
  6. Drink Driving NSW
  7. Drink Driving High Range
  8. Mid Range Drink Driving
  9. DUI
  10. Low Range Drink Driving NSW
  11. What is the Novice-range & Special-range Drink Driving Penalties?
  12. Learner Licence Holders Who Commit Interlock Drink Driving Offences
  13. What is a Drink Driving Course?
  14. What are your options after receiving an immediate licence suspension from police for drink driving?
  15. What is considered a ‘second or subsequent’ offence?
  16. Defences to Mid-Range, High-Range & Other Drink Driving Charges 
  17. What factors do the courts look at when determining a penalty for a drink driving offence?
  18. Will your disqualification period be back-dated by the court?
  19. How Do you Reduce Your Drink Driving Charge?
  20. Section 10 Non-Conviction For Drink Driving
  21. What are the Police Powers under our Drink Driving Laws in NSW?
  22. Drink Driving Statistics
  23. How Many Demerit Points Do You Have in NSW?
  24. Sydney DUI Lawyers

Key Takeaways

We outline the penalties, disqualifications, sentences, and defences for drink driving charges in NSW. This article explains your rights and obligations if confronted by police when driving according to the drink driving laws in New South Wales, and getting non-convictions under a conditional release order or section 10. A non-conviction penalty for drink driving will mean you can keep your driver licence without a conviction. Finally, we also outline information on the traffic offenders program, drink driving course, and a run down on police powers.

The Transport and Roads Minister has taken a zero-tolerance approach to drink driving in NSW. For customised legal advice for a drink driving charges, we strongly recommend speaking to our drink driving lawyers Sydney team. If you are located in or near Wollongong, call our drink driving lawyers Wollongong team.

Drink driving laws in NSW are constantly changing and becoming more complex over time. Receiving a drink driving conviction these days can result in losing your driver licence, job which in turn have a significant impact on your loved ones who rely on you for these important aspects of life.

For those reasons, our criminal lawyers Parramatta based summarise everything you need to know about drink driving laws and penalties in NSW.

This guide should answer most, if not all questions around drink driving laws in NSW.

Drink Driving

Drink driving is when a person drives a motor vehicle with the threshold amount of BAC. It can also include driving while under the influence of alcohol, even if there is no specified BAC. This can apply if you are influenced however small by the consumption of alcohol while driving.

Types of Drink Driving

There are 6 main types of drink driving charges. This includes, high range drink driving, mid range drink driving, low range drink driving, DUI, special and novice range drink driving.

Each have their own penalties. These include driver licence disqualification periods, fines, imprisonment and a criminal record (criminal conviction).

What does PCA stand for in drink driving cases?

This means Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol. It’s a crime to drive a vehicle with the threshold amount of PCA, also known as BAC.

A criminal conviction against your name for a drink driving offence can only be avoided if the Magistrate or Judge in court is convinced to impose a non-conviction type of penalty as a sentence on you, which is either section 10 dismissal or a Conditional Release Order without conviction.

Drink Driving Limit | Standard Drink Driving

What is the legal drink driving limit? The legal limit for standard drink driving depends on your licence type/class in NSW. It is illegal to drive if you are of or above the drink driving threshold level prescribed for your licence type.

As there are 6 main drink driving offences, each one has it’s own threshold limit.

An unrestricted licence holder is not allowed to drive with a BAC reading of 0.05g or more of concentration of alcohol.

A provisional, learner or interlock driver licence holder isn’t allowed to drive with any concentration of alcohol.

What Blood Alcohol Level is Classified as Driving While Intoxicated?

The most to least serious drink driving offences in NSW, and their BAC thresholds, also reflected by Transport for NSW:

  1. High-range drink driving: BAC reading of 0.15g or more.
  2. Mid-range drink driving: BAC reading between 0.08g and 0.149g.
  3. DUI: Does not require a BAC reading, nor evidence that alcohol impaired your driving. This offence is committed simply if there is evidence you were under the influence of alcohol while driving, or you occupied the driver seat while attempting to put the vehicle in motion (by intending to drive while you did acts considered more than merely preparatory to driving).
  4. Low-range drink driving: BAC reading of between 0.05g and 0.079g.
  5. Special-range drink driving: BAC reading og between 0.02g and 0.049g (only applies to ‘L’ or ‘P’ platers or interlock device licence holders).
  6. Novice-range drink driving: BAC reading of anything over 0 and 0.019g (only applies to ‘L’ or ‘P’ platers or interlock device licence holders).

Drink Driving Facts

Examples of how long it can actually take to get the alcohol out of your system:

  1. 18-year old Rado Ando holds a Provisional 1 (P1) licence in NSW. If he commenced drinking at 10pm and ended up consuming 6 mixers (about 9 standard drinks) over a 4 hour period till about 2am, his BAC is about 0.24g. It would take over 16-hours for Bob to bring his BAC back down to zero. This means, that if Bob has to work the next morning, he will be over the limit at least until about 6pm that next day.
  2. 19-year old Steven Apples has a P2 licence. He starts consuming alcohol  at 6pm and ends up having 10 schooners (full strength beer equivalent of 15 standard drinks) over a 6-hour period. By midnight, he has a BAC of 0.17g. It will take him about 11 hours for his BAC to get back to zero. This means, he won’t be able to drive until about noon the next day.

How Much Can I Drink Before Driving?

‘How much can I drink before driving’, is very different to, ‘how much can I drink when driving’.

It is illegal to drink alcohol while driving. This can amount to a DUI offence which doesn’t require a specific blood alcohol concentration percentage (BAC), nor is the prosecution required to get an expert to prove the amount of BAC to prove any driving impairment.

For DUI charges (section 112(1)(a) Road Transports Act 2013 (NSW)), the court may hear evidence of any bystander’s (or police officer’s) observation(s) as to the extent an accused person was under the influence to prove the charge, namely that he/she was under the influence while driving.

The case of DPP v Ridley [2015] NSWSC  and DPP (NSW) v Kirby [2017] NSWSC reflects these very points.

It’s generally recommended not to drive on the same day you consume alcohol.

So, what’s the drinking limit in NSW or how much can you drink and drive in Australia?

Alcohol stays in the body for varying periods of time depending on the body type, gender, age, period(s) of time when alcohol was consumed, whether it was consumed on an empty stomach or full stomach, and the type of alcohol consumed.

The BAC starts to increase after consuming alcohol, and often continues to rise for up to 2-hours after you stop drinking.

It’s therefore extremely risky to put a number on how many drinks you can have before driving.

As a general guideline on how many standard drinks you can have to drive in NSW, while still attempt to remain within the legal drinking limit in NSW, is outlined by the RACQ on how to stay under the legal limit as follows:

  • For Males: Up of 2 standard drinks in the first hour, and then 1 standard drink each hour thereafter.
  • For Females: Up of 1 standard drink in the first hour, and then 1 standard drink each hour thereafter.

It is a well known fact that alcohol impairs decision making, and having that one extra drink can result in serious trouble when deciding to drink.

The BAC reflects the amount of alcohol in you. Generally, 10g of alcohol is considered a standard drink.

A champagne glass with 11.5% alcohol, a 375ml stubby or can of full strength beer with 4.9% alcohol generally amounts to 1.5 standard drinks.

Examples of a standard drink includes (approximately):

  • 375ml of Beer with 3.5% alcohol.
  • 285ml Beer with 4.9% alcohol.
  • 30ml Spirit with 40% alcohol.
  • 100ml wine with 12% alcohol.

The RACQ have provided the above guide to help people understand how you may know if you’re over the limit.

This is because the risk of being involved in an accident or crashing increases significantly after consuming alcohol.

The best thing to do is to avoid driving if you intend to consume alcohol.

Having a plan B travel plan is important- this may be by being familiar with the bus or train timetable, Uber, taxi, or getting a lift from someone who is sober to drive.

Alternatively, simply opt-out and say ‘no’ to that extra drink.

What are Your Options in Court?

What to say in court for drink driving? When appearing in court for a drink driving charge, you can either plead ‘guilty’ or plead ‘not guilty’ to the offence.

If you plead ‘guilty’ to a drink driving offence in court, the Judge or Magistrate will proceed to sentence. This involves determining an appropriate penalty to impose on you after hearing any further evidence you wish to produce to get a lenient outcome.

If the Judge or Magistrate imposes a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction penalty on you as a sentence, you will not be disqualified and you will also remain conviction-free for the offence.

If you plead ‘not guilty’ to a drink driving offence in court, the Judge or Magistrate will adjourn your case to another court date for hearing. On the hearing day, the court will decide on whether you’re ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ after hearing evidence from both sides.

Where the court finds you to be ‘not guilty’, your charge will be dismissed, putting an end to your case without any penalty.

Where the court finds you to be ‘guilty’, the Judge or Magistrate will decide on an appropriate penalty to impose during sentencing.

If you want to know more about what is a section 10 bond for drink driving, how to get away with a drink driving charge, or what court do you go to for drink driving, and more, it’s recommended to speak to a drink driving lawyer in Sydney for guidance and advice.

How Long Do You Lose Your Licence for Drink Driving?

You can lose your driver licence as a consequence of drink driving for between 3-6 months to 5 years depending on your level of BAC drink driving offence and how well prepared you are for your sentence in court. It also depends on whether or not the interlock program applies to your case. In some cases, you may apply to be exempt from the interlock device program.

Getting Your Licence Back After Drink Driving

After the completion of your licence suspension or disqualification period, you must attend the closest Service NSW centre to re-apply for your driver licence. In some cases, you may be required to undergo a further test before you are provided with a new driver licence.

Normally, when you get disqualified or suspended, either police or the court will seize your driver licence from you. It is an offence to drive on a road in NSW without a valid driver licence. For this reason, to get your licence back after drink driving, you must re-apply for a licence.

Drink Driving NSW

Here is a complete outline on the main things to know about drink driving laws in NSW, including the penalties, fines, sentences, and period of licence disqualification for each of the main drink driving offences.

Drink driving laws in NSW are complex and can be difficult to both navigate and understand. We have simplified this for you in the below outline.

Drink Driving Penalties NSW

What are the consequences of drink driving?

The penalties, consequences or punishment for drink driving in NSW varies depending on the type of drink driving charge you face, the BAC reading, your traffic record, whether you have any prior drink driving or traffic offences, and the objective and subjective features of your case.

What are the objective features of a drink driving offence?

Objective features here, is when the sentencing Judge or Magistrate looks into factors such as the reason you drove while intoxicated, the number of people in the vehicle with you at the time, the distance you were travelling while drunk, the extent of your BAC reading, and whether there was any unusual driving that caused police to breath test you at the time (i.e. accident, swerving, running through red traffic light or breaking any other traffic rules).

What are the subjective features of a drink driving offence?

Subjective features here, is when the sentencing Judge or Magistrate determines your penalty based on features such as, your prospects of rehabilitation including your mental health at the time, whether your mental condition contributed to you drinking to that extent, your treatment and progress, the impact of a conviction on your job, income and family dependents who rely on your income and ability to drive.

Subjective features also include, your age, expressions of any remorse, insight and acknowledgment of wrongdoing, so that the Court can judge whether or not you’re likely to re-offend.

Partaking and completing an accredited traffic offenders program for a drink driving offence can significantly help in building a strong subjective feature of a drink driving sentence.

Subjective features can also be improved by preparing compelling good character letters for drink driving from certain relevant referees outlining the main points of your case.

The sentencing Court (usually a Judge or Magistrate) will consider the above features before then determining which one of the following types of drink driving penalties to impose on you during sentence:

  1. Section 10 dismissal (non-conviction); or
  2. Conditional Release Order with or without conviction; or
  3. Community Correction Order with conviction; or
  4. Intensive Correction Order with conviction; or
  5. Full-time imprisonment with conviction.

When a court imposes a penalty that carries a conviction, it will also result in a licence disqualification period, with a criminal conviction.

Below is an outline that answers much of the common questions asked around ‘what is the penalty for drink driving?’, ‘how much is a drink driving fine?’ and ‘how long will I lose my licence for drink driving?‘.

Drink Driving High Range

If you have a high-range BAC reading of 0.15g or more while driving, you will face court with the following possible maximum penalties unless you get sentenced in court under a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction:

Fine and Imprisonment Penalties for High-Range in NSW

First or Second Offence Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
If it’s your ‘First Offence’ 18-months $3,300 Yes
If it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’ 24 months $5,500 Yes

Licence Disqualifications for High-Range in NSW

First or Second Offence Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 
If ‘First Offence’
Minimum 6 months or Maximum 9 months 2 years Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year
 

If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

Minimum 9 months or maximum 1 year 4 years Automatic 5 years or minimum 2 years

If convicted for high-range drink driving in court, you will also be required to participate in the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for a ‘minimum interlock period’.

The mandatory interlock program is where a convicted drink driver is required to install an interlock device into the motor vehicle, whereby the vehicle will then only start if, after blowing into it, the interlock device returns a zero-alcohol reading each time.

High Range Drink Driving NSW Guideline Judgement

The current law in NSW requires Courts to have regard to a guide to assist the Magistrate or Judge to impose an appropriate sentence across all kinds of high-range drink driving offences.

This is known as the high-range drink driving guideline judgment which all Magistrates and Judges will be aware of.

This guideline judgement is summarised in the below table for your convenience.

High-Range Drink Driving Guideline Judgement Type of Drink Driving Offence Realistic Range of Punishment
 

If this is your ‘first offence’

 

  • You drove to avoid inconvenience, or you believed you were not that affected by alcohol.
  • You were detected randomly for a random breath test. You were not detected due to the manner of driving.
  • You have a good traffic record, and you’re of prior good character.
  • A loss of licence will significantly inconvenience you.
  • There will be little to no risk of you re-offending.
 

  • s10 would rarely apply
  • automatic disqualification of 3 years will apply unless good reasons to reduce to 1 year
  • conviction with a good behaviour bond will be more appropriate
 

If this is your ‘second or subsequent offence’

 

  • You drove to avoid inconvenience, or you believed that you were not alcohol affected to that extent.
  • You were not detected from the manner of your driving. You were detected at random for a random breath test.
  • You have a good traffic record, and you are of prior good character.
  • You will suffer significant inconvenience if you were to lose your licence.
  • There is either little to no risk of you re-offending.
  • Conviction with community service order would be more appropriate
 

If this is your ‘second or subsequent offence’

  • You drove to avoid inconvenience, or you believed you were not affected by alcohol to that extent.
  • You were not detected due to the manner of your driving. You were detected at random for a random breath test.
  • You have a good traffic record, and you’re a person of prior good character.
  • A loss of licence will cause you significant inconvenience.
  • There is little to no risk of you re-offending.
  • Conviction with a community service order, or a more serious punishment would be appropriate
 

If this is your ‘first offence’

  • Your reading was significantly above 0.15.
  • You drove erratic or aggressively.
  • Your vehicle was involved in a collision.
  • You were driving competitively or you were showing off.
  • you drove a long distance, or you intended to do this.
  • You were in the vehicle with other passenger(s).
  • Conviction with a punishment of community service order, or a more serious punishment would be appropriate
 

If this is your ‘second or subsequent offence’

  • Your alcohol reading was significantly above 0.15.
  • You were driving erratic or aggressively.
  • Your vehicle was involved in a collision.
  • You were driving competitively or you were showing off.
  • You were travelling a long distance, or you intended to do so.
  • You were in the vehicle with other passenger(s).
 

  • A punishment of at least suspended sentence, intensive corrections order, home detention or full-time prison would be appropriate.
 

If you have a previous high-range drink driving conviction in last 5 years

 

  • Your alcohol reading was significantly above 0.15.
  • You were driving erratic or aggressively.
  • Your vehicle was involved in a collision.
  • You were showing off or driving competitively.
  • You were travelling a long distance or you intended to do so.
  • There was another passenger(s) in the vehicle.
 

  • Full-time prison would be appropriate

The above high-range drink driving guideline judgement is used as a guide by all Magistrates and Judges in order for them to decide on an appropriate penalty when sentencing an offender. It’s very important to be aware of and understand it before going to court.

Every case is different and your drink driving case may well have some compelling or unusual features about it that may convince a court to impose a lenient sentence, or a sentence that allows you to walk away conviction-free without the loss of your licence, under section 10.

Mid Range Drink Driving

If you have a mid-range BAC reading at the time of driving (0.08 but less than 0.15) then, unless the court imposes a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction sentence, you will face the following possible maximum penalties.

Fine and Imprisonment Penalties for Mid-Range in NSW

First or Second Offence Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
 

If ‘First Offence’

 

9-months $2,200 Yes
 

If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

12 months $3,300 Yes

Licence Disqualifications for Mid-Range in NSW

First or Second Offence Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 

If ‘First Offence’

Minimum 3 months or Maximum 6 months 1 year Automatic 1 year or minimum 6 months
 
If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’
 
Minimum 6 months or maximum 9 months 2 years Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year

A person who’s convicted of mid-range drink driving will be required to then undertake the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for a ‘minimum interlock period’.

The ‘mandatory interlock program’ for mid-range drink driving requires the offender to install a interlock device into the motor vehicle. The interlock device will then only allow the vehicle to start if it returns a zero-alcohol reading after the offender blows into it each time he/she intends to drive.

Mid Range Drink Driving NSW Section 10

getting section 10 non convictions for mid range drink driving offences in New South Wales are more common than you think. But to get it, a lot of work must be put into the case, and there is never a guarantee. Non-conviction sentences come in two main forms, namely, section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order non-convictions. The main difference between them is that the section 10 dismissal does not carry a good behaviour bond period. In contrast, the Conditional Release Order non-conviction carries a period of good behaviour bond, usually 2 years is imposed by courts in NSW.

It is strongly recommended to get tailored advice from an experienced drink driving lawyer when preparing for a non-conviction penalty, especially if you really need your licence.

DUI

If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of driving (even if without proof of the extent of your impairment), you will face heavy penalties in court, unless the court imposes a non-conviction sentence on you (s10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order).

DUI Meaning

DUI means “driving under the influence” of a substance that intoxicates you and can impair your ability to drive. A due charge is different to a drink driving charge for two main reasons, firstly, it refers to alcohol or drugs and secondly it does not require a level of BAC to reflect the level of impairment unlike mid or high range drink driving does.

DUI can amount to a criminal conviction in court. However, if well prepared, it is possible to avoid a conviction and still keep your licence. It’s strongly recommended to urgently speak experienced dui solicitors for advice tailored to your case if you are faced with a DUI charge.

Fine and Imprisonment for DUI in NSW

First or Second Offence Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
 

If ‘First Offence’

 

18-months $3,300 Yes
 

If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

24 months $5,500 Yes

Driver Licence Disqualification Periods for DUI or Driving Under the Influence Drink Driving Offences in NSW

First or Second Offence Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 
If it’s your ‘First Offence’
Minimum 6 months or Maximum 9 months 2 year Automatic 3 years or minimum 1 year
 

If it’s your ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

Minimum 9 months or maximum 1 year 4 years Automatic 5 years or minimum 2 years

If the court convicts you for a DUI offence, you’ll then be subject to the ‘mandatory interlock program’ for the ‘minimum interlock period’ if the DUI offence involves driving under the influence of alcohol (not drugs).

The ‘mandatory interlock program’ requires a person convicted of DUI to install an interlock device into the motor vehicle. The installed device will not allow the vehicle to start unless it returns a zero-alcohol reading after the person blows into the device each time he/she attempts to drive.

Low Range Drink Driving NSW

A low-range drink driving offence occurs if a person drives a motor vehicle with a concentration alcohol reading between 0.05g, but less than 0.08g in every 210 litres of breath or 100 millilitres of blood.

As of 20 May 2019, NSW police will issue an on-the-spot fine of $581, plus an immediate 3-months driver licence suspension to first-time low-range drink drivers (section 224 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)).

The benefits of an on-the-spot fine are:

  1. You won’t be required to attend court to face a Magistrate; and
  2. You won’t receive a criminal conviction/record as a result of paying this fine.

The disadvantages of an on-the-spot fine are:

  1. Your driver licence will still be immediately suspended by police; and
  2. You’ll be required to pay the fine.

If you wish to avoid the 3-month immediate licence suspension period and fine, you may choose 1 of the following 2 options:

  1. Court-elect the on-the-spot fine: You will then be required to appear in court to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to the low-range drink driving charge. You will avoid the licence suspension and fine if the Magistrate, after hearing both sides of the case, decides you’re ‘not guilty’ or imposes a non-conviction sentence even after you plead guilty (s10 or CRO); and/or
  2. Elect to appeal the police suspension: You will then be required to attend court. If ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify lifting or varying the suspension can be shown in court, the Magistrate will lift the suspension period or reduce it.

If it’s your ‘second or subsequent’ low-range drink driving offence, or if you court-elect any one of these offences as a first-time offender, you will be required to appear before a Local Court Magistrate.

The table below outlines the maximum penalties you could face if your low range drink driving offence ends up being dealt with in court. These penalties will not apply if the court sentences you with a section 10 non-conviction order.

What is the Novice-range & Special-range Drink Driving Penalties?

The below outlines the penalties for those who fall within the threshold BAC levels of the lesser serious type of drink driving offences in NSW.

For example, the ‘L’ or  ‘P’ plate alcohol limit in NSW is a BAC of more than ‘0’. Unrestricted or full licence holder alcohol limit in NSW is a BAC of 0.05g or more.

A special-range drink driving offence occurs when a person who holds a Learner, Provisional or interlock drivel licence, drives a motor vehicle with a BAC between 0.02g, but less than 0.05g.

A novice-range drink driving offence occurs when a person who holds a Learner, Provisional, or interlock driver licence, drives a motor vehicle with a BAC reading of more than 0, but less than 0.02g.

Police now issue the same on-the-spot fines ($581) and a 3-months immediate licence suspension to first time novice-range and special-range drink drivers. The same benefits and disadvantages and options to court elect apply to these as they apply to low-range offences.

Max Fine and Imprisonment Penalties for Low-Range, Novice-Range & Special-Range Drink Driving Offences in NSW

First or Second Offence Imprisonment Fine Criminal Conviction
 

If ‘First Offence’

 

No prison $2,200 Yes
 

If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

No prison $3,300 Yes

Driver Licence Disqualification Periods for Low-Range, Novice-Range & Special-Range Drink Driving Offences in NSW

First or Second Offence Period of Compulsory Disqualification Minimum Interlock Period Disqualification period if you’re exempt from Interlock Program or if interlock program doesn’t apply
 

If ‘First Offence’

Interlock doesn’t apply Interlock doesn’t apply Automatic 6 months or minimum 3 months
 

If ‘Second or Subsequent Offence’

 

Minimum 1 month or maximum 3 months 1 year Automatic 1 year or minimum 6 months

The ‘mandatory interlock program’ which attracts the ‘minimum interlock period’ only applies to ‘second or subsequent’ low-range, novice-range or special-range drink driving offenders.

Those who are subject to the mandatory interlock program will be required to install an interlock device in the motor vehicle, whereby the vehicle will only start if it returns a zero-alcohol reading after blowing into the device each time the offender tries to drive.

Who do the special-range drink driving laws apply to?

Special-range drink driving laws and penalties apply to the following:

  • Learner licence holder
  • Provisional licence holder
  • Interlock driver licence holder
  • A person who has had his/her licence refused, cancelled, suspended.
  • A person has had his/her learner, provisional or interlock licence expired.
  • A person has had his/her driver licence (other than a learner, provisional or interlock licence holder) expired for over 6-months.
  • A person who has been disqualified from driving.
  • A person who’s never obtained a relevant driver licence.
  • the vehicle is being driven for reward, hire, in course of business, or as a public passenger vehicle.
  • The vehicle is being driver as a taxi or hire vehicle for a passenger service.
  • The vehicle is a coach or motor vehicle with a GVM of more than 13.9 tonnes.
  • The vehicle is being used with a trailer, with a GCM of more than 13.9 tonnes in combination of the motor vehicle and trailer combined).
  • The vehicle or trailer being towed carries dangerous goods requiring a sign displayed on it under the laws, or the vehicle carries any radioactive substances.

A full licence or unrestricted drivers licence holder is permitted to drive with an alcohol reading of anything below 0.05.

Therefore, special-range drink driving laws and penalties don’t apply to unrestricted or full licence holders in NSW.

Who do the novice-range drink driving laws apply to?

The novice-range drink driving laws and penalties apply to the following:

  • Learner licence holder
  • Provisional licence holder
  • Interlock driver licence holder
  • Person who has had any of the above 3 classes of licence refused
  • Person who has had his/her learner, provisional or interlock driver licence suspended, cancelled, disqualified or where it has expired.
  • A person who is not allowed to drive in NSW because he/she has never obtained an applicable drivers licence.

An unrestricted or full-driver licence holder is allowed to drive a motor vehicle with an alcohol reading of anything below 0.05.

Novice-range drink driving penalties do not apply to full-licence holders in NSW.

What are your options after receiving an on-the-spot fine for low-range, special-range or novice-range drink driving?


After receiving an on-the-spot fine for a first-time low-range drink driving offence (or a novice or special-range drink driving), you have 1 of 2 options:

  • Pay the fine:This will put an end to the case without a criminal record and without the need to attend court. However, you will incur demerit points and a 3-months licence suspension. At the expiry of that 3-months, you can re-apply for a licence and continue driving; or
  • ‘Court elect’ the infringement notice, and do not pay the fine: Instead of paying the fine, you may elect to go to court (as an option on the back of the infringement notice). This will require you to attend the Local Court when you will then be required to either plead not guilty or guilty to the low-range, special range or novice range drink driving charge:
    • A plea of not guilty will cause your case to be adjourned to another day in court for a hearing when the Magistrate will determine whether you are guilty or not guilty after hearing both sides of evidence. If you’re found not guilty, the charge will get dismissed. If you’re found guilty, the Magistrate will determine the most appropriate sentence to impose on you.  
    • A guilty plea will cause the Magistrate in court to proceed to a sentence. This is when the Magistrate will decide on the most appropriate penalty to impose on you after hearing any further evidence you wish to produce for the sentence.

The Court can then impose any one of the following types of penalties on sentence for the drink driving offence:

  1. Section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without a criminal record: any one of these penalties will allow you to walk out of court without a criminal record, without a licence disqualification and without a fine; or
  2. Conditional Release Order or fine with a criminal record: any one of these penalties will result in a criminal record, fine, and licence disqualification.

Learner Licence Holders Who Commit Interlock Drink Driving Offences

A learner driver licence holder who commits any of the following drink driving offences will be subject to either a “mandatory interlock order” or an “interlock exemption order”:

  1. Novice, special or low range drink driving (if it’s your second offence)
  2. Mid-range drink driving offence (if it’s your first or second offence)
  3. High-range drink driving offence (if it’s your first or second offence)
  4. Driving under the influence of alcohol (if it’s your first or second offence)
  5. Refuse or fail to submit to breath test/analysis or blood sample (if it’s your first or second offence)

The mandatory alcohol interlock order requires the “L” plater to be disqualified for either the minimum or maximum disqualification period, in addition to a minimum interlock period. These are outlined earlier in this guide.

Unfortunately, an “L” plater cannot have an interlock condition imposed on their licence.

Where “L” platers fail to comply with the minimum interlock period, then they will not be disqualified for the usual 5-years. Their licence simply goes into a cancelled state. They will not be allowed to drive at all until or unless one of the below options are taken.

As an “L” plater you will then have one of the following two options:

  1. At the time of sentence in court, you have one opportunity to apply for a section 212 application to be exempt from the interlock order. If successful, you will be disqualified for either the automatic or minimum disqualification period applicable without having to comply with an interlock period.
  2. If you’re not exempt from the interlock order, upon the expiration of the minimum disqualification period, your “L” plate licence will be cancelled. You will need to progress to a provisional licence when eligible. If successful, you will be issued with a provisional licence with an interlock licence condition. The provisional licence holder will then be permitted to drive provided the interlock licence condition is complied with. Failure to comply with the interlock licence condition will result in a 5-year disqualification period. You will be allowed to drive thereafter, however by that stage, you will be required to re-apply for a licence.

Before applying for a provisional licence, after the minimum disqualification period is complete, you must first re-apply for a learner licence. To re-apply, a knowledge test must be completed.

After a learner licence is re-issued, you are required to pass a hazard perception test in order to be eligible for a provisional licence.

The hazard perception test can only be completed if you’ve been on a learner licence for at least 10-months. You will be eligible to apply for a provisional licence if the hazard perception test has been passed and only if you’ve been on a learner licence for at least 12-months.

What is a Drink Driving Course?

Drink driving course is participation and completion of an accredited NSW traffic offenders intervention program (TOP) by the time your case is listed in court can significantly improve your sentence outcome to avoid a criminal conviction and keep your licence.

TOP is an education program that aims to inform drivers as to the dangers of driving in dangerous and irresponsible ways.

The drink driving course and what to expect? It also teaches methods on how to avoid such behaviour and informs motorists on the penalties of committing these driving offences in NSW.

It allows the Judge or Magistrate to reduce your penalty by accepting that you have greater insight into your offence and are unlikely to re-offend.

The TOP you entoll into must be an approved program under Part 8 Criminal Procedure Regulation 2017 (NSW). If the program is not approved, then the Court is not required to take it into account in your favour of your sentence.

How long does a drink driving course take?

In the past, a TOP course would take up to 8 weeks to complete through PCYC which included 2 hour lectures a week.

PCYC continue to provide this program which is also very beneficial for a drink driving sentence, to have the penalty reduced. It involves 14-hours covering various topics and sessions.

Each component is required to be passed involving various sessions, including the responsibilities of holding a NSW Driver Licence, factors that are related to road crashes and the enforcement strategies used by NSW Police and RMS to mitigate the road trauma, the accident scene, alcohol & drugs, crash consequences, the legal system, driving facts, victims of road trauma and a final reflection.

the TOP also has a number of presenters presenting, including highway patrol officer, ambulance officer, alcohol & drug expert, a victim of road accident, traffic lawyer, road safety professional and victim groups.

If you wish to complete the TOP drink driving course in a shorter time, then one of the best TOP drink driving programs to enroll into is the TORP Traffic Offenders Rehabilitation Program, which can be completed over 2 days involving an online session completed at home plus an on-site sessions completed at one of their venues across NSW.

How much does a drink driving rehabilitation course cost? The PCYC TOP program cost is $150 who have up to 65 locations it is hosted at across NSW.

This 1 to 2 days TORP Traffic Offenders Rehabilitation Program course is approved, and costs $170.

The shorter TORP course takes only about 90 to 120 minutes to complete online. You can enroll in their Sydney CBD, Parramatta, Newcastle, Manly or Wollongong venue. (Places get filled up quickly, so we suggest you enroll as soon as possible).

The Court will only take an approved drink driving course (Traffic Offenders Program) into account in your favour during sentencing if you end up completing the course successfully.

For more information on enrolling into the TORP shorter course, contact 0426 994 769. It is a highly beneficial course in preparation for a drink driving sentence.

What are your options after receiving an immediate licence suspension from police for drink driving?

If you receive an immediate police licence suspension, you will continue to be suspended (for the 3-months) unless you either:

  1. Successfully appeal the police suspension in the Local Court (Police Suspension); or
  2. Through court-electing the penalty, the Local Court determines your case before the 3-months suspension expires.

If successful in appealing the police suspension in court, the Court will remove the police suspension period, allowing you to continue driving after you’re issued with a new licence.

The Magistrate will only remove the police suspension period if convinced that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify it.

To do this, you will need to first lodge a police suspension appeal in the Local Court. This is a separate application in court to appeal the police’s decision to suspend your licence.

You will have within 28-days from the date you were issued with the police suspension notice to file this appeal. You can only lodge this appeal if the charge that caused the immediate police suspension to arise hasn’t yet been heard and determined in court (section 268(6) Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW)).

What is considered a ‘second or subsequent’ offence?

A drink driving offence will be considered a ‘second or subsequent offence’ if in the last 5-years from the date the court convicts you for your current offence, you have been convicted of a ‘major offence’ (including drink driving).

If you have not been convicted of a ‘major offence’ in the last 5-years, your current drink driving offence will be considered a ‘first offence’.

A ‘major offence’ includes any one of the following offences:

  • Any drink driving offence.
  • Driving negligently causing grievous bodily harm or death.
  • Driving with an illicit drug in your blood, urine or oral fluid.
  • Furious, reckless or driving at a speed dangerous.
  • Menacing driving.
  • Failing or refusing to provide or submit to a test or analysis.
  • Altering the alcohol or drug concentration in your body.

A low-range, novice-range or special-range drink-driving offence will still be considered a ‘second or subsequent offence’ if:

  • You committed a drink driving offence, dealt with by way of an on-the-spot fine, within 5-years from the date the court convicts you for your current drink driving offence.

Defences to Mid-Range, High-Range & Other Drink Driving Charges 

A successful drink driving defence will result in the drink driving charge being dismissed by the Court or withdrawn beforehand through negotiating with police.

Negotiations commence from the moment a letter is drafted and sent to the Officer in Charge outlining all the weaknesses of their evidence. This document is called ‘legal representations’.

It’s vital that the ‘legal representation’ letter is carefully and effectively drafted in a way best suited to your drink driving case.

A successful defence will result in you being found ‘not guilty’ in court after the Magistrate hears all the evidence in court.

The following are some common drink driving defences:

The At-Home Defence This applies if you’re breath tested or drug tested on your own private property, such as driveway or car park to your unit.
The Two-Hour Defence This applies if your breath tested or drug tested at a time when two-hours have passed since you were driving a motor vehicle.
The Pharmacologist Defence This applies if an expert report called a ‘pharmacologist report’ says that at the time of driving you were below the BAC threshold of the drink driving charge you face.
The Technical Defence This applies if at time the police say you drove a motor vehicle, the vehicle under the law was not ‘in motion’ and if you weren’t trying to put it in motion.
The Mistake of Fact Defence This applies if at the time of driving, you honestly and reasonably believed that in a set of circumstances (even though you were mistaken) you were not intoxicated from alcohol (or drugs). i.e. if your drink was spiked.

What factors do the courts look at when determining a penalty for a drink driving offence?

In addition to the factors already outlined on this page, the court will also consider the following factors when determining the appropriate sentence to impose for a drink driving offence:

  • Your traffic record is important to consider. You can obtain an updated record directly from the RMS.
  • Your age and health.
  • If you drove in an unusual manner attracting police attention or you were simply pulled over for a random breath test without any unusual driving.
  • Any compelling reason why you drove.
  • The extent of your BAC reading.
  • Whether you are suffering a mental illness.
  • How long the journey was that you intended to travel or did in fact travel whilst under the influence.
  • Whether there was a collision, damage or any injuries caused to anyone involved, including yourself.
  • Whether there were any passengers other than you in the vehicle at the time of driving.
  • Whether your job, income and any dependants will be affected if you were to be imprisoned, disqualified or convicted for drink driving.

Will your disqualification period be back-dated by the court?

If the court convicts you for a drink driving offence, you will be disqualified from driving for the specified period outlined on this page.

However, any period of time that you’ve already been suspended for leading up to the date of your drink driving conviction in court will be taken into account towards the court ordered disqualification period.

This effectively back-dates the disqualification period imposed by the court.

How Do you Reduce Your Drink Driving Charge?

How to get off a drink driving charge? It is possible to walk out of court without a criminal record and without a disqualification of your driver licence even after pleading guilty to a drink driving offence, but only if you end up getting a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction from the Magistrate or Judge.

Section 10 Non-Conviction For Drink Driving

What is a Section 10 for a Drink Driving Offence?

A section 10 drink driving dismissal is what the Judge or Magistrate can impose after pleading guilty or if you’re found guilty of a drink driving offence in NSW.

A section 10 allows you to walk away without a criminal conviction, and it allows you to keep your driver licence- in other words you end up avoiding a licence disqualification.

A Court can do this if the Magistrate or Judge is convinced under section 10 Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW):

  • It will be expedient to discharge you without a conviction; or
  • It will be inexpedient to punish you further, other than nominal punishment.

While no one can ever guarantee to get you this kind of outcome in court, there are many things you can do in preparing and presenting your case to maximise your chances of getting this kind of outcome for a drink driving offence.

A section 10 can be either a section 10 dismissal as outlined above, or it may be a Conditional Release Order without conviction (CRO).

A CRO order without conviction has the same effect, as it leaves a drink driving offender without a criminal conviction, and without a licence disqualification (so that he/she can continue to drive).

The CRO without conviction also imposes a good behaviour bond period as a condition, meaning that the offender will be required to be of good behaviour and not commit any further offences during that time-frame (usually 2-years).

This was previously known as a section 10 bond.

Some of the conditions of a CRO without conviction on a drink driving offender can includes, standard conditions (not to further offences and to appear in court if called upon to do so), in addition to additional conditions, which may include:

  • Participating in a rehabilitation program if it can address a relevant concern such as mental health of alcohol addiction.
  • Prohibition from drinking alcohol or other drugs.
  • Prohibition from associating with a certain person(s).
  • Prohibition from going to a particular place, or
  • Condition to comply with supervision.

The CRO without conviction doesn’t let a Court impose a community service order, home detention or curfews (unlike the other types of penalties available).

Every case should be catered to its particular situation when formulating the best strategy in preparing and presenting the case in the right way in court. Experienced drink driving lawyers can best guide you on this.

The best way to maximise your chances of getting a section 10 sentence for drink driving varies and depends on the particular case.

Generally, to be put in the best position to get a section 10, it is important to prepare some compelling good character letters pointing out the main issues in your case, including your remorse, insight and acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

By pleading guilty early enough, the Court will be required to reduce your sentence by 25%, which brings you steps closer to getting a section 10.

If you suffer from mental health, this may be highly relevant to highlight to the Magistrate for your sentence. This is because it can significantly increase your chances at getting a s10.

The best way to highlight this, is to get a compelling psychologist report from an experience psychologist or psychiatrist expert.

Where you have a strong need for a driver licence, or you have family depends who rely on you to either drive or to earn an income, then it’s important to get a letter from those people outlining these points.

Where a criminal conviction will result in you losing your job, then it’s important to produce evidence of this to the Court.

You may produce this evidence by using your employment contract, which may express this point, or obtain a letter from your employer, or someone higher up who works there, outlining this.

For more details click here for an outline on ‘how to avoid a criminal conviction after pleading guilty in court’.

Restrictions on Getting a section 10 or Non-conviction For Drink Driving

The only situation that a Court is prohibited from giving a drink driving offender a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction is if the offender has already received a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction for any one of the following types of offences within the previous 5-years (from the date the court determines your current drink driving offence):

  • Drink driving
  • Drug driving (driving with illicit drug in your oral fluid, blood or urine)
  • Driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drug(s)
  • Menacing driving
  • Failing to stop and assist after impact causing injury or Failing to stop and assist after vehicle impact causing grievous bodily harm or death under section 52AB Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)
  • Refusing or failing to submit to an alcohol or drug test
  • Altering concentration or amount of alcohol or drugs in your breath or blood
  • Negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm or death
  • Furious driving, reckless driving or driving at a speed or manner dangerous to public

This is outlined is section 203 Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

Drink Driving Criminal Record and How Long?

How long does a DUI stay on your record? A drink driving conviction is considered a criminal record unless the court imposes a section 10 or Conditional Release Order without conviction sentence. A drink driving criminal record remains a conviction on your record (before it is “spent”) for a period of 10 years in New South Wales. It will be “spent” and no longer considered a criminal record if during that 10 year period you are not convicted of any traffic offence.

Generally, when a conviction is “spent”, it is no longer required to be disclosed or taken into consideration.

What are the Police Powers under our Drink Driving Laws in NSW?

When can Police Require you to Stop your Car to Conduct a Random Breath Test (RBT)?

Here is more information around the laws on random breath testing (RBT).

What if I am Seated in the Car, But Not Driving the Car?

Police are also allowed to stop you for the purposes of carrying out a random breath test if you are on a road, seated in the driver seat, where you are found to be trying to “put the vehicle in motion” (where you’re not actually driving the car).

What Does “Trying to Put the Vehicle in Motion” Mean?

You cannot be guilty of driving a car with an alcohol concentration above the legal limit if you are seated in the driver seat (on a road), but stationary with the engine on.

The case of Burchell v Goodall [1994] WASC 491 says that the prosecution must prove more- they must prove you firstly intended to drive the car, and secondly, you did act(s) that the court believes were more than merely preparatory to the driving of the car.

This is where the court will look into the circumstances of the case.

In some cases there may be a strong inference that you did attempt to put the car in motion where, for example:

  • You had the key in the ignition
  • You had your seat belt on
  • You told police that you intended to drive when you got into the car

In other cases, you will likely be not guilty where:

  • You’re drunk
  • You get into your car to sleep
  • The engine is running to have the heater on
  • You have no seat belt on
  • You tell the police you were in your car to sleep

Every case depends on its own facts and the court will look into those proven facts.

What Happens After You Get Stopped for an RBT?

In those circumstances, police are allowed to then require you to provide a breath test- usually by talking into or blowing into a device at the road side. Here is more on you rights and obligations after you get stopped by police for RBT.

What if You Refuse or Fail to Give a “Breath Test” at the Road Side?

The preliminary assessment known as the breath test is done at the road side. It’s different to the breath analysis which is done later if the preliminary assessment indicates that your concentration of alcohol is above the legal limit. Here is more on refusing a breath test in NSW.

What if you Refuse or Fail to Give a “Breath Analysis” at the Police Station?

Failing or refusing to provide the police with a breath analysis at the police station or RBT bus carries the following penalties:

Where in the last 5 years, you have no other major offence (fail or refuse to give breath analysis, or drink driving offence):

  • A penalty of up to $3,300 fine or prison of up to 18 months (or both).
  • An automatic disqualification of 3 years. The court can reduce this to a minimum of 12 months.

Where in the last 5 years, you have a major offence (fail or refuse to give breath analysis, or drink driving offence):

  • A penalty of up to $5,500 fine or 2 years prison (or both).
  • An automatic disqualification of 5 years. The court can reduce this to a minimum of 2 years.

If you manage to convince the Court to give you a non-conviction (an available option as a punishment by the court) then you will not receive any of the above penalties. It also means you do not get a criminal record.

What if You’re Unable to Blow into the Breath Analysis Device to Give a Sample?

If you’re physically unable to blow into the breath analysis device after being arrested, then the police officer has the power to require you to provide a blood sample to determine the concentration of alcohol in your blood.

What Happens if you Refuse or Fail to provide a Blood Sample?

If you refuse to comply with police directions to provide a blood sample (after you have been physically unable to give a breath analysis earlier), the police can use such force that may be necessary to take you to the hospital for this purpose. Here is more information on the penalties for refusing a blood sample.

What Happens After the Breath Analysis Test is Completed?

After the breath analysis test is complete, the police will then give you a statement reflecting details of the reading you gave, including the day and time of the breath analysis test.

If the breath analysis provides a reading above the legal limit of alcohol, you can expect to then receive the charge papers by police. The charge papers will include the statement of the reading you gave, your court attendance notice showing your court date and drink driving charge. It usually also includes a statement of police facts.

When Can You Refuse to Give Police a Random Breath Test?

There are limited situations in which you can lawfully refuse to submit to a breath test in NSW. Here is more information on when you can refuse a breath test in New South Wales.

Drink Driving Statistics

Here we outline how many deaths are caused by drink driving and why is drink driving dangerous.

Transport for NSW says that drink driving’s a factor in around 1 in every 7 crashed in NSW, resulting in someone losing a life.

The Transport for NSW website states, that out of the drink driving offenders who have been killed in a 5-year period between 2013 and 2017, 93% were men and 67% were female aged below 40.

Did you know that drink driving is the number 1 contributing reason in about thirty percent of fatal accidents in Australia?

In fact, more than one in four riders/drivers who die on our roads have a BAC over the legal drink driving limit.

This is despite the fact that BAC drink driving limits have been in place for more than 25-years.

To demonstrate the magnitude of the prevalence of this offence, a Queensland police survey revealed that from the 3.65 million breath tests it conducted, more than 22,000 people were caught drink driving. This provides a 0.6% drink driving rate just in Queensland.

By having your alcohol level BAC over 0.05g, the risk of a casualty crash increases by two fold. In addition, the risk of a fatal crash rises even more than this where the BAC is over 0.05g.

How does alcohol work in your body? It’s a form of drug, which has an impact mentally and physically. This is because alcohol’s a depressant, which if used excessively can impair your cognitive functions which has an impact on your judgment, reaction and ability to remember.

Then how does alcohol impact on your ability to drive? keeping the above in mind, being intoxicated from alcohol:

  1. Slows down your ability to react, which is extremely concerning, because your ability to react in time could effect someone’s life or your life on the road.
  2. Can impair your vision and hearing ability, which effects your ability to avoid dangers on the road.
  3. Can impair your ability to notice others on the road, and
  4. Reduces your ability to multi task while driving.

How Many Demerit Points Do You Have in NSW?

Demerit points is a scheme in NSW designed to encourage responsible and safe driving on our roads.

The consequences incurring too many demerit points can have significant effects on your ability to maintain a driver licence, income and on family dependents who rely on your licence to drive.

Every driver licence holder starts off with zero demerit points in NSW.

As demerit points are incurred and accumulated from committing traffic offences, a driver’s licence holder gets closer to using up the allocated threshold number of demerit points before facing penalties.

  • “P1” or “L” plate licence holder can incur up to 3 demerit points without facing a penalty.
  • “P2” plate licence holder can incur up to 6 demerit points without facing a penalty.
  • An unrestricted or full driver licence holder can incur up to 12 demerit points without facing a penalty.
  • An unrestricted professional driver licence holder can incur up to 13 demerit points without facing a penalty.

What are the Penalties for Using Up All Your Demerit Points?

A full or unrestricted driver licence holder in NSW will face the following penalties according to the number of demerit points incurred in a 3-year period:

  • 13-15 demerit points: 3-months suspension of driver licence, which commences 28-days from the date the notice of suspension is served.
  • 14-15 demerit points if you’re a professional driver: 3-months suspension of driver licence, to commence 28-days from the day of receiving the notice of suspension.
  • 16-19 demerit points: 4-months suspension of driver licence, to commence 28-days from day of receiving notice of suspension.
  • 20 or more demerit points: 5-months suspension of driver licence, starting from day of receiving the notice of suspension.

Sydney DUI Lawyers

As established DUI lawyers, we also have drink driving lawyers in Liverpool, in addition to experienced drink driving lawyers in Parramatta and the finest drink driving lawyers Campbelltown has to offer.

Call us to arrange a free consult today. We appear across all courts.

Contact us 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218 to get a quote for a fixed fee today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Old vs New Drink Driving Laws: Changes Made in 2019

In May 2019, NSW drink driving laws were changed drastically.

In summary, the following changes were made:

  • Police are now given more power, by being able to now issue on-the-spot penalty notices to first-time low-range drink drivers, with a fine of $581 plus 3-month suspension of driver licence without a requirement to attend court at all. Previously, a first-time low-range drink driver was required to appear before a Magistrate in the Local Court to face the charge, which used to serve as a strong deterrent.
  • First & second-time mid-range drink drivers are now subject to having an interlock device installed into the vehicle he/she drives. Previously, the interlock program was not mandatory for first-time mid-range drink drivers.
  • First-time low-range drink drivers who choose to court-elect the penalty notice will now be subject to face a maximum penalty of $2,200 fine, which was previous half of that in the Local Court.

Roads Minister Ms. Melina Pavey has said that about 6,000 people in NSW are charged with first-time mid-range drink driving, while 55 people in 2017 had dies from drink driving.

Ms. Pavey argues, that the power to police to now issue on-the-spot fines for first-time low-range drink drivers will reduce the pressure on court resources by reducing the volume of cases, and a better deterrent way that requiring a drink driver to appear in court to face the charge.

Ms. Pavey basis this on the fact that the 3-years preceding the end of June 2017, over half of first-time low-range drink drivers received no fine and no criminal convictions (s10’s).

However, the counter argument to this on the other side is that, not only are the new laws harsher than the previous penalties on drink driving, and while over half of offenders receive section 10’s, there appears to be a greater cause to generate more revenue by introducing the new on-the-spot fines.

Moreover, one would also think, that there is a greater deterrent effect from being required to appear in court to face a Magistrate where there is a gallery of people in the court room, which provides an opportunity for the offender to reflect on his/her offending behaviour prior to the court date- as opposed to an on-the-spot fine without a requirement to appear in court.

We are also of the firm view that, going to court for drink driving on a plea of guilty allows an offender to provide an explanation for his/her drink driving behaviour. It also allows the offender to outline any compelling and sometimes exceptional features of the case concerning the extent of a need for a licence and impact of a criminal record.

Other factors would also be relevant, including the offenders traffic record and contrition, but knowing all of this information may justify a Court in exercising discretion to not impose a conviction and not impose a disqualification. The new first-time low range drink driving laws appear to now take this discretion away from the courts.

In effect, the new laws now appear to by-pass our judicial process of discretion which has a human element.

 

Can I Keep my Licence and Avoid a Conviction After Pleading Guilty to Drink Driving?

The Penalties outlined under the new drink driving laws don’t apply to a drink driving offender if the Court is convinced enough to not impose a conviction by giving a section 10 or CRO non-conviction order (even after pleading guilty to drink driving in court).

Getting a section 10 or Conditional Release Order (CRO) non-conviction order will mean you get to keep your driver licence, avoid a disqualification and fine, and walk away without a criminal record against your name.

Can I plead guilty and Still Avoid a Conviction with Section 10/Conditional Release Order More than Once?

This has been briefly outlined earlier, but to be clear, you cannot get a section 10 or CRO non-conviction outcome in court if you have previously received this outcome from a drink driving offence in the last 5-years from the date the court imposes your current drink driving sentence.

What is the alcohol limit in NSW 2020/21?

L and P plate drivers have a zero BAC legal limit. Unrestricted full-licence holders have a BAC threshold limit of 0.05, while those who drive public passenger vehicles, such as cabs, buses, coaches, heavy vehicles or vehicles carrying dangerous goods, have a 0.02 BAC threshold limit.

What are the penalties for drink driving in NSW?

Maximum penalties for the following NSW drink driving charges are:

  1. Low Range: $581 fine + 3 month immediate police licence suspension for first offenders.
  2. Mid Range: $2,200 fine + 9 month jail + 6 month disqualification + 1 year interlock period for first offenders.
  3. High Range: $3,300 fine + 18 month jail + 9 month disqualification + 2 years interlock period for first offenders.
  4. DUI: $3,300 fine + 18 month jail + 9 month disqualification + 2 years interlock period for first offenders.

Can you drink water while driving in NSW?

It is not illegal to drink water while driving. It is illegal if it ends up distracting your attention away from safely driving. Rule 297(1) of the NSW Road Rules prohibits a driver from driving a motor vehicle unless he/she has proper control of it. This has a $457 fine with 3 demerit points.

Can you drink alcohol while driving in NSW?

It is illegal to drink alcohol while driving a motor vehicle in NSW. This carries an on-the-spot fine of $344 and 3 demerit points under rule 298-1 of the NSW Road Rules. This can also result in a DUI charge.

Will I go to jail for high range drink driving?

High range has up to 18-months jail for first offenders and 24 months jail for second or subsequent offenders. But you can avoid a jail sentence for high range drink driving if you have enough mitigating factors of your case to show the court, and where you don’t fall within the fifth category of the high range drink driving guideline judgement.

Mitigating factors are features of your case that allow the Judge to impose a lenient punishment. This includes avoiding full-time jail. It is a good idea to get early advice and guidance from an experienced drink driving lawyer to maximise your chances at avoiding jail.

 

 

What are the new drink driving laws in NSW?

Concerns have been raised about the new drink driving laws, which came into effect as of 20 May 2019, all first-time low-range drink drivers will now get an immediate 3 month licence suspension period with a $581 fine.

 

 

Can I drink 1 beer and drive?

There is no fixed rule as to how many beers you can have before driving. This is due to the fact that alcohol remains in the body for varying periods of time. How long it does depends on many variable factors different to different people, including gender, weight, type of alcohol consumed etc and if it was consumed without solid food. It is generally a good idea to simply not drive after drinking any extent of alcohol.

 

 

 

Can I drive after two bottles of beer?

BAC begins to rise after alcohol is consumed, and it continues to rise for up to 2 hours after drinking has ceased. However, the alcohol will remain in your body based on many variables which can and usually is different for each person. How many drinks you had, strength of the alcohol, your body type, your sex, how much you weigh and many more. Therefore, it is not a good idea to risk being over the limit by driving even after having two beers.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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