The offence

This section covers:

  • finding out what you have been charged with
  • a description of the types of penalties
  • a description of the most common offences
  • some examples of cases and penalties

What have I been charged with?

Many of you will know what you have been charged with, having been informed by the arresting officer. When you leave the police station you should have been given documentation that has the charge clearly written upon it. For example, if you have forms headed "Bail Notice", "Facts Sheet" or "Court Attendance Notice", it should clearly state the charge.

The five most common charges are: High Range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA); Mid Range PCA; Low Range PCA, Special Range PCA and Novice range PCA. These and other offences are considered below and listed in the Penalty chart .

Types of penalties

When dealing with drink-driving offenders the courts generally impose two penalties - a period of disqualification and a traditional penalty such as a fine, bond, community service or imprisonment. The penalties increase if it is your second or further major offence. So that the penalties are understood, the following terms are explained:

Fine:

This is a monetary penalty imposed by the court, and the maximum (upper limit) that can be imposed is listed in the Penalty chart. The court may reduce the fine as it sees fit. Fines can usually be paid off over a period of time up to six months. (See The penalty for how to request time to pay)

Automatic Disqualification Period (ADP)

This is the period of time for which you may be disqualified from driving and obtaining a licence. The court can increase or reduce this period of time.

Minimum Disqualification Period (MDP)

This is the shortest period of disqualification that the court may impose if you have a conviction recorded against you.

Major offence

Major offences are mainly driving related offences and include: murder or manslaughter arising out of motor vehicle accident; predatory driving; failing to stop and assist after being involved in an accident; negligent, furious or reckless driving; menacing driving; all PCA offences; refuse breath analysis; wilfully alter blood concentration after breath test or breath analysis; hinder or obstruct blood samples; driving under the influence and offences related to sobriety assessments and testing for drugs, such as, refuse to provide a blood or urine sample. Also included are offences involving the infliction of grievous bodily harm.

The fine and licence disqualification period for an alcohol related driving offence is increased if you have been convicted of a major offence within the previous five years. (see the Penalty chart ). A major offence will count even if you were previously dealt with by a court under Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.

The following discussion on the types of offences describes the maximum fine that can be imposed by the court. This can be reduced as the court sees fit.

Types of offences

High Range PCA

It is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol of 0.15 and over. If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years, and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $5,500, the ADP is five years and the MDP is two years. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of two years. People charged with this offence have their licence suspended from the date of arrest.

Mid Range PCA

It is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol of between 0.08 and 0.15. If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $2,200, the ADP is 12 months and the MDP is six months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of nine months. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 12 months. The penalties are the same as Driving under the Influence. People charged with this offence will usually have their licence suspended from the date of arrest.

Low Range PCA

It is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol of between 0.05 and 0.08. If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $1,100, the ADP is six months and the MDP is three months. The court may impose a shorter period of disqualification as the court thinks fit. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $2,200, the ADP is 12 months and the MDP is six months. There is no imprisonment for this offence.

Special Range PCA

If you hold a provisional licence or have not been licensed, it is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol of between 0.02 and 0.05. If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $1,100, the ADP is six months, and the MDP is three months. The court may impose a shorter period of disqualification as it thinks fit. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $2,200, the ADP is 12 months and the MDP is six months. There is no imprisonment for this offence.

Novice Range PCA

If you hold a learner or provisional licence, it is an offence to drive with a concentration of alcohol of between 0.00 and 0.02. The fines and disqualification periods are the same as Special Range PCA (above).

Driving under the influence

This is an offence where there has been no actual reading of the concentration of alcohol, but there is other evidence of alcohol or other drugs affecting your driving. If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $2,200, the ADP is 12 months and the MDP is six months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of nine months. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 12 months. The penalties are the same as Mid Range PCA.

Other alcohol related offences

Refuse breath test (the test at the roadside)

This is not a major offence as defined previously. The fine is $1,100. The court may impose a period of disqualification as it sees fit.

Refuse breath analysis (the test at the police station)

If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years and the MDP is 12 months. There is a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months. If is your second or further major offence the fine is $5,500, the ADP is five years and the MDP is two years. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of two years.

Refuse blood or urine test

If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years and the MDP is six months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $5,500, the ADP is five years and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of two years.

Hinder or obstruct blood samples

If it is your first major offence within the past five years the fine is $3,300, the ADP is three years and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months. If it is your second or further major offence in the past five years, the fine is $5,500, the ADP is five years and the MDP is 12 months. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of two years.

Driving whilst disqualified/cancelled/suspended

These are not major offences as defined previously. If it is your first offence within the past five years there is a fine of $3,300 for each of these offences. Each offence carries a mandatory minimum licence disqualification period of 12 month. The court may impose an additional period of disqualification. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months for each offence. If you have been convicted of the same offence or any other major offence in the past five years the fine is $5,500 and the mandatory minimum licence disqualification period is two years. The court may impose an additional period of disqualification. There is also a maximum period of imprisonment of two years.

Of course what you want to know now is "What will I get?" That depends on many factors discussed in the following sections, including your general traffic record, your criminal record, the level of the concentration of alcohol within the range with which you have been charged, the material and submissions you present and the approach of the magistrate before whom you appear. The penalty is also affected by the circumstances surrounding the offence and the reason for apprehension. Clearly there is also an element of chance and luck.

Examples

The examples below may assist you at this stage.

These examples form the basis of the example submissions in Example submissions.

According to figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, in 2005 the average fine for a special range PCA was $369, for Low Range PCA $477, for Mid Range PCA $717 and for High Range PCA $1041. During the same year the majority of offenders who were disqualified from driving for low range PCA lost their licence for a period of three to six months, for mid range PCA the most common disqualification period was six to 12 months and for high range PCA 12-24 months.

As noted earlier, many factors will influence how the court will determine a penalty and these examples and figures are provided as a guide only.