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Drink Driving Penalties NSW

Penalties for drink driving may involve gaining demerit points, paying fines, disqualification or imprisonment. The latter penalty is usually imposed in cases of serious violations such as those that result to death or grievous bodily harm.

In determining the penalty the courts will also consider whether the violation committed is a first offence, second or subsequent offence.

The drink-driving offences is now governed and punished under the newly enacted ROAD TRANSPORT ACT 2013. The law provides penalties for the different categories of drink-driving prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) violations.

The law considers the fact that there are first time violators as well as habitual violators and thus provided the appropriate penalties thereof. Drink-driving violations include: novice range PCA, special rang PCA, low-range PCA, middle range PCA, and high range PCA. Each violation, depending to its extent, has the appropriate penalty provided by the law.

According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, in its Bureau Brief dated January 2012, a fine is the most serious penalty, imposed on 59.8 per cent of convicted drink-drivers. The average fine varies according to the PCA range of the offence: $470 (low range PCA range), $704 (middle range PCA offence), $1,056 (high range PCA offence) and $361 (special range PCA offence).

The second most common penalty is a bond without conviction or no conviction recorded, imposed on about 22 per cent of convicted drink-drivers. Bonds without conviction or no conviction recorded, however, remain extremely rare for offenders convicted of high range PCA offences.

The Penalties

Under the Road Transport Act 2013, the principal penalties that can be imposed on prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA) offenders are the following:

  1. Imprisonment
  2. Home detention
  3. Periodic detention
  4. Suspended sentences
  5. Bond with/without supervision
  6. Community service order
  7. Fine
  8. Bond without conviction, no conviction record
  9. Driver license disqualification
  10. Intensive correction order

For novice range PCA, the maximum penalty is 10 penalty units (in the case of a first offence) or 20 penalty units (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).

For special range PCA, the maximum penalty is10 penalty units (in the case of a first offence) or 20 penalty units (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).

For low range PCA, maximum penalty is 10 penalty units (in the case of a first offence) or 20 penalty the units (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).

For middle range PCA, the maximum penalty is 20 penalty units or imprisonment for 9 months or both (in the case of a first offence) or 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months or both (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).

For high range PCA, the maximum penalty is 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 18 months or both (in the case of a first offence) or 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years or both (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).

For major driving offences the disqualification to drive is automatic. Courts may shorten or extend the disqualification after hearing the case. A police officer is authorized under the law to suspend immediately the license of the drink-drive offender if the offence resulted to the death or serious bodily harm to the victim.

The police officer will issue the immediate licence suspension notice that takes effect on the date specified on the notice and that the offender has the right to appeal the suspension.

The reason why the penalties for drink driving offences are so stiff is because under NSW law they are classified as "Major Offences". It means that the penalties imposed are high. An offender can also expect to be disqualified from driving and in the worst case a prison term may be imposed.

If you have been arrested for a traffic offence, you may be asked to take a breath test especially if the police officer thinks that you may have been drinking.

A breath analysis test

After an arrest for a traffic violation, a breath analysis is usually required and you are not allowed to refuse. The police have the authority to enforce this under the Road Transport 2013. The refusal to submit to breath analysis or failure to submit to the test according to the instruction of the police officer will give the police officer the authority to arrest and detain the offender. The only defence a person has is on medical grounds but proof has to be provided to support such a claim.

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