Australia: Drug and alcohol offences and the law in New South Wales

There are a number of Drug and Alcohol offences in New South Wales which can see you come before a Magistrate in Court. These offences include but are not limited to:

  • High Range Drink Driving or refuse, hinder, obstruct or alter sample
  • Mid-Range Drink Driving
  • Low, Novice or Special Range Drink Driving
  • Drive under the influence of alcohol or other drug
  • Drive with the presence of Cannabis, speed/ice or MDMA/ecstacy
  • Drive with the presence of morphine or cocaine in blood or urine

The most common drink driving offence occurs when a person's Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) in their blood is higher than the Law in New South Wales permits. Full licenced drivers in New South Wales are permitted to have not more than 0.05 PCA in their blood if driving. A learner or provisional driver is not permitted to have ANY PCA in their blood if driving.

Your PCA determines the severity of your charge:

  • High Range PCA = 0.15 or above
  • Mid Range PCA = 0.08 to less than 0.15
  • Low Range PCA = 0.05 to less than 0.08
  • Novice Range PCA = over zero
  • Special Range PCA = over 0.02 for special category drivers

The tables below indicate the penalties you may face if go before a Magistrate in court.

Offence Maximum Fine Maximum Gaol Automatic Disqualification Minimum Disqualification
High Range PCA $3,300.00 18 months 3 years 12 months
Mid Range PCA $2,200.00 9 months 12 months 6 months
Mid Range PCA $2,200.00 9 months 12 months 6 months
Low Range PCA $1,100.00 N/A 6 months 3 months
Novice Range PCA $1,100.00 N/A 6 months 3 months
Special Range PCA $1,100.00 N/A 6 months 3 months
Driving Under the Influence $2,200.00 9 months 12 months 6 months
Driving with the presence of Cannabis, Speed/ICE or MDMA/Ecstacy $1,100.00 6 months 3 months
Driving with the presence of Morphine or Cocaine $1,100.00 6 months 3 months
Offence Maximum Fine Maximum Gaol Automatic Disqualification Minimum Disqualification
High Range PCA $5,500.00 2 years 5 years 2 years
Mid Range PCA $3,300.00 12 months 3 years 12 months
Low Range PCA $2,200.00 N/A 12 months 6 months
Novice Range PCA $2,200.00 N/A 12 months 6 months
Special Range PCA $2,200.00 N/A 12 months 6 months
Driving under the Influence $3,300.00 12 months 3 years 12 months
Driving with the presence of Cannabis, Speed/ICE, MDMA/Ecstacy $2,200.00 12 months 6 months
Driving with the presence of Morphine or Cocaine $2,200.00 12 months 6 months
PLEASE NOTE: If caught driving with HIGH RANGE or MID RANGE alcohol in your blood, you will IMMEDIATELY be suspended from driving.

Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program

For people convicted of high range, repeat and other serious drink driving offences, the court will order the offender to complete:

  • A minimum licence disqualification period; and
  • A period of participation in the interlock program (at least 12 months).

The court may exempt an offender from participating in the Interlock Program in certain circumstances.

What is an interlock?

Interlocks are electronic breath testing devices linked to the ignition system of cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles. Prior to the vehicle starting, the driver must provide a breath sample which analyses the presence of alcohol. The vehicle will not start if a positive sample is detected.

A person who receives an interlock order, however does not participate, is disqualified from holding a licence for a period of five years from the date of their conviction.

Program Costs

Costs associated with installing and servicing the interlocks must be paid by the offender. The standard estimate of costs for participation until the end of the interlock period is about $2,200.00 per year. Note that costs are subject to change.

Section 10:

In Drink Driving matters, the court has the discretion to not impose any penalty, and dismiss the charge under a Section 10 Good Behaviour Bond. This means that there will be no criminal conviction recorded, no disqualification period, and no fine.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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