Drink driving charges in NSW refers to penalties that one may receive if authorities find them driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Drink driving charges largely depends on the type of offence that one is charged with. Furthermore, authorities also take the offender's history with drink driving into account when meting out drink driving charges.

It is an offence to drive in the presence of prescribed concentration of alcohol in person's breath or blood according to Section 110 of the Road Transportation Act (2013). The penalties differ depending on the range of the offence. Section 8 of the Road Transport Act list out 5 levels of drink driving, which depends on the prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA). These levels include:

  1. Novice range (0.00 to 0.019 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver)
  2. Special range (0.02 to 0.049 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver or a bus or taxi driver)
  3. Low range (0.05 to 0.079)
  4. Mid-range (0.08 to 0.149)
  5. High range (0.15 and higher)

Novice Range and Special Range Drink Driving Charges

Novice range drink driving offenders face an automatic disqualification of 6 months, unless they've committed another major traffic offence in the last 5 years.

Drivers with a major traffic offence in the past 5 years get a 3-month disqualification and a mandatory 12-month interlock device requirement. They are also subject to a maximum fine of 30 penalty units ($3,300).

Those convicted may receive a maximum fine of 20 penalty units ($2,200).

Low Range Drink Driving Charges

For a first-time major traffic offence like low-range drink driving within the past 5 years, an individual may face a maximum penalty of a 6-month disqualification (potentially reduced to a minimum of 3 months) and a maximum fine of 20 penalty units (currently $2,200).

However, for a second or subsequent major traffic offence within the same time frame, the consequences escalate. This includes a 3-month disqualification (potentially reduced to a month) and a mandatory 12-month interlock device requirement for their vehicle. They may also incur a maximum fine of 30 penalty units (currently $3,300).

Mid Range Drink Driving Charges

For a first-time offence of mid-range drink driving, an individual may face a fine of up to $2,200, a possible nine-month imprisonment, and a driving disqualification ranging from 6 to 12 months (or 6 months with an additional 12-month alcohol interlock period).

But note that in the case of a second or subsequent offence, the penalties intensify, with fines reaching up to $3,300, imprisonment for up to 12 months, and a driving disqualification spanning between 12 months and 3 years (or 6 to 9 months with an extra 24-month alcohol interlock period).

High Range Drink Driving Charges

Subsection 5 of Section 110 of the Road Transport Act (2013) states that a person must not do the following while there is presence of high range PCA in the person's breath or blood:

  1. drive a motor vehicle, or
  2. occupy the driving seat of a motor vehicle and attempt to put the vehicle in motion, or
  3. if the person is the holder of an applicable driver licence (other than an applicable provisional licence or applicable learner licence)—occupy the seat in a motor vehicle next to a learner driver who is driving the vehicle.

Additionally, the maximum penalty of this offence if it is a first-time offence is 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 18 months. Whereas, the maximum penalty if it is a second or subsequent offence is 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years.

Strict Liability Offence

In order for the driver to get a drink driving charge, the prosecution only needs to prove that the driver was operating the vehicle and over the blood concentration limit – making drink driving a strict liability offence. The prosecution needs to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Moreover, the only acceptable defences will include if the person is able to prove that:

  1. They did not drive the vehicle
  2. There was no alcohol in their system, or
  3. Authorities or police conducted the breath test more than 2 hours since they were in control of the motor vehicle

For these reasons, it is necessary to get in touch with leading traffic lawyers who can help you with your drunk driving charges in NSW.

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.