Drink Driving

Drink Driving Offences

In NSW there are different blood alcohol concentrate (BAC) limits that apply at different times. NSW has three limits:
  1. 0.00;
  2. 0.02; and
  3. 0.05
In NSW there are four categories of PCA (drink driving) offences:
  1. Special range PCA applies to special category drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.02 and 0.049 g/100 mL
  2. Low range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.05 and 0.079 g/100 mL
  3. Mid range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.08 and 0.149 g/100 mL
  4. High range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.15 g/100 mL.
The limit that is applicable to an individual depends on the classification of an individual’s license and the type of vehicle that is being driven. Therefore, an individual may have a number of applicable blood alcohol limits depending on what vehicle they are driving at any specific time.
The 0.00 limit applies to:
  1. All learner drivers;
  2. All Provisional 1 drivers; and
  3. All Provisional 2 drivers.
The 0.02 limit applies to:
  1. Drivers of vehicles of ‘gross vehicle mass’ greater than 13.9 tonnes;
  2. Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods; and
  3. Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers.
The 0.05 limit applies to:
  • All other licences not subject to a 0.00 or 0.02 limit.
When individuals drink and drive it increases the risks of having an accident. An individual with a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 (low range) doubles the risk of having an accident. An individual with a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 (mid range) is 7 times more likely to be involved in an accident and an individual with a blood alcohol reading of 0.15 (high range) is 25 times more likely to be in an accident.
Drink driving is a factor in about 18 percent of all fatal crashes across NSW. Guessing your BAC is inaccurate because:
  1. Alcohol concentration of the drink may vary from 2.5 per cent (light beer), 5 per cent (full strength beer) to over 40 per cent (vodka, whisky);
  2. Beer may be served in schooners, middies or pints. Wine glasses vary from 100 to 280 mls;
  3. In many situations, drinks are topped up making it difficult to know how many standard drinks are consumed;
  4. Many drinks come in non-standard sizes for example pre-mixed drinks in cans and bottles may contain more than one standard drink.
Factors such as your gender, size, weight, health and liver function will affect your BAC:
  1. Size and weight. A smaller person may have a higher BAC from the same amount of alcohol;
  2. Liver function. An unhealthy liver processes alcohol more slowly;
  3. Gender. A woman of the same height and weight as a man drinking the same amount may have higher BAC;
  4. Consumption of food. Lack of food in the stomach means faster absorption of alcohol into the blood stream. Eating after drinking will not reduce the BAC;
  5. General health condition and level of fitness can affect a person’s ability to process alcohol. A person’s BAC can be higher if they are not feeling well, or are tired or stressed;
  6. Consumption of other drugs affects a person’s ability to process alcohol.
The Road and Maritimes Services (RTA) no longer suggests guidelines for the number of standard drinks per hour because of the variations in alcohol content and factors that are referred to above.
In NSW, Police have power to:

Stop drivers at random to test for alcohol.
Arrest drivers who test over the legal limit.

If you test over the limit at the roadside you will be arrested, taken to a Police station for evidentiary breath analysis, charged by Police, finger printed, photographed and you will have to appear in court. Middle and high range offenders will generally have their licence suspended by Police at the Police station when they are charged.

Drink driving attracts serious penalties. A summary of penalties and disqualification periods for drink driving matters are noted below:

First offences and second or subsequent offences are distinguished. Offences are considered second or subsequent if the person was convicted of a major traffic offence (including any PCA offence) in the previous five years. Major offences include any offence under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), dangerous or negligent driving offences under the Act, PCA offences, driving under the influence of drugs, refusing to submit to testing for drugs or alcohol, or the aiding and abetting of the commission of any of the above crimes or offences.

Whilst in certain circumstances you can be can you be found guilty but have no conviction recorded drink driving is a serious offence and is treated seriously by the Courts. This has been reflected in a guideline judgement for high range drink driving matters where it was stated that in a case where an offender is sentenced for a second or subsequent high range drink driving offence:

A sentence of any less severity than imprisonment of some kind would generally be inappropriate; and
Where any number of aggravating factors are present to a significant degree or where the prior offence is a high range drink driving offence, a sentence of less severity than full-time imprisonment would generally be inappropriate.

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence you should obtain immediate legal advice from our experienced lawyers.

We can advise you on the strategies that will improve your chances of receiving a beneficial outcome (for example, the use of character references) and advise you on other matters which may increase the prospects of obtaining your license back sooner that you may otherwise be entitled (interlock driver licence).