Low range drink driving
The offence of Low Range PCA is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.05 to 0.079.
As of 20 May 2019, NSW Police Officers will be able to issue either:
- an infringement notice; or
- a court attendance notice for the offence.
If you receive an infringement notice, you will also either receive an immediate suspension notice from the police or one subsequently from the RMS suspending your licence for a period of three months.
If you receive a court attendance notice, or elect to take the matter to court, the maximum penalty for this charge depends on whether a person is a first offender (20 penalty units) or second and subsequent offender (30 penalty units). If a court sentencing a person records a conviction, they must make a disqualification order. The automatic period of disqualification for a first-time offender is 6 months. The court can reduce this period; however, it cannot reduce it below the minimum disqualification period of 3 months.
Loss of licence for any period, whether it be days, weeks, or months, can have a crippling effect on a person and their entire family. There are options available to offenders to have the matter determined by a court and seek to avoid a conviction and loss of licence, or to appeal an immediate licence suspension.
Infringement Notices vs Court Attendance Notices
Police officers can now issue either a court attendance notice or an infringement notice for an offence of driving with low range prescribed concentration of alcohol (low range drink driving).
Prior to 20 May 2019, a court attendance notice was always issued to a person charged with low range drink driving. A court attendance notice is effectively what its name implies – a notice requiring a person to attend court in relation to the matter they have been charged with.
From 20 May 2019 onwards, NSW police officers will have a choice whether to issue and infringement notice or a court attendance notice. It is understood that most will issue an infringement notice. An infringement notice, while new to low range drink driving offences, is not a new concept. Infringement notices are issued daily by police for offences ranging from speeding, using a mobile phone and proceeding through a red light.
Immediate Notice of Suspensions – Low Range Drink Driving
Regardless of whether police issue an infringement notice or a court attendance notice, they will now have the power to issue an immediate notice of suspension. This immediate notice of suspension will mean that the offender’s driver licence will be suspended on the spot for a period of 3 months.
For many offenders, a driver licence is essential. Armstrong Legal can provide you with advice about whether you may wish to make a court election or file an appeal against the immediate licence suspensions.
There are pros and cons to both and we urge people to get specific legal advice before making a decision. On the one hand, an appeal against an immediate notice of suspension can be filed within a week or two which may get you back on the road sooner. However, to succeed the magistrate must be satisfied that “exceptional circumstances” exist. Courts and tribunals have previously ruled that loss of employment and even difficulty making mortgage repayments do not necessarily amount to exceptional circumstances.
On the other hand, making a court election can give an offender a greater chance of regaining their licence, if the court is persuaded that a section 10(1)(a) dismissal or a conditional release order without conviction is appropriate. However, this also exposes the person to a risk of a criminal conviction. Making a court election may mean that the first court date is some 4-6 weeks away. In some cases, we might be able to seek an earlier date from a court.
If you receive an infringement notice:
Procedure and Penalties for Infringement Notices – Low Range Drink Driving
An infringement notice can be issued by police which involves a fine of $572 for an offence of low range drink driving. Police can also issue a driver with an on the spot three-month suspension (an immediate notice of suspension). If an immediate notice of suspension is not issued, the driver will later be sent a letter from the RMS advising them that their licence will be suspended for a period of three months.
For advice on an infringement notice, notice of suspension, immediate notice of suspension or appeal rights, please feel free to contact our criminal and traffic law solicitors by calling 1300 146 568.
Will I get a criminal record if I receive an Infringement notice for a low range PCA charge?
No. The offence will remain on the person’s traffic record and/or infringements record, but will not form part of their criminal record.
Do I need to attend court if I receive an Infringement Notice?
The person will not be required to attend court, unless they make a court election or wish to appeal the immediate notice of suspension or the RMS notice of suspension. Such appeals are to be filed at a Local Court Registry accompanied by a filing fee, relevant legal forms and associated paperwork.
If you receive a Court Attendance Notice:
Procedure and Penalties for Court Attendance Notices – Low Range Drink Driving
A court attendance notice can still be issued by police. If police issue a court attendance notice the person will need to appear before the court on the date specified on the notice. The person can plead guilty or not guilty to the offence. If the person pleads guilty, a sentence hearing will be conducted, and they will be sentenced by a magistrate. For a first offence a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units can be imposed. If a conviction is recorded the court must impose a period of disqualification. As outlined above, the automatic disqualification period is 6 months and the minimum disqualification period is 3 months. Armstrong Legal’s solicitors can assist you in obtaining the best possible outcome in your circumstances. This may involve a section 10 dismissal or a conditional release order without conviction (formerly a section 10 non-conviction bond)
For advice on attending court, seeking representation and/or attempting to avoid a conviction please feel free to contact our criminal and traffic law solicitors by calling 1300 146 568.
Will I get a criminal record if I receive a Court Attendance Notice for a low range PCA charge?
Yes. Drink driving is considered to be a serious offence, and the starting point for the sentencing court is the recording of a criminal conviction, together with the imposition of a fine and a period of licence disqualification.
What does it mean to have a criminal conviction recorded?
The consequences of having a criminal conviction recorded can be very serious. For example, many employers will conduct a background check on potential employees as part of the standard recruitment process including a police check. A police check would reveal if you have a criminal conviction recorded against your name and the charge for which it was recorded. This may impact the employer’s decision about whether or not to employ you.
In certain professions a criminal conviction may need to be reported to a regulatory body. For example, a member of the legal profession must report any criminal convictions to the relevant law society who will then make a determination as to whether that legal practitioner should be allowed to continue to practise law.
A criminal conviction may also inhibit future overseas travel. Most countries require visitors to obtain a visa prior to entering the country. As part of the visa process, you will more than likely need to disclose any criminal convictions. Depending on the policy of the particular country for which the visa is being sought, your visa may or may not be granted based your criminal record.
Is it possible to avoid a criminal record for a low range PCA charge?
It may be possible to avoid a criminal record if you are afforded the leniency of a section 10 non conviction order.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me for a low range PCA charge?
It is your choice whether to represent yourself or whether to have a solicitor represent you in court. If you are worried about a criminal conviction or loss of licence we would advise having a solicitor represent you. For someone who is unfamiliar with the court system, having to navigate a drink driving charge can be daunting. Our solicitors specialise in these matters and will use their experience and expertise to lead you through the process to the best possible outcome.
WHERE TO NEXT?
In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.