Special range drink driving


The offence of special range PCA is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.02 and 0.049. Any person who is subject to a zero alcohol limit while driving may be charged with special range PCA.

Broadly speaking, this offence will usually apply to persons who have a special licence such as a learner licence, P1 provisional licence or P2 provisional licence. It will also apply to bus drivers and taxi drivers who will usually have a 0.02 limit while operating a bus or taxi service.

As of 20 May 2019, NSW Police Officers will be able to issue either:

  • an infringement notice; or
  • 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, it 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, they cannot reduce it below the minimum disqualification period of 3 months.

<pLoss 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 special range prescribed concentration of alcohol (special range drink driving).

Prior to 20 May 2019, a court attendance notice was always issued to a person charged with special 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 special 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 – Special 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 – Special Range Drink Driving

An infringement notice can be issued by police which involves a fine of $561 for an offence of special 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 special 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 – Special 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 Special 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 Special 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 Special 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.

Call 1300 146 568 for more information.

Who can be charged with a special range PCA charge?

Any person who is subject to a zero alcohol limit or special alcohol limit while driving may be charged with a special range PCA charge.

Broadly speaking, this offence will usually apply to persons who have a special licence such as a learners licence, P1 licence or P2 licence. It will also apply to bus drivers and taxi drivers who will usually have a 0.02 limit while operating a bus or taxi service.

Will I get a criminal record for a special 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. Special range PCA is considered to be particularly serious because of the zero limit drivers to whom it applies

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 in whether or not to employ you.

For young people, it is particularly important to be aware of the impact of a criminal conviction. A criminal conviction will stay on your record for a minimum period of 10 years.

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 practice 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 on the person’s criminal record.

Is it possible to avoid a criminal record for a special 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 special 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.

This page contains sentencing statistics for the offences of novice range , low range, mid range and high range drink driving. The statistics relate to all offenders sentenced for a drink driving offence in NSW.

Low Range Drink Driving Statistics:

The following charges shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of low range drink driving (1st offence) charges.

Sentencing statistics for low range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (11672) 54%
Section 10A (127) 1%
Fine only (16392) 45%
Length of disqualification for low range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (6230) 64%
6 months (3235) 33%
9 months (96) 1%
12 months (147) 2%
18 months (4) 0%
2 years (2) 0%
3 years (1) 0%

Mid Range Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of mid range drink driving (1st offence) charges:

Sentencing statistics for mid range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (4181) 17%
Section 10A (218) 1%
Fine only (16046) 66%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (3034) 12%
CSO (436) 2%
Suspended sentence (230) 2%
Suspended sentence & probation (230) 1%
ICO (58) 0%
Home detention (13) 0%
Prison (94) 1%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for mid range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (45) 0%
6 months (11710) 58%
9 months (4205) 21%
12 months (3634) 18%
18 months (164) 1%
2 years (146) 1%
3 years (103) 1%
4 years (4) 0%
5 years (5) 0%

High Range Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of high range drink driving (1st offence) charges:

Sentencing statistics for high range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (155) 2%
Seciton 10A (58) 1%
Fine only (3103) 34%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (3067) 39%
CSO (1158) 13%
Suspended sentence (914) 10%
ICO (248) 3%
Home detention (47) 1%
Prison (284) 3%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for high range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (3) 0%
6 months (2416) 28%
9 months (1565) 18%
12 months (1583) 18%
18 months (819) 9%
2 years (828) 9%
3 years (1381) 16%
4 years (44) 1%
5 years (86) 1%
>5 years (1) 0%

Special Range Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of special range drink driving (1st offence) charges:

Sentencing statistics for special range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (1375) 40%
Section 10A (42) 1%
Fine only (2049) 59%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (10) 0%
CSO (1) 0%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for special range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (1259) 62%
6 months (699) 35%
9 months (19) 1%
12 months (36) 2%
18 months (0) 0%
2 years (1) 0%
3 years (2) 0%
4 years (0) 0%
5 years (0) 0%
>5 years (1) 0%

The average fine imposed by NSW courts for a special range drink driving offence is $381.04

Novice Range Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of novice range drink driving (1st offence) charges:

Sentencing statistics for novice range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (584) 50%
Section 10A (9) 1%
Fine only (582) 49%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (2) 0%
CSO (0) 0%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for novice range drink driving – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (379) 66%
6 months (185) 32%
9 months (2) 0%
12 months (8) 1%
18 months (1) 0%
2 years (1) 0%
3 years (0) 0%

Refuse Breath Analysis Following Arrest Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of refuse breath analysis following arrest (1st offence):

Sentencing statistics for refuse breath analysis following arrest – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (28) 4%
Section 10A (6) 1%
Fine only (374) 54%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (196) 28%
CSO (38) 6%
Suspended sentence (29) 4%
ICO (8) 1%
Home detention (2) 0%
Prison (8) 1%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for refuse breath analysis following arrest – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (0) 6 months (205)
9 months (85) 13%
12 months (161) 25%
18 months (53) 8%
2 years (52) 8%
3 years (94) 14%
4 years (4) 1%
5 years (1) 0%

Driving Under The Influence Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of driving under the influence (1st offence):

Sentencing statistics for driving under the influence – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (231) 9%
Section 10A (69) 3%
Fine only (1491) 54%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (672) 24%
CSO (76) 3%
Suspended sentence (91) 3%
ICO (9) 0%
Home detention (3) 0%
Prison (118) 4%

See the definitions of each penalty type at the bottom of this page.

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for driving under the influence – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (2) 0%
6 months (1006) 41%
9 months (372) 15%
12 months (893) 36%
18 months (57) 2%
2 years (93) 4%
3 years (52) 2%
4 years (3) 0%
5 years (4) 0%

Willfully Alter Blood Concentration Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of willfully alter blood concentration:

Sentencing statistics for willfully alter blood concentration – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (1) 9%
Section 10A 0%
Fine only (5) 45%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (2) 18%
CSO (1) 9%
Suspended sentence (2) 18%

The following chart shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification willfully alter blood concentration – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
6 months (1) 11%
12 months (5) 56%
18 months (2) 22%
2 years (1) 11%

Refuse Breath Test Drink Driving Statistics:

The following chart shows the range of penalties imposed by NSW courts in respect of refuse breath test:

Sentencing statistics for refuse breath test – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
Section 10 dismissal/bond (9) 13%
Section 10A (4) 6%
Fine only (52) 72%
Section 9 Good behaviour bond (6) 8%
CSO (1) 1%

The following table shows the average length of disqualification periods that were imposed by NSW courts:

Length of disqualification for refuse breath test – Oct 2013- Sep 2017
3 months (4) 18%
6 months (6) 27%
9 months (1) 5%
12 months (5) 23%
18 months (0) 0%
2 years (4) 18%
3 years (2) 9%

 

 

 

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.

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