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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

PCA Offences


Prescribed concentration of alcohol, or “PCA” charges are the most common drink driving charges prosecuted. To convict on a PCA charge, the police must show that the prescribed concentration of alcohol (or more) is in your system at the time of driving or within 3 hours of driving. This is generally done through breath or blood testing and analysis. The result of the test is known as your blood alcohol content or breath alcohol content (BAC).

The charge of driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol is found under section 49 of the Road Safety Act 1986. The Act specifies which limit or prescribed concentration of alcohol applies depending on the type of licence you hold or the reason you are driving.

Zero blood or breath alcohol

This largely applies to special category drivers, such as bus, truck or taxi drivers, learner drivers and probationary drivers as well as drivers with interlock devices fitted to their vehicles.

0.05

This applies to drivers who hold a full driver licence or would have held a full driver licence but did not renew it.

To find you guilty of a PCA charge, the police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. you have the prescribed concentration of alcohol in your blood or breath; and
  2. you were driving or were in charge of a motor vehicle; or
  3. you had driven a motor vehicle or were in charge of a motor vehicle within 3 hours of having the prescribed concentration of alcohol in your blood or breath.

Immediate Licence Suspensions

The police can suspend your licence on the spot if:

  • you hold a full licence and your BAC is 0.10 or more; or
  • you hold a learner permit or probationary licence and your BAC is 0.07 or more.

The suspension will usually last until your case is heard in court or the date on the infringement notice. If a court cancels your licence and disqualifies you from driving, the disqualification period must take into account the period from when you were immediately suspended.

Drink Driving Infringement Notices

If your alcohol reading is less than 0.15 and you have not been found guilty of drink driving in the past 10 years, you may be issued with an infringement notice. This means you will automatically receive a fine and in most cases a period of disqualification from driving, rather than being charged and going to court.

However, even if you meet this criteria, it is ultimately up to police whether they issue you with an infringement notice or a charge sheet and summons for you to attend court.

You have 28 days to object to an infringement notice. After this, it takes the same effect as being found guilty of the offence. Unless police suspend or cancel your licence on the spot, any period of disqualification from driving will also start at this time.

If you object, the police will consider your reasons for objecting, but in most cases will still proceed by issuing you with a charge sheet for the offence. If you receive a charge sheet you must go to court.

The following penalties apply if you receive a drink driving infringement notice and you do not object:

BAC Fine / Demerits Disqualification
Less than 0.05
Learners, P plate drivers
2.5 penalty units 3 months
Less than 0.05
Professional drivers subject to zero BAC
2.5 penalty units / 10 demerit points 3 months
0.05 or more but less than 0.07
Learners, P plate, professional drivers subject to zero BAC and full licence drivers under 26 years old
3 penalty units 6 months
0.05 or more but less than 0.07
Full licence holders over 26
3 penalty units / 10 demerit points 3 months
0.07 or more but less than 0.10
Any driver
3 penalty units 6 months
0.10 or more but less than 0.15
Any driver
4.25 penalty units 10-14 months
0.15 or above
Any driver
Must go to Magistrates’ Court

Penalties If You Go To Court

Generally, the starting point in sentencing PCA matters is for a magistrate to impose a fine and a disqualification period. The fine and disqualification period is dependent on the level of your BAC and whether or not it is a repeat offence. In Victoria, there is no maximum period the court can disqualify you from driving. It is up to the magistrate whether a conviction is recorded against you.

Maximum Penalties For PCA Offences

The table below outlines the maximum penalties for drink and drug driving charges in Victoria if your case goes to court:

Offence Maximum Fine Maximum Jail
First offence
Exceed PCA (any reading) 20 penalty units Nil
Second offence
Exceed PCA less than 0.15 60 penalty units 6 months
Exceed PCA 0.15 or more 120 penalty units 12 months
Third or subsequent offence
Exceed PCA less than 0.15 120 penalty units 12 months
Exceed PCA 0.15 or more 180 penalty units 18 months

The court may record a conviction against you.

Minimum Licence Disqualifications

The second table outlines the minimum disqualification periods that apply depending on the level of your BAC and whether or not it is a repeat offence.

BAC First Offence Second or Subsequent offence
less than 0.05 (learner, probationary or zero-BAC licence) 3 months 12-28 months
0.05 – 0.069 (learner, probationary or zero-BAC licence, or full licence and aged under 26) 6 months 12-28 months
0.05 – 0.069 (full licence, aged over 26) 6 months 12-28 months
0.07 – 0.099 6 months 12-28 months
0.10 – 0.149 10-14 months 12-28 months
0.15 or more 15-24 months 30-48 months

 

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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