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Australian courts take drunk driving offences very seriously, and high range drink driving charges can result in fines and imprisonment.

Characterised as an attempt to drive a motor vehicle on a public road by someone with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.150, high range drink driving is a serious offence that will remain on your criminal record well into the future. Even if it is your first criminal conviction, drink driving or otherwise, a court is likely to fine and imprison an offender once they are proven guilty.

Despite the severity of its offence, it is possible to achieve a ‘section 10’ for high range DUI. That is, with the expertise of our team, Ly Lawyers has successfully gotten previous clients a discharge of the matter without any recording of the conviction.

What is High Range Drink Driving?

High range drink driving, also referred to as high range PCA, is a criminal offence that occurs when an individual attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a public road while their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above 0.150.

Offenders are usually administered a breath test by police to clarify the level of BAC, performed often at the side of the road. The test is done by the driver breathing or speaking into a device which, when reading as a positive, means that the police will detain you at a police station for further breath analysis.

So long as the breath analysis is taken within two hours of driving, the reading at the time is determined to be the concentration of alcohol present in the driver’s blood at the time they were operating their vehicle.

Drink and Drug Driving Relevant Terms

There are several terms you will encounter in the case of being given a high range drink driving charge. Understanding these terms will allow you to comprehend your potential offences and the discussions surrounding them.

PCA: Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol

BAC: Blood Alcohol Concentration

Novice range PCA: A provisional or learner driver licence holder with a BAC above zero

Low range PCA: A driver with a BAC level between 0.05-0.079

Mid range PCA: A driver with a BAC level between 0.08-0.149

High range PCA: A driver with a BAC above 0.150

Special range PCA: A special category driver with a BAC above 0.02

Subsequent offence: Being charged with a similar or identical offence you have previously been convicted for

High Range Drink Driving Penalties in NSW

High range drink driving offences are serious criminal offences, met with equally severe penalties. These penalties go above just licence disqualification, with even a first offence having the possibility of incurring a criminal conviction and a prison sentence.

First Time Drink Driving Offence

The maximum penalty for high range drink driving, if it is your first major traffic offence within 5 years, is a fine of $3,300.00 and/or 18 months imprisonment. Although this is a substantial fine, and no one looks forward to a possible prison sentence, most drivers charged with this offence are concerned with the immediate disqualification of their licence.

If you are found guilty of high range drink driving, you will face an automatic disqualification period of your licence for 3 years. Furthermore, you may face a maximum disqualification period when found guilty, which is unlimited. While the minimum period is 12 months, no option is great for those who drive regularly, and it is impossible to deter unless the matter is dealt with according to Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

Beyond licence disqualification, those found guilty of high range drink driving will also be required to participate in the alcohol interlock program. An interlock device will also be fitted to your car for 2 years, which prevents the car from starting unless you provide a zero-alcohol breath sample.

While it is highly unusual for drivers charged with a High Range PCA offence to be dealt with under section 10 because of the Guideline Judgement of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal (see below), it is not impossible. In fact, if your matter is dealt with under section 10, and it is successful, you will not be disqualified from driving.

Second or Subsequent Drink Driving Offence

The maximum penalty for a High Range drink driving offence, if it is your second or subsequent major offence within 5 years, is a fine of $5,500.00 and/or 2 years imprisonment. The offence does not have to pertain to high range drink driving, but also any other major traffic offence.

The court can also impose an unlimited maximum licence disqualification period, or a minimum one of 2 years, unless your defendant is successful in their pursuit of section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

Anyone who begins driving once their disqualification period has ended will need to be fitted with an interlock device for 4 years. However, much like a first offence, if your matter is dealt with under section 10, you will not be disqualified from driving.

Drink Driving Penalties

 

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High Range Drink Driving Case Studies

Our client was approached by police in a car park, allegedly well affected by alcohol as suggested by the slurring of her words, a smell of alcohol coming out of the vehicle and our client’s eyes being blood shot. On conducting a breath test, our client received a positive reading and was submitted to a breath analysis. The results provided a high range reading of 0.215.

Our client has a previous traffic record with her last offence dating 2013.

We appeared before Magistrate Truscott at Bankstown Local Court in June 2018.

With compelling arguments relating to our client’s need for a licence, medical conditions and circumstances of offending, Magistrate Trustcott was convinced that this was one exceptional case, and that a conviction should not be imposed. Ms. Truscott imposed a section 10 Bond for a period of 2 years.

A fantastic result for our client, and a rare case where a section 10 was granted for high range drink driving

Our client was stopped by a random breath test, blowing a reading of 0.155. He had his licence for about 20 years, with an excellent traffic record. He had just stepped into the car before being caught by the RBT. Our expert DUI lawyer questioned the reading produced by the police breath analysis.

We obtained expert evidence that, at the time of our client driving the vehicle, his reading was under 0.15. We made formal written submissions to the prosecution that the charge of High range DUI should be reduced to Mid range DUI.

The prosecution agreed with our submissions and reduced the charge to Mid range. Our client attended the traffic offender’s program and came back to court to face sentence.

The sentencing magistrate agreed not to convict our client, or disqualify him from driving, and placed our client on a 2 year ‘section 10’ bond

Our client was a provisional driver and had been charged with high range drinking driving with a reading of 0.17. . By law provisional drivers are not allowed to have any alcohol content in their system while driving.

Our client was facing an automatic period of disqualification of 3 years upon conviction. A long disqualification would have had a negative impact on her employment opportunities.

Our solicitor argued that our client’s strong need for a license, good character, remorseful and good prospects of rehabilitations would allow the court to reduce the disqualification period to the minimum period. The court agreed and our client only received a 12 months disqualification.

Our client was charged with high range drinking driving after colliding with a trailer boat resulting in her car flipping over and causing serious damage to the trailer boat.

Our client was also a provisional driver, which in addition to the accident, made this drink driving offence a very serious one.

Our client appeared before Hornsby Local Court before Magistrate Viney. The Magistrate was of the view that a community service order should be considered.

Our solicitor argued against a community service order an argued that a fine and good behavior bond would adequately punish our client for her offending behavior. The court agreed and sentenced our client to an 18 month good behavior bond and a small fine.

Furthermore, our solicitor was able to convince the magistrate to reduce the disqualification period from 3 years. The magistrate disqualified our client from driving only for 18 months.

The client was before the Local Court for a high-range drinking offence after having previously been placed on a section 9 good behaviour bond for a mid-range drink driving offence only 9 months earlier.

Our client was also involved in a car accident as a result of this high-range drink driving.

Our client pled guilty at Burwood Local Court and our dedicated solicitor was able to convince the Magistrate that the offence did not reach the threshold for the imposition of a term of imprisonment due to the extenuating circumstances in this case.

Our solicitor successfully argued that a community service order would be an adequate punishment.

No action was taken on the breach of the good behaviour bond and the client was sentenced to 150 hours community service rather than a term of imprisonment for the recent driving offence.

He was very fortunate not to go to jail for his repeat offending.

Our client pleaded guilty to driving with a high range PCA. He gave a reading of 0.176.

The matter was heard before Her Honour Magistrate Baptie at the Parramatta Local Court.

Our solicitor requested our client receive the minimum disqualification period which is 12 months. She made strong submissions relating to our client losing his job and our client’s wife and daughter suffering the consequences of his offence.

Our solicitor handed up evidence of our client’s employment as a tradesman and evidence of our client’s good character as a family man who is closely involved in his church.

Her Honour dealt with our client by granting him the minimum disqualification period back dated to the police suspension and a section 9 bond for 6 months.

No fine was imposed.

This was a great result for our client.

Our client was charged with high range drink driving with a BAC reading of 0.22. Further our client was involved in a car collision resulting in his vehicle being torn in half after crashing into a transmission pole.

This was our clients third drink driving charge within 7 years, with his most recent offence in 2010 being a high range drink driving offence also involving our client crashing his car into a building. The high range drink driving guideline judgment stipulates that in these circumstances for this current offence a sentence of anything less than full time imprisonment is inappropriate.

Our solicitor advise our client to enter fulltime rehabilitation to treat his ongoing battle with alcohol. On the first mention date we successfully argued for a six months adjournment to allow our client to undergo rehabilitation.

The matter then proceed for sentence before Magistrate Rabbage at Campbelltown Local Court. Our solicitor tendered evidence that our client successfully completed six month full time rehabilitation. Further medical evidence was tendered regarding our client’s medical conditions including severe heart condition requiring ongoing treatment.

Our solicitor successfully argued that any term of imprisonment on this occasion could be suspended given our clients successful rehabilitation, ongoing medical conditions and remorse.

Our client was given a suspended sentence for a period of 8 months. our client escaped a jail sentence.

Our client was charged with high range drink driving which resulted in a serious collision with another vehicle.

Our client had been convicted of 3 prior mid-range drink driving offences in the last 10 years. The guideline judgment on high range offence indicates that a full time custodial sentence is likely in these circumstances. Our client’s only concern was the prospect of going to jail and losing his business.

Our solicitor prepared the case diligently and assisted our client in attending alcohol counseling and rehabilitation.

The matter proceed before Magistrate Still at Burwood Local Court on 12 February 2015. Mr Still was very impressed by our clients attempts to rehabilitate himself. The court agreed with our submissions that a suspended sentence was an appropriate penalty having regards to our clients good prospects of rehabilitation.

Our client was placed on suspended sentence for 12 months.

Our client was charged with his third high range drink driving offence in six years. On the last occasion our client received an Intensive corrections order (community based gaol sentence). The law is quite clear in this area indicating that in these circumstances our client should receive a full time custodial sentence. Our client was suffering from alcoholism and severe depression.

On our advise our client attended a full time rehabilitation center for a number of weeks. We also engaged a psychiatrist to prepare a detailed report regarding our clients mental health including a treatment plan.

The matter proceeded at Bankstown Local Court before Magistrate Giles. Our solicitor successfully argued that our client had good prospects of rehabilitation and was seeking full treatment for his mental health conditions. Further our solicitor argued that the court should place less weight on deterrence due to our clients mental health issues.

The court accepted our submissions and acceded to our request for a further Intensive Corrections Order assessment. Our client was assessed as suitable and the court imposed that order for a period of 18 months.

High Range Drink Driving Sentencing Statistics

The table below includes the official high range drink driving sentencing statistics within NSW, gathered from 15,447 cases. They were initially published by the Judicial Commission of NSW, and gathered together here for your viewing.

Section 10 Dismissal 0%
Section 10 Bond (Now a Conditional Release Order without Conviction) 2%
Section 10A (+ disqualification) 0%
Fine (+ disqualification) 41%
Section 9 Bond (Now a Community Correction Order) 29%
Community Service Order (now a part of Intensive Correction Orders) 11%
Suspended Sentenced (now replaced with Intensive Correction Orders) 2%
Periodic Detention (no longer applicable) 2%
Home Detention (now a part of Intensive Correction Orders) 1%
Prison (+ disqualification) 5%

 

High Range Drink Driving: The Guideline Judgement

Since 2004, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal has provided judicial officers a guideline judgement to follow when sentencing offenders for High Range PCA offences. The court identified the characteristics of an ordinary High Range PCA case to provide a basis for future judgements. They also outlined the characteristics of cases where the moral culpability of an offender was increased, as to cover all bases.

The court held an ordinary case included where:

The ordinary case constructed by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal includes the set guidelines of:

  1. There was a random breath test;
  2. The offender has prior good character;
  3. The offender has nil, or a minor, traffic record;
  4. The offender’s licence was suspended on detection;
  5. The offender pleaded guilty;
  6. There is little or no risk of re-offending;
  7. The offender would be significantly inconvenienced by a loss of licence.

However, this list of factors does not consider the personality of the offender, which should be appealed for by a good lawyer. At LY Lawyers, your good character, prior traffic record, and any other useful subjective features such as mental or physical health can be utilised to qualify for section 10.

The court held in an ordinary case:

  1. An order pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act will rarely be appropriate;
  2. A conviction cannot be avoided only because the offender has attended, or will attend, a driver education or awareness course such as the Traffic Offenders Program;
  3. The automatic disqualification period will be appropriate unless there is a good reason to reduce the period of disqualification. Good reasons include:
  1. a)  The nature of the offender’s employment;
  2. b)  The absence of any viable alternative transport;
  3. c)  Sickness or infirmity of the offender or another person.

 The court held in an ordinary case of a second or subsequent offence:

  1. An order under section 9 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act will rarely be appropriate;
  2. An order under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act would very rarely be appropriate;
  3. Where the prior offence was a high range PCA, any sentence of less severity than a community service order would generally be inappropriate.

The court held the moral culpability of a High Range PCA offender is increased by:

  1. The degree of intoxication above 0.150;
  2. Erratic or aggressive driving;
  3. A collision whether with another vehicle or any other object;
  4. Competitive driving or showing off;
  5. The length of the journey at which others are exposed to risk;
  6. The number of persons put at risk by the driving.

The court held that in cases where the moral culpability of a High Range PCA offender is increased:

  1. An order under 9 or s10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act would very rarely be appropriate;
  2. Where a number of factors of aggravation are present to a significant degree, a sentence of any less severity than imprisonment of some kind, including a suspended sentence, would generally be inappropriate.

The court held that in a case where the moral culpability of the offender of a second or subsequent offence is increased:

  1. A sentence of any less severity than imprisonment of some kind would generally be inappropriate;
  2. Where any number of aggravating factors are present to a significant degree or where the prior offence is a High Range PCA offence, a sentence of less severity than full-time imprisonment would generally be inappropriate.

Possible Defences to a High Range PCA offence

  1. Breath analysis not taken within two hours of driving – The police must prove that you had a blood alcohol concentration alleged at the time you were driving. The law requires that the breath analysis occurs within 2 hours of driving.
  2. The law prohibits the police from demanding a breath test of a driver at their home. Home includes any part of the property.
  3. You were not the driver. As with any criminal offence, the police must prove it was in fact you who committed the offence.

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Achieving results one case at a time

The team at LY Lawyers were great to deal with, after getting charged with a minor offence. The costs were upfront and affordable. Communication was great and I felt like they really cared about me. If I was ever in trouble again they would be my first point of call for help.

Sarah Davies

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-02-01T00:09:03+00:00

Sarah Davies

The team at LY Lawyers were great to deal with, after getting charged with a minor offence. The costs were upfront and affordable. Communication was great and I felt like they really cared about me. If I was ever in trouble again they would be my first point of call for help.

Achieving results one case at a time

What a result from a great team!

Adam handled my case and put everything he had into it. He's a great lawyer at affordable fees. Would highly recommend.

John L.

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-02-01T01:38:38+00:00

John L.

What a result from a great team! Adam handled my case and put everything he had into it. He's a great lawyer at affordable fees. Would highly recommend.

Achieving results one case at a time

Highly recommend! Joseph handled my case and got the result he said i would, communication was great and his advice on what to do to help my case was great, dont hesitate to give them a call if you ever need legal help.

Todd Hurring

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:46:32+00:00

Todd Hurring

Highly recommend! Joseph handled my case and got the result he said i would, communication was great and his advice on what to do to help my case was great, dont hesitate to give them a call if you ever need legal help.

Achieving results one case at a time

Want to say a big thanks to Adam and the team, was looking at jail without a doubt, already had 2 other common assaults, a GBH, and a fair few other charges on my record and facing another GBH. Never done jail before and thought this was my time for sure. Great service from them, Adam always answered my calls and step me through everything the whole way. Managed to stay out of jail with a ICO order, big win, thanks again, highly recommend

Breno T.

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:53:27+00:00

Breno T.

Want to say a big thanks to Adam and the team, was looking at jail without a doubt, already had 2 other common assaults, a GBH, and a fair few other charges on my record and facing another GBH. Never done jail before and thought this was my time for sure. Great service from them, Adam always answered my calls and step me through everything the whole way. Managed to stay out of jail with a ICO order, big win, thanks again, highly recommend

Achieving results one case at a time

I just wanted to say a big thank you to LY Lawyers. My husband just got his sentence at Parramatta District Court last week, expecting to be in jail a lot longer. He was charged with supplying commercial drugs. LY Lawyers represented him with great passion and commitment, all of their staff chipping in to get a short sentence. Only a year to go before he gets out!

Kim Smith

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:53:58+00:00

Kim Smith

I just wanted to say a big thank you to LY Lawyers. My husband just got his sentence at Parramatta District Court last week, expecting to be in jail a lot longer. He was charged with supplying commercial drugs. LY Lawyers represented him with great passion and commitment, all of their staff chipping in to get a short sentence. Only a year to go before he gets out!

Achieving results one case at a time

It was a pleasure to work with LY Lawyers. They got me off from my charge. Could not thank them enough!

William Song

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:54:34+00:00

William Song

It was a pleasure to work with LY Lawyers. They got me off from my charge. Could not thank them enough!

Achieving results one case at a time

Joseph was amazing and did a fine job representing me in my case. He got the job done and got me the result I wanted.

Habib Rahman

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:55:09+00:00

Habib Rahman

Joseph was amazing and did a fine job representing me in my case. He got the job done and got me the result I wanted.

Achieving results one case at a time

Joseph you did an amazing job representing me at Sydney District court . My prior lawyer didn't do anything for me in the local court, but u guys were great in the district court. Thanks for being patient with me too.

Josh Tyler

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:56:43+00:00

Josh Tyler

Joseph you did an amazing job representing me at Sydney District court . My prior lawyer didn't do anything for me in the local court, but u guys were great in the district court. Thanks for being patient with me too.

Achieving results one case at a time

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me with my case and THANK YOU for the section 10!

Craig H

Ly Lawyers
5.0
2017-06-25T22:57:53+00:00

Craig H

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me with my case and THANK YOU for the section 10!
5.0
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