What are the Penalties for Drink Driving in NSW?

Police in NSW has the power to stop drivers and test for alcohol, and make arrests based on blood alcohol levels. NSW police conduct about 5 million breath tests each year in NSW. These are some of the penalties, from fines to jail terms, for drink driving in NSW.


Fines can range from $2,200 to $3,300, depending on a driver’s drink-driving history and the seriousness of the drink-driving offence.

High-Range PCA

A high Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) can result in a court-imposed fine of up to $3,300 if it’s a first offence, and $5,500 if it’s a second or subsequent offence.

A high-range PCA is defined by the RMS as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or above. The maximum fine can also apply in a case where a driver refuses to take a breath test, hinders or obstructs the taking of a blood sample, or wilfully alters the alcohol concentration in their blood.

Mid-Range PCA

The lower the PCA, the less severe the penalty. For example, a mid-range PCA attracts a fine of up to $2,200 for the first offence and $3,300 for second or subsequent offences. A mid-range PCA is associated with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 to less than 0.15.

Low Range PCA

A low-range PCA, where there is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to less than 0.08, attracts a court-imposed fine of up to $2,200 for the first offence. These limits also apply to those who are convicted of novice range PCA, where there is a blood alcohol concentration above zero and below 0.02.

Licence Disqualification and Suspension

Those convicted of drink driving can face licence suspension and disqualification, along with a fine.

  • High-Range and Mid-Range PCA. A high-range or mid-range PCA can result in immediate licence suspension from police until the charge is heard and determined by court. You can appeal this immediate suspension in the Local Court within 28 days of receiving this suspension. The test for appealing this kind of suspension is that the court is not to vary or set aside an immediate suspension unless it is satisfied that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ which justify doing so. You are not permitted to drive until the appeal is determined by the court.
  • Low-Range PCA. From 20 May 2019, NSW Police can now immediately suspend your driver’s licence if you commit a low range drink driving offence. In the case of a first time committing a low range offence, police have the power to issue you a penalty in the sum of $572 and impose an immediate 3 months licence suspension. The Penalty Notice can be appealed to the local court and you can peruse the court for section 10 or CRO without conviction.
Jail Time

The maximum jail term for high-range PCA offences is 18 months for the first offences or two years for a second or subsequent offence. For a mid-range PCA, the maximum jail term is nine months (first offence) or 12 months (second or subsequent offence). The courts do not have the power to impose jail sentences for low range or novice range offences.

What to do When Facing Charges

If a driver has been charged with drink driving, the best course of action is usually to see a traffic lawyer. A lawyer can help explore different options, and they can assist with preparing a case that might result in less onerous penalties. Whether a driver is facing a fine, jail time, or the prospect of going without their licence, they will want to make sure they have a lawyer who can help present the best possible case. Visit Criminal Lawyers Sydney for highly respected and experienced drink driving lawyers in Sydney.