What are the low range drink driving penalties in NSW?

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In NSW, all drink driving cases are serious, and even low range drink driving penalties mean that you could end up before a magistrate facing a range of potential penalties.

Drink driving is a factor in one out of every five fatal crashes according to the RMS, and costs the community millions of dollars every year.

It is one of the most common offences heard in local courts, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR).

In fact, around one in five cases heard in the local courts are drink driving cases.

Three in ten were there for low-range PCA offence – which is when a driver’s blood alcohol level is somewhere in the range of 0.05 and 0.079.

Magistrates often want to send a strong message out that drink driving is socially unacceptable.

Courts can give a variety of different penalties for drink driving offences, but the most common are a fine, licence disqualification and good behaviour bond, unless it is a repeat or very serious and dangerous incident in which case there is a very real possibility of prison.

The low range drink driving penalties in NSW are significantly less serious than those for mid or high range.

But even low range drink driving can have an impact in your life.

The maximum penalties for a first-time offence are:

  • A maximum fine of $1,100; and
  • Six months disqualification from driving.

The period of automatic disqualification applies if you have not been convicted of another major traffic offence in the last five years.

The magistrate can also decide to reduce the six months disqualification to as low as three months if there are good reasons to do so; for example, if you otherwise have a good driving record and have a strong need for a driver licence.

The penalties increase if you were convicted of another major traffic offence within the previous five years.

In that case, the disqualification period goes up to twelve months and the maximum fine increases to $2,200 – although a magistrate can reduce the disqualification down to six months.

In 2012, just under 60% of people convicted drink-drivers got a fine and disqualification, according to BOCSAR.

The average fine for low range drink drivers was $470.

While the fines may not seem very high, low range drink driving is a criminal offence and if you are convicted you will get a criminal record – which could have potential implications for your career.

The good news is that there is a way to avoid a criminal conviction.

This is achieved by getting what’s known as a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’.

If your lawyer is able to persuade the magistrate to award you a non conviction order, you will avoid a conviction altogether. You will also avoid a licence disqualification and a fine.

A non conviction order is the best outcome if you wish to plead guilty to drink driving.

According to BOSCAR, about 20% of drink drivers received a non conviction order, but this percentage rose to 41% for those who had a low range PCA offence.

There are two main types of non conviction orders.

The most common is a section 10 good behaviour bond (now conditional release order without conviction) – which is a bond for up to two years.

If you breach this bond by committing another offence, you will need to go back to court and be resentenced for the original offence that you got the non conviction order for.

This may mean that your bond will be revoked and you will get a harsher penalty.

The second main type of non conviction order is called a ‘section 10 dismissal’ – which is when the case is dismissed without even a good behaviour bond.

The statistics suggest that the overwhelming majority of drink drivers had no prior criminal convictions.

If this is you, the thought of ending up with a criminal record may be alarming.

However, if you are a first time offender, getting legal advice from an experienced traffic lawyer could ensure that you remain conviction free.

Collecting character references as well as undertaking a ‘traffic offender program’, or even writing an apology letter, can be highly effective when you are facing low range drink driving charge penalties in NSW.

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Traffic Defence Lawyers.


  1. Joshua Allan Hartfield

    high.range drink.driving 176 crashed my ute into.the trees

  2. Ian

    I have had a driving licence for almost 50 years ( I am 66) For the very first time I was arrested for DUI and breath tested and found to be .062 I went before the court and pleaded guilty as I assumed I would be given the chance to explain,indeed I had not even been given the police facts. Any way the sentencing was held over till THIS Wednesday. The judge who held it over seems bent on inflicting what I think is a harsh penalty for many reasons.. I have engaged a lawyer , seen him and also conversed by e mail. He gives me the impression he does not wish to be confrontational with the case and seems willing to just stand up and say ..”the defence…rests” His fee is $1,650-00 I am on the pension and this is my first offence for drink driving. I received the police facts only THIS SUNDAY and he says I can’t contest them as it will cost an extra $4,000- I am currently on the pension and have had MANY medical issues over the last ten years, , including cancer operations, requirements for knee replacements ( under an orhtopaedic surgeon) Ongoing and continuing stomach pain , pain to other ares of the torso which has requjired a referral to Royal North Shore hospital to a pain management experimental clinic operations for bladder stones, last operation to take the gaul bladder out was in March this year. Am in constant and unrelenting pain . The police fact file really read more like a work of fiction. I blew .o62 as stated, the lower end of the low range . I have NOTING left in my life and am trying , with all my afflictions to start again. I was hoping some sort of rationale justice may be available. At .062 a person has NOT start ed out to persue an indulgent night on the booze, or you they would have blown more. While realising drink driving is no joke, there seems little latitude for justice and it just seems like a money making proposition for lawyers and a determintation for judges to not even consider social reality to to impose penalties tat actually make for social discord while saying they are upholding the morality of the community. If any one door knocked 100 doors and asked if it was fair that a person at .062 should receive a criminal conviction for tis on their first offence in almost 50 years I can hear teir answer. Yet without money the system does you over. Is this fair?

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