LOW-RANGE PCA

Driving with a low range of prescribed concentration of alcohol in breath or blood is an offence under section 110(3) of the Road Transport Act 2013.

This offence occurs when a person drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08.

If a low range PCA offence is your first alcohol or drug-related driving offence in the past five years the police may issue you with a penalty notice which requires you to pay an on-the-spot fine of $603 instead of attending court. Paying the fine means accepting that the offence was committed and your licence will be suspended for a period of three months. This means that the offence will not be recorded on your criminal record.

You can also elect to have this matter dealt with by a court through a court election process after receiving a penalty notice.

Alternatively, the police may issue you with a Court Attendance Notice and you will be required to answer to the court.

A penalty notice for a second or subsequent low range offence is not available and will be dealt with by a Court Attendance Notice.

Penalties

If the offence is dealt with by the court and a conviction is recorded, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200 and an automatic licence disqualification for 6 months which can be reduced to 3 months. There is no maximum term of imprisonment or interlock scheme for a first offence.

For a second or subsequent offence the maximum penalty is a fine of $3,300 and an automatic period of disqualification for 12 months which can be reduced to 6 months. This offence is subject to a mandatory interlock scheme and if subjected to this interlock order, the maximum period of licence disqualification is 3 months which can be reduced to 1 month, followed by a 12 month period during which you must have an interlock device installed in your vehicle.

A non-conviction order is possible for this offence however when the court is considering this penalty it must apply the matters listed in Section 10(3) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. These considerations include:

  • the nature and seriousness of the offence;
  • an early guilty plea;
  • participation in a traffic offender program;
  • the offender’s need for a licence;
  • whether they can demonstrate prior good character;
  • the nature of their traffic history;
  • whether there was a collision;
  • how the offence was detected, whether by a random breath test or due to the offender’s nature of driving.

Section 206B

Section 206B(1) of the Road Transport Act 2013 applies where a driver licence or other authority to drive in NSW has been suspended under this Act or the statutory rules for an alleged offence.

Section 206B(2) of the Road Transport Act 2013 provides that a court that determines a charge for the offence (or for a related offence) is required to take into account the period of suspension when deciding on any period of disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver licence on conviction for the offence (or for the related offence).

This means that the court can backdate the disqualification period to commence from the date of suspension.

Interlock Orders

An interlock order is an order imposed by a court sentencing an offender for certain driving offences. It is a court order disqualifying a driver from driving and following the completion of the disqualification period, the order requires the driver to obtain an ‘interlock driver’s licence’ and participate in the interlock program for a specific period.

The interlock program requires an offender to install an interlock device in their vehicle which is linked to the ignition system of the vehicle. The offender must complete a breath test at the commencement of the driving journey and at other random times. A log is also maintained of the number of times this occurs which can be viewed by police and can potentially lead to further charges if not adhered to.

A driver can obtain an exemption to an interlock order however circumstances under which a court can make such an order are limited and may affect the period of disqualification granted by the court.

Section 211 of the Road Transport Act 2013 states that a court may make an interlock exemption order only if satisfied that:

  1. The offender does not have access to a vehicle to install an interlock device in; or
  2. The offender has a medical condition diagnosed by a medical practitioner that prevents them from providing a sufficient breath sample to operate an approved interlock device and it is not reasonably practicable for a device to be modified to enable them to operate it; or
  3. If the offender is convicted of an offence of mid-range drink-drive or mid-range drink-drive and presence prescribed illicit drug that is a first offence:
    a) That the making of a mandatory interlock order would cause severe hardship to the person; and
    b) That the making of an interlock exemption order is more appropriate in all the circumstances than the making of a mandatory interlock order.

This legislation specifically states that an interlock exemption order must not be made simply because:

  1. The offender cannot afford the cost of an interlock device; or
  2. The offender would be prevented from driving in the course of their employment; or
  3. The offender has access to a vehicle but the registered owner refuses to consent to an interlock device being installed.

If you have been charged with low-range PCA, call Karnib & Co Lawyers at any time on 0450503696 or email us on [email protected] to arrange a free consultation. For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skype, Zoom and FaceTime anywhere around the world.