What are the Penalties for Drink Driving in New South Wales?


Driver breath alcohol testing began in New South Wales on December 16, 1968. But drivers could only be inspected after a suspected traffic accident or traffic violation was detected.

The prescribed blood alcohol limit at the time was 0.08 grams per 210 liters of exhaled breath or 100 milligrams of blood.

This limit was lowered to 0.05 on December 15, 1980, but the limit on testing remained in place due to concerns about the impact of an arbitrary regime of testing on civil liberties.

Despite these concerns, on December 17, 1982, the New South Wales government passed the state’s first law to allow voluntary breath-testing trials.

The trial was deemed successful, and on December 10, 1985, randomized breath testing was introduced statewide.

Since the first trial, our state’s police have conducted 123 million random breath tests and arrested nearly 1 million drivers believed to have exceeded the prescribed alcohol limit.

40th Anniversary

police say it to mark 40th random breath test anniversary,[o]Peration Hume was enforced statewide from 12:01 a.m. Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to 11:59 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, covering drug and alcohol-related driving offenses .

According to police, 36,242 breath tests and 10,491 drug tests were conducted during this period, and more than 500 drivers were arrested for drinking or driving under the influence of drugs.

What is the maximum sentence for drunk driving in New South Wales?

The maximum penalties applicable to drunk driving offenses in our state depend on:

  1. the category to which the driver’s blood alcohol measurement falls, and
  2. Whether the driver has been convicted of a serious traffic offense for the first or second time in the past five years.

What types of drunk driving crimes are there?

There are five categories of DUI crimes in our state:

What is a Serious Traffic Violation?

The maximum sentence for drunk driving is increased if the driver has been “convicted” of a serious traffic offense within the last five years.

In that regard, the definition of “convicted” includes an acquittal following a guilty plea, such as a Section 10 dismissal or a conditional release order in which no conviction is recorded against the driver’s name. It is important to note that the included

The major traffic violations in NSW are:

  • Death or bodily harm to another person resulting from or resulting from the use of a motor vehicle, including murder, negligent homicide, willful or reckless bodily injury, causing serious bodily harm (Sections 33 and 35 of the Criminal Code), and violent driving; offense involving bodily harm (Article 53) causing serious bodily harm (Article 54)
  • death or serious injury as a result of predatory driving (Section 51A), police pursuit (Section 51B), and failure to stop and assist after a collision (Section 52AB);
  • Drunk driving (Article 110 of the Road Transport Act),
  • drug driving (Article 111),
  • Concurrent driving with alcohol and drugs (Section 111A),
  • driving under the influence (Section 112),
  • negligent driving causing death or serious bodily harm (Section 117(1)),
  • driving furiously, recklessly or at a dangerous speed or manner (Article 117(2));
  • Intimidating driving (Article 118),
  • failing to stop for assistance after an impact that causes injury or death (Article 146),
  • refuse to submit a breath analysis (Article 16(1)(b) of Schedule 3),
  • Refusal or failure to provide blood, oral fluid, or urine samples (Schedule 3, Section 17);
  • Deliberately altering the amount or concentration of alcohol or other drugs (Schedule 3, Section 18), or
  • Encourage, assist, counsel, entrust, or otherwise participate in any of the above in advance.

So what are the penalties?

If you drive with a novice, special or low prescribed concentration of alcohol (first offense), police will issue a penalty notice (i.e. a fine) instead of sending you to court after May 20, 2019 has discretion to do so.

At the time of writing, the fine is $587.

Note, however, that the fine does not come with a conviction (criminal record), but with a three-month driver’s license suspension.

Aside from penalty notice, the maximum penalties are:

Drunk driving for beginners

Entry-level DUI is when a learner or provisional license plate holder drives with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.001 and 0.019.

If you have not been convicted of another “serious traffic offense” in the last five years, the “automatic disqualification period” is six months.

A magistrate can reduce that disqualification period to a “minimum” of three months.

The maximum fine is $2,200.00.

Subsequent Violations

For two or more serious traffic violations within five years, the penalties are:

  1. Disqualification for 3 months (can be shortened to 1 month), then
  2. 12 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  3. Fines up to $3,300.

Alternatively, the court may “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose:

  1. 12 months disqualification period (can be reduced to 6 months), and
  2. Fines up to $3,300.

Special range drunk driving

Special range drunk driving is when a learner or provisional license plate holder drives with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.02 and 0.049.

If you have not been convicted of another “serious traffic offense” in the last five years, the “automatic period of disqualification” is six months.

A magistrate can reduce that disqualification period to a “minimum” of three months.

The maximum fine is $2,200.00.

Subsequent Violations

For two or more serious traffic violations within five years, the penalties are:

  1. Disqualification for 3 months (can be shortened to 1 month), then
  2. 12 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  3. Fines up to $3,300.

Alternatively, the court may “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose:

  1. 12 months disqualification period (can be reduced to 6 months), and
  2. Fines up to $3,300.

low range drunk driving

Light drink driving is when the driver’s blood alcohol level is between 0.05 and 0.079.

The maximum penalties for committing a serious traffic violation for the first time in the last five years are:

  1. 6 months driving disqualification (can be reduced to a minimum of 3 months), and
  2. Fines up to $2,200.

Subsequent Violations

For two or more serious traffic violations within five years, the penalties are:

  1. Disqualification for 3 months (can be shortened to 1 month), then
  2. 12 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  3. Fines up to $3,300.

Alternatively, the court may “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose:

  1. 12 months disqualification period (can be reduced to 6 months), and
  2. Fines up to $3,300.

middle distance drunk driving

Middle or “mid” range DUI is when the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is between 0.08 and 0.149.

The maximum penalties for committing a serious traffic violation for the first time in the last five years are:

  1. up to 9 months imprisonment,
  2. Disqualification of driver’s license for 6 months. Can be shortened to 3 months. afterwards,
  3. 12 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  4. $2,200 fine.

Alternatively, the court can “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose the following maximum penalties:

  1. up to 9 months imprisonment
  2. 12 months license expiry (can be shortened to 6 months), and
  3. $2,200 fine.

Subsequent Violations

For two or more serious traffic violations in the last five years, the maximum penalties are:

  1. up to 12 months in prison,
  2. 9 months license disqualification (can be shortened to 6 months), then
  3. 24 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  4. $3,300 fine.

Alternatively, the court can “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose the following maximum penalties:

  1. up to 12 months imprisonment,
  2. License disqualification for 3 years (can be reduced to 12 months), and
  3. $3,300 fine

high altitude drunk driving

Drunk driving is when the driver’s blood alcohol level is 0.150 or higher.

The maximum penalties for committing a serious traffic violation for the first time in the last five years are:

  1. up to 18 months in prison,
  2. 9 months driving license disqualification (can be shortened to 6 months), then
  3. 24 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  4. $3,300 fine.

Alternatively, the court can “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose the following maximum penalties:

  1. up to 18 months in prison,
  2. License disqualification for 3 years (can be reduced to 12 months), and
  3. $3,300 fine.

Subsequent Violations

For two or more serious traffic violations in the last five years, the maximum penalties are:

  1. up to 2 years imprisonment
  2. 12 months license expiry (can be shortened to 9 months), then
  3. 48 months during which the vehicle must be fitted with an interlock device, and
  4. $5,500 fine

Alternatively, the court can “exempt” you from the interlock requirement and impose the following maximum penalties:

  1. up to 2 years imprisonment
  2. 5 years license revocation (can be reduced to 2 years), and
  3. $5,500 fine

Can I avoid a DUI conviction if I plead guilty?

Note that courts generally have the power to issue non-conviction orders in DUI cases, such as section 10(1)(a) dismissal and conditional release without conviction orders. It is important to

If you plead guilty or were convicted of a DUI offense and a magistrate was persuaded to grant such an order, it means that no conviction will be recorded against your name ( (i.e. no criminal record), no disqualified driver’s license. and no fines.

However, it is important to note that the court does not have Article 10 acquittal powers in situations where you have already received such an order for a serious traffic offense within the past five years.

But what does the court actually impose?

The New South Wales Judiciary Commission publishes statistics on penalties for certain crimes in the state, called the Judicial Information and Research System (JIRS).

The Commission has not recorded the duration of the driver’s disqualification imposed for the traffic violation nor has it specified whether it is the driver’s first or subsequent serious traffic violation within five years, It provides a breakdown of other penalties imposed.

According to the commission, the breakdown of those who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of driving while intoxicated without additional offenses (e.g., negligent or dangerous driving) was:

Drunk driving for beginners

Special range drunk driving

low range drunk driving

middle distance drunk driving

high altitude drunk driving



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