Caught drink driving? What happens next

In New South Wales, drink driving offences can carry heavy penalties, including fines, terms of imprisonment and periods of licence disqualification. A fine can be issued on the spot for a first offence if the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading is below 0.05. On the other hand, the driver will have to attend court for second and subsequent offences.

Drink driving is labelled as a criminal offence and means that if you are found guilty of a drink driving offence, it will appear on your criminal record. Your criminal record appears as part of police and background checks. The only way to avoid the offence going onto your criminal record is to be found not guilty. The court is to rule that you did not commit the offence or for the police to agree to withdraw charges against your name. It is recommended to consult with the best criminal lawyers Sydney who will offer the best advice based on your situation.

After 10 crime-free years as an adult, a conviction can become spent, meaning it is removed from your criminal record. Any police and background checks will be considered to have a ‘clean record’ once again. This will be true unless other offences are still existing. You cannot remove violations from your criminal history.

What classifies drink driving?

Across Australia, drivers must be below the BAC of 0.05 to be able to drive legally. Various penalties are dependent on the level of BAC that you read. In NSW, there are five different levels of drink driving. Each level has a different maximum penalty and maximum and minimum licence suspension periods.

  • Novice range (0.00 to 0.019 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver)
  • Special range (0.02 to 0.049 for a Learner, P1 or P2 driver or a bus or taxi driver)
  • Low range (0.05 to 0.079)
  • Mid-range (0.08 to 0.149)
  • High range (0.15 and higher)

Novice, special or low range

If you have been found guilty of novice range, special range, or low range drinking for the first time, you can anticipate having your licence suspended for a period of three to six months. An on the spot fine of $2200 is also issued along with the licence suspension.

However, if this is your second or subsequent offence, you will be ordered to attend court. Courts can impose a licence disqualification for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $3300. 


A person found guilty of a mid-range drink driving offence can encounter fines of up to $2200 or nine months imprisonment. They will also be disbarred from driving for a period of between 6 and 12 months (or for six months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 12 months).

If you have been found guilty of mid-range drink driving for a second or subsequent offence, you will be fined up to $3300 with a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment. A further disqualification of driving will be increased to a term of amid 12 months and 3 years (or for a term between 6 and 9 months with an alcohol interlock period of a further 24 months).

High range

Anyone charged with a high range drinking offence can incur fines of $3300 for a first offence and up to $5500 for a second or subsequent offence.

What is different with a high range drinking offence compared to lower levels is that this offence can draw on a prison duration of up to 18 months for a first infringement and can lead up to two years for a second or successive offence.

Drivers will also get an immediate licence suspension. First offenders can be disqualified for up to 3 years (or for up to 9 months with an alcohol interlock duration of a further 24 months). On the condition that this is your second or subsequent offence, you can be barred from driving for up to 5 years (or for up to 12 months with an alcohol interlock period for a further 48 months).

Licence Disqualification

If you have obtained a disqualification from holding a driver’s licence, there is a likelihood that you may be entitled to apply to have that disqualification either reduced or eradicated if you have been free from offences for a term of 2 years (4 years in some cases). You should fill out an application to the RMS for a copy of your traffic record in which you will receive a response in a reply form indicating if you are eligible.

However, this does not apply to cases involving serious motor vehicle offences under the Crimes Act, such as predatory driving, police pursuits and various other offences.

What is an interlock device?

Alcohol interlock devices are electronic breath-testing devices that link to the ignition system of cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles. In order for the ignition of your vehicle to turn on, you will have to complete a breath test on the interlock and register a BAC result of zero. If the apparatus uncovers that you have alcohol in your system, the vehicle will not start. The interlock device has a camera that takes a photo of you providing the breath sample. Throughout your journey, random breath tests must also be passed.

The interlock device will store a record any time you record a BAC over zero. This can enable police to access the history, and you may be charged with additional offences. It is an additional offence for another person to assist you to start a vehicle with an interlock.

If you are given an interlock order and do not undertake the interlock program, you will be disqualified from holding a licence for 5 years.

How can I get legal help?

Finding the best criminal lawyers Sydney is a critical step in tackling any drink driving offences that you encounter. A drink driving lawyer can help educate you on the nature of the violation you have committed and can clearly outline the drink driving penalties that you may face.