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    High Range Drink Driving (PCA)

    If you’ve been charged with high range PCA, do not complete any paperwork or attend court without speaking to a specialist traffic lawyer. We can help defend you in court to reduce the penalty you will face as well as your disqualification period. Our lawyers are Law Society Accredited Specialists in Traffic Law, which puts us in the top 6% of lawyers in NSW. Contact us now to see how we can help.

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      What is High Range PCA

      The offence of high range PCA is committed if you drive a motor vehicle on a road, or supervise a learner driver, with a blood alcohol reading above 0.149.

      High range drink driving is a serious offence, however, our team have consistently been able to beat these charges. You can view our recent results for high-range drink driving cases at the bottom of this page.

      Penalties for High Range PCA

      High Range PCA – first offence penalties

      Fine Imprisonment Disqualification Interlock
      $3300 18 months With interlock order: 9 months (can be reduced but not less than 6 months)

      Exempted from interlock: 3 years – can be reduced but not less than 12 months
      2 year interlock condition on your licence

      High Range PCA – second alcohol related offence within 5 years

      Fine Imprisonment Disqualification Interlock
      $5500 2 years With interlock order:12 months (can be reduced but not less than 9 months)

      5 years – can be reduced but not less than 2 years
      4 year interlock condition on your licence

      Process for high range PCA charges

      Police will first administer a roadside breath test. Normally you speak into the device first and this gives an indication of whether there is any alcohol present in your breath. If that test is positive then you’ll be required to blow into a tube attached to the same device. This gives police an indicative reading.

      If that reading is above your limit you will be arrested for the purposes of a breath analysis. Breath analysis devices are located in police stations and also RBT buses that are sometimes used in large drink driving operations. The result obtained from blowing into this device is legally deemed to be your reading at the time that you were driving.

      Once that test is completed you will given some paperwork and usually released from custody. Unlike offences of novice, special or low range PCA, police cannot issue a penalty notice for high range PCA.

      Immediate licence suspension for high range drink driving

      If you are issued with a court attendance for high range PCA you will usually also receive an immediate police suspension notice. If you hold a NSW licence that means it is immediately suspended and you cannot drive. If you hold an international or interstate licence it means the authority to drive within NSW is suspended.

      The suspension is in place until your matter is finalised by a court. If you are considering an appeal against an immediate police suspension you can read more here. Appeals against immediate police suspensions are less likely to be successful than other types of licence appeals. This is because the legal test is much higher.

      You need to prove to the court that there are exceptional circumstances why you should have your licence back. If your matter is going to be heard at court a successful appeal will only allow you to drive up until the matter is finalised at court. A court may still convict you and impose a period of disqualification following a successful appeal. If you do not appeal, then the court can take the period of suspension into account when setting a period of disqualification.

      Court process for high range PCA

      Unless a lawyer is appearing on your behalf you will need to attend court on the date listed on your court attendance notice. The first appearance at court for a high range PCA charge is a mention date. It will most likely be in a busy list with many other people. Everyone’s court attendance notice says 9.30am so you may be there quite some time.

      At the mention date you can tell the court whether you would like to plead guilty, not guilty or seek an adjournment. If you plead guilty you may be able to be sentenced on the same day. This is usually not advisable unless you are well prepared. If you plead not guilty you will be allocated a hearing date several weeks away.

      If you are considering pleading not guilty to a drink driving charge ensure you are aware of the defences to drink driving. You can also ask the court to adjourn your matter for a short time (usually two to four weeks) so that you can speak with a lawyer, obtain some references, and complete an approved traffic offenders program.

      Interlock orders for high range PCA

      If you are convicted of high range PCA you will serve an initial period of disqualification, followed by a period where you are subject to an interlock order. This means you can only drive a vehicle fitted with an interlock device. You can seek an exemption order however if this is granted you may be disqualified for a longer period of time.

      Is high range PCA a criminal offence

      High range PCA is a serious criminal offence and you will most likely receive a criminal conviction. A criminal conviction for high range drink driving will appear on your criminal record and in criminal background checks. There are generally only two ways in which you can a avoid a criminal conviction for high range driving.

      You can plead not guilty and have the matter dismissed if you are successful, or you can persuade the court to deal with the matter by finding you guilty but not recording a conviction.

      What is the likely penalty for high range PCA

      Statistics for high range drink driving from the New South Wales Judicial Commission show that over a recent four year period over 98% of people charged with high range driving were convicted. High range PCA is viewed as a serious offence and avoiding a conviction is extremely rare.

      Will I go to jail for high range PCA?

      Over a recent four year period about 17% of drivers charged with high range drink driving received sentences of imprisonment. The majority of those sentences were suspended or served in the community as a supervised intensive corrections order. Where it was a second offence within a five year period over 56% were sentenced to some form of imprisonment.

      Preparing for court

      When determining your matter, the Magistrate will read the court attendance notice, police facts sheet, and any material you bring to court. They will also listen to anything that you or your lawyer wish to tell the court. These are called submissions. It is important to ensure that your matter is well prepared.

      In a busy court there is only limited time for each matter. You need to be able to draw the courts attention to all the relevant considerations quickly. References need to be formatted, addressed and drafted correctly. It is also important that you complete a traffic offenders program.

      Why choose Astor Legal

      Astor Legal are led by an accredited specialist in criminal & traffic law which places us in the top 6% of lawyers in Australia. All of our lawyers are experienced in drink driving matters. We know the systems and processes. Our lawyers will work with you to prepare your matter and then represent you at court. Contact us today on (02) 7804 2823 or by emailing us at

      • What is high range PCA?

        The offence of High Range PCA is committed if you drive a motor vehicle on a road, or supervise a learner driver, with a blood alcohol reading above 0.149. High range drink driving is a serious offence in NSW.

      • What are the penalties for high range PCA in NSW?

        If you are charged with High Range drink driving first offence in NSW the maximum penalties are imprisonment for up to 18 months, fines up to $3300 and licence disqualification for a period of 6 to 9 months, followed by a 2 year mandatory interlock condition on your licence.

      Recent High Range PCA Cases

      • Section 10 for High-Range Drink Driving

        Astor Legal recently were successful in persuading a Judge to allow an appeal and sentence our client to a Section 10 for high-range drink driving.

        The client was a 26-year-old truck driver. He had recently come to Australia by himself to earn money and support his family financially overseas.

        On the day of the offence he was at a friend’s house where he had consumed a significant amount of alcohol. The plan was for the friend to drive our client home at the end of the night. On the journey home, the client’s friend had to pull over to go to urinate. He left our client in the vehicle. Unfortunately, he parked the vehicle in a ‘no stopping’ zone where the vehicle was at risk of being hit by passing cars.

        Our client waited for some time but his friend did not return, nor did he answer his phone. Eventually, our client called the police himself. However, he also drove the vehicle to a safer location a few metres away. The length of time he drove was but a few seconds.

        When police arrived our client made admissions to driving. He was charged with drive with high-range PCA.

        He was represented in the Local Court by other solicitors and a barrister where he received a conviction. He filed an appeal and came to us after seeing our article on how to get a section 10 for mid range drink driving.

        We commenced preparing the matter in detail by arranging for our client’s friend to give evidence in court to confirm his version of events. We also obtained references from his family overseas as well as his employer.

        In court, our Parramatta drink driving lawyers called our client’s friend as a witness and questioned him on the events of the night, as well as our client’s character generally. We then made lengthy and detailed submissions, often having to respond to pushback from the Judge who noted that high range drink driving offences almost always result in a criminal conviction.

        But despite the Judge’s reservations, we were able to convince him that our client’s circumstances were so unique that it warranted a significant departure from the usual sentence imposed.

        In the result, our client received a Section 10 for the drink driving offence. As such he has no conviction on his record and can continue driving. He was ecstatic with the result, as was his family.

      • Not Guilty of High Range PCA due to ‘home safe’ rule and Costs Against Police

        Our client is a 42-year old stock broker who had two prior drink driving convictions.

        On a Friday night he attended a work function where he consumed several glasses of wine over a number of hours.

        He then decided to drive home. Police noticed his vehicle when he was a short distance from his house.
        Our client pulled into his driveway. Police would later give evidence that they believed our client was attempting to avoid detection.

        Police arrested our client and subjected him to a breath test on the street.

        We immediately recognised that this was because Police are not allowed to breath test a person on a property they own or occupy pursuant to Schedule 3, Clause 2 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). This is known as the ‘home safe’ rule.

        A positive reading was registered, and our client was taken to the Police Station where a reading of 0.275 was recorded. He was then charged with high range drink driving.

        Our client spoke to five different lawyers who all believed that he had to plead guilty.

        We took a different view.

        Unbeknownst to Police, our client’s neighbour had security cameras running at night. These cameras captured the entire incident and clearly showed that our client was well and truly in his driveway when stopped by Police.

        Our client retained us, and the matter proceeded to a defended hearing.

        Police statements set out that our client was stopped on the street. At the hearing, we expertly cross-examined the officers and challenged them with the security camera footage.

        Police were left stunned and were forced to accept that our client was in fact on his property. The prosecution case quickly fell to pieces and the charge was dismissed.

        We then sought an order that police pay our client’s legal costs, which was granted.

      • Not Guilty of High Range PCA due to breach of ‘2 hour rule’ and costs against Police

        Our client is an 18-year old university student who enjoys going on camping trips with his friends. On one of these trips, he had been drinking copious amounts of alcohol with two of his friends.

        Regrettably, they all decided to drive to another location in their 4WD.

        Our client was behind the wheel with one friend in the passenger seat and the other friend in the back seat. At some stage, the vehicle veered off the road and crashed into a tree. Passers-by noticed the wreck and called 000. Police and ambulance officers attended some time later.

        Our client was taken to the nearest Police Station and underwent a breath test which registered a reading of 0.323. He was subsequently charged with high range drink driving.

        Our client attended consultations with four different criminal defence firms, who each advised him to plead guilty.

        We took a different view.

        While our client clearly registered a reading well into the High Range, the breath test had been administered outside the ‘2 hour rule’. As such, it was inadmissible pursuant to Schedule 3, Clause 2 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

        Our client retained our services and the case proceeded to a defended hearing. Police were cross-examined about when they received the ‘000 call’ and when they attended the scene. It became apparent that there was no way our client was tested within the 2 hour rule.

        The court quickly found that the breath test was unlawful and dismissed the case against our client. We then sought an order that police pay our client’s legal costs, which was granted.

        Our client and his parents were overjoyed with the result.

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