Drink driving frequently asked questions


  • The changes will deliver more certain and simple penalties after a first-time low-range drink driving offence.

    The courts play an important role in administering justice, but are not the only way to ensure tough, but fair, penalties.

    Loss of licence is a proven strategy to address drink driving and it is important that it takes effect consistently and swiftly. This sends a clear message to all drivers that drink driving is unacceptable.

  • No. These reforms do not change the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits in NSW. NSW has three BAC limits: zero, under 0.02 and under 0.05. The limit that applies to you depends on the category of your licence and the type of vehicle you are driving.

  • The term ‘lower range’ drink driving offence is used in these reforms to refer to drink driving offences involving an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.08.

    This includes low range, special range and novice range offences.

    A low range offence involves a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.079. This is the most common drink driving offence affected by the reform.

    Novice range (0.00 – 0.019 BAC) and special range (0.02 – 0.049 BAC) offences apply only to certain drivers who have a low BAC limit because of their licence type, status or vehicle driven.

  • The steps at the roadside are not significantly changed by the reforms.

    NSW Police have the power to stop and require any driver (or supervising driver) to submit to a breath test. If you fail a breath test, you can be arrested by police and taken to a police station or van or bus equipped with a breath analysing instrument to confirm your result.

    If you are confirmed as over your legal limit and it is a first time, low range offence, NSW Police will be able to immediately suspend your licence for a period of three months and issue you with a penalty notice for drink driving.

  • You will not have a licence and are not allowed to drive. If you are with a passenger who is licensed and fit to drive, they may drive the vehicle. Alternatively if it is in a safe location, you can choose to leave the vehicle parked at the roadside.

  • Police have the option of charging a first time drink driving offender instead of issuing a penalty notice. This means that you must attend court at the time and place outlined in your notice.

    If you are charged with an offence and need to attend court (instead of receiving a penalty notice), police can still issue an immediate licence suspension.

    The suspension will typically apply until your charge is determined by the court or you are notified that proceedings against you for the charge are not continuing. It is important to read and comply with the suspension notice provided by Police.

  • Yes. When issued with a penalty notice, you can elect to have the offence dealt with by a court. You may wish to seek legal advice before making the decision to go to court, as higher penalties can be applied by the court and a conviction may be recorded. More information about the court election process is available from Revenue NSW.

  • Yes. If you are issued an immediate roadside licence suspension by Police, you can appeal against the suspension in court. More information about the appeals process is available from the NSW Online Registry - Courts and Tribunals.

    If you lodge an appeal against an immediate licence suspension, you are not permitted to drive until you go to court and are successful in your appeal. Significant penalties apply for driving while your licence is suspended.

  • The maximum fine a court can issue for a low-range, special-range or novice-range first offence is $2200. The automatic licence disqualification period if you are convicted is 6 months. The court can order a shorter period, but it cannot be shorter than 3 months.
  • A level 7 penalty notice can be issued for first-time drug presence offences. This level is currently valued at $581.

    The penalty notice fine is less than the maximum fine that can be ordered by a court ($2200).

  • No. There are no demerit point penalties associated with prescribed concentration of alcohol drink driving offences.
  • Police have the option of issuing drivers who commit a low-range, special-range or novice-range offence for the ‘first time’ with a penalty notice.

    A penalty notice can only be issued if, in the previous 5 years:

    • the offender has not been convicted of a drink or drug driving or an equivalent offence, and
    • the offender has not been issued a penalty notice for an alcohol or drug related driving offence

    Second and subsequent offences must be dealt with by a court and carry not only higher possible fines but longer periods of licence disqualification and involve alcohol interlock orders if the repeat offence is alcohol related.

  • No. Matters that are dealt with through a penalty notice and that are not taken to court do not result in a criminal conviction. However, offences are recorded on an offender’s traffic record and will be considered if a person commits a further offence.

    If a person is convicted of a further offence of the same or an equivalent type within five years of the date of committing a drink or drug driving offence that was dealt with by penalty notice, the further offence will be considered a ‘second or subsequent offence’.

    Second and subsequent offences must be dealt with by a court and carry not only higher possible fines but longer periods of licence disqualification and involve alcohol interlock orders if the repeat offence is alcohol related.

  • Depending on your situation, Revenue NSW may offer options to pay your fine in instalments. More information is available at Revenue NSW.

  • Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for a work and development order. More information is available at Revenue NSW.

  • Mid-range and high-range drink driving offences must be dealt with by a court.

    Immediate roadside suspension and significant penalties, including licence disqualification, potential prison terms and mandatory alcohol interlocks apply for these offences.

Share this page: