Random Breath Tests (RBTs) (Alcohol And Drug) NSW

Criminal legal

Random breath tests for alcohol and drugs are a crucial tool used by NSW police to detect and deter impaired driving.

Random breath tests (RBTs) are an important tool law enforcement agencies use in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, to combat alcohol and drug-impaired driving. Conducted without prior warning, RBTs aim to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel while under the influence and ensure safer roads for everyone.

This article provides an overview of alcohol and drug random breath tests in NSW, along with examples of offences and the corresponding penalties.

Alcohol Random Breath Tests

Alcohol RBTs involve testing drivers’ breath for the presence of alcohol. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for different driver categories are as follows:

a. General Drivers: The BAC limit for general drivers is 0.05, meaning they must have a BAC below 0.05 when operating a vehicle.

b. Novice Drivers: Learner, provisional, and probationary licence holders are subject to a zero BAC limit. They must have no detectable alcohol in their system while driving.

Examples of Offences and Penalties – Random breath tests (RBTs)

a. Exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA): This charge applies when a driver’s BAC exceeds the legal limit.


  • Fines: The penalties vary depending on the severity of the offence and whether it is the first, second, or subsequent offence. For example, a first-time low-range PCA offence can result in a fine of up to $2,200, whereas a high-range PCA offence may lead to fines of up to $5,500.
  • Licence Disqualification: Offences involving exceeding the PCA limits can lead to licence disqualification periods, ranging from three months to multiple years.
  • Mandatory Alcohol Interlock: In some cases, offenders may be required to install an alcohol interlock device in their vehicle, which prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected in their breath.
  1. Drug Random Breath Tests:

In addition to alcohol, NSW police also conduct drug random breath tests to detect the presence of illicit substances in drivers’ systems. Drug RBTs typically involve a saliva swab to test for common drugs, such as cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy).

Examples of Offences and Penalties:

a. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs: This charge applies when a driver operates a vehicle while drug-impaired.


  • Fines and Penalties: The penalties for drug driving offences can vary depending on the type and quantity of drugs detected and the presence of any prior offences. They can include fines, licence disqualification, and potential imprisonment.
  • Licence Disqualification: Drug driving offences can result in licence disqualification periods, ranging from months to years, depending on the severity of the offence and previous convictions.

Penalties and Consequences

The penalties for alcohol and drug-related driving offences in NSW are designed to discourage impaired driving and protect road users. Some common penalties include:

  • Fines: F fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the offence.
  • Licence Disqualification: Offences involving alcohol or drugs can lead to licence disqualification /wp/use-of-firearm-under-influence-in-nsw-an-in-depth-examination-of-the-offence-penalties-and-possible-defences/for varying periods, depending on the severity of the offence and prior convictions.
  • Imprisonment: Imprisonment can be a possible consequence for serious offences, such as repeat high-range PCA or drug driving offences.
  • Mandatory Participation in Programs: Offenders may be required to complete driver education programs or undergo rehabilitation as part of their penalty.