When it comes to drink driving, we often hear two acronyms spoken about: one is PCA and one is DUI. In general talk, they’re often used interchangeably as if they’re the same thing. In the legal world, they actually have different meanings. 

A PCA and a DUI are not the same, so it’s really important if you have been charged with drink driving to know which one you’ve been charged with, because it changes what the possible outcomes are and it also changes what the prosecution needs to prove. You might have a defence. 

Today I wanted to break down and go into a bit more detail about what the difference between a DUI and a PCA is. 

Let’s start with PCAs. That stands for Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol. What these offences are is where the police have administered a breath test and a breath analysis and come back with a reading of the person’s blood alcohol content – so basically, how much alcohol you have in your system. 

With PCAs, the offences are simply based on the number that comes back from that reading. The police don’t need to prove that you were affected by alcohol or that it impaired your driving in any way. All they need to show is if the blood alcohol concentration reading fell within one of the brackets – a low range, mid range, or high range. These ones are a little trickier to defend because of that, so what we usually rely on is whether the police have made a procedural error in administering the test or whether perhaps the test itself was incorrect. 

DUIs, on the other hand, stands for Driving Under the Influence. The difference here is they’re not based on the blood alcohol content reading from the breath test. Instead, they’re based on police observation and whether or not you seem to be impaired. 

To be found guilty of driving under the influence, the police need to show that the alcohol in your system was either affecting your driving or impairing your ability to drive. So it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the impact on your behaviour. 

These ones can be a little bit easier to defend than PCAs, because they’re not based on a number – they’re based on police observations and opinions, there’s much more scope for them to get it wrong. I have seen cases where there’s been a misunderstanding and the person’s actions are explained by some other reason rather than being drunk.

If you were charged with Driving Under the Influence, it’s a really good idea to have a chat with a lawyer. Find out why the police say that you were affected by the alcohol and then we can make an assessment as to whether or not you might be able to defend the charge.
As always, if you have found yourself in the position of being caught drink driving, or even if you’ve just got some questions about what we’ve spoken about today, feel free to get in touch with one of our lawyers. We’re always happy to have a chat.

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