All road users have a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians to adhere to driving rules, creating safe commutes. What happens when this duty of care is breached? Here, we break down the ins and outs of drug driving charges, noting potential paths of defence to seek a lesser sentence.
What constitutes a drug driving charge?
Simply put, a drug driving charge stems from being caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, regulated under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld). There are many different instances in which a person may be charged for drug driving, including:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Driving while drugs are present in breath or saliva.
- Driving over the blood alcohol limit – whether zero, middle or general.
Understandably, these charges all result in varying minimum and maximum penalties, from driving suspension to imprisonment. The underlying similarity however is that essentially all offences of this nature result in an automatic loss of driver’s licence.
In Queensland, you can be charged while driving under varying limits of alcohol intoxication. One such charge is for being caught driving over the general alcohol limit of 0.05, without exceeding the middle of 0.10 or the high limit of 0.15. Although a person caught within these bounds may only just be over the general limit, this still may result in a maximum penalty of $1,050 or three months in prison. If you’re over the high alcohol limit of 0.15, you could be charged $2,100 in fines, with the potential to go to jail for nine months.
How are drug driving charges given?
As a driver in Queensland, you can be randomly subjected to breath or saliva tests to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in your system. These occur either at checkpoints, or if you’ve been pulled over as the result of concerning driving. Saliva testing generally takes between three and five minutes to reveal whether drugs are present in the body, and tests for methamphetamine, MDMA and THC in cannabis. With positive test results, you’ll need to carry out another test to confirm the presence of substances in the body.
It’s important to note that if you fail to provide a saliva sample, you’ll likely be asked to give a blood test – failure to comply with drug testing may result in serious penalties. Furthermore, if your vehicle is searched and illicit drugs are found, you’ll likely be arrested for a drug offence, such as possession. Interestingly, you don’t need to be the actual owner of a drug to be charged with possession – under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) transporting or holding the drug for someone else leaves you liable to charges.
What are the possible defences to a drug driving charge?
Being arrested for a drug-related offence is incredibly stressful – these charges are often complex to navigate, as in most cases the proof is in the poison. That being said, there are several avenues an expert criminal lawyer may investigate to reduce your sentence. The prosecution side’s main argument rests on proof of whether:
- You were in control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
- You intended to operate a vehicle while drugged.
- You were in charge of the vehicle while it was driven under the influence.
When building your defence case, it’s vital to identify all parts of the incident to ensure that you have the best chance at getting a favourable outcome. One such factor to consider is time, particularly, the time at which a substance was ingested. Charges may be able to be contested if a drug sample, being either saliva or blood, was not taken within three hours of the accused party operating a car. Additionally, the prosecution will need evidence that you were in control of the vehicle at the time of the drug test.
Ultimately, your best bet at reducing a drug driving charge is to reach out to expert criminal lawyers at the earliest convenience. Here’s where Russo Lawyers step in. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in the world of criminal law, we’ve helped countless clients through a range of drug charges for favourable outcomes. For more information on how we can help you formulate the best case against your charges, get in touch with our team.