Drug driving offences can be hard to navigate, especially if you're new to the criminal and legal system. However, if you know your rights and the Transport Operations Road Use Management Act 1995 (Qld), you can avoid potential costly legal issues. First, it is important to know that taking recreational or prescription drugs and driving can create dangerous conditions on the road for you and others. These effects are detrimental and can include an impaired ability to determine distance, an unpredictable emotional and mental state, blurred vision, hallucinations, nausea and much more.
Police may test you for drugs at any time. Random roadside drug testing is perhaps most common and does not require the police to suspect any drug use of any kind prior to testing. You can look, behave and communicate soberly and still be breaking the law if you are found to have any relevant drug in your system. Additionally, if authorities do suspect you to be under the influence based on your behavior behind the wheel, they can pull you over and test you just as they might if you were under the influence of alcohol.
Roadside drug testing is done through a saliva test, which typically takes 3-5 minutes to process. It looks for active ingredients in specific illegal drugs, and can be affected by the type of drug taken, quantity and quality, frequency of drug use and time lapsed since initial ingestion. If the saliva test comes back positive and relevant drugs are detected, a second test will be issued and sent for additional examination. A blood test may also be required if saliva screenings fail.
Relevant and non-relevant drug driving
The Transport Operations Road Use Management Act provides two frameworks for drug driving. These are the offences of relevant drug driving or driving under the influence of drugs. On paper, they sound the same. However, these offences carry different penalties.
Four specific drugs are considered "relevant" and as such are illegal no matter how much you ingest. Though testing capabilities vary by state or territory, there is generally zero tolerance for driving under the influence of methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy) or THC (cannabis's active ingredient).
Drug driving is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, with one major exception. Relevant drugs are illegal no matter what amount you have of them in your system. This zero-tolerance policy requires two positive drug tests – either of the saliva or blood – to come into effect.
If you test positive for a relevant drug – or for the ingestion of other drugs or alcohol over the legal limit, after being suspected of driving under the influence – your license will be automatically suspended. The length of this suspension depends on the severity of the offence.
The penalties for drug driving with a relevant drug in your system include:
- Automatic loss of license/disqualify you from driving for between 1 and 9 months
- Fine of up to $1,868
- Maximum term of imprisonment of 3 months
Penalties for under the influence drug include:
- Loss of license for up to 6 months
- Fine of up to $3,736
- Maximum prison term of 9 months
Additional things to know
- Prescription drugs: Prescribed drugs and even those purchased at the pharmacy over the counter are illegal to have in your system while driving if any of them impair your ability to operate a vehicle. Police are compelled to test for this if they suspect you of being under the influence.
- Repeat offence: there are increased penalties if you are charged with a repeat driving offence. You are a repeat offender if you have been convicted of a drug driving charge in the last 5 years. The possible penalties for repeat offences include loss of license for up to 2 years, a fine of more than $8,000 and imprisonment for an unspecified period of time determined by the court.
- Refusing the test: if you refuse to provide a specimen of saliva for testing you may be fined up to $5,338 or sentenced to a maximum of 6 months in prison. Additionally you may also be liable for the same penalties as you would if you were being charged with the original offence.
There are a lot of things to be aware of when it comes to drug driving offences. At Russo Lawyers, we can supply you with the knowledge you need to make sense of everything. Contact us today and let us show you how we can help.