Are you facing a drug offence in which you were under the influence of a drug while driving? Was your licence suspended for dangerous driving and you’re wondering when you’ll get it back? Illegal drug possession is a serious crime in Queensland; it’s also one of the most common across the state. Since 2020, Queensland police have issued approximately 157,600 criminal drug offence charges, nearly three times the number of drink driving traffic offences over the same period.
Since drug amounts, history of criminal involvement, drug type and drug testing can all play a role in how illegal drug possession is ultimately prosecuted and litigated, you may not be clear on what comes next after a drink driving offence.
Russo Lawyers can help. We have a tenured team of traffic lawyer, criminal lawyer, drug lawyer and overall defence lawyer experts that is uniquely qualified to provide sound legal guidance after a drug driving charge and determine if your charge is worth contesting in a Brisbane Magistrates Court.
How does drug driving differ from drink driving?
While drug driving and drink driving are similar from a perspective of the resulting effects on driving performance – e.g. blurred vision, aggressiveness, fatigue, reduced depth perception, dizzy spells, et al. – the testing methods, and what the tests assess, are different. In the case of drug driving, the relevant drug that Queensland police are checking for may include methylamphetamine, MDMA or THC. THC is the hallucinogenic agent found in cannabis products and MDMA is what gives ecstasy its potency. Methamphetamine is found in many drugs, including prescription drugs.
For drink driving, police are checking for the presence of alcohol.
The testing methods between drink driving and drug driving are also different. With the former, police use a breathalyser to determine your blood alcohol concentration. But for drug testing, police check the saliva. Blood samples are sometimes requested as an alternative.
The punishments for drink driving and drunk driving can also differ, from a lengthy licence suspension to imprisonment to fines in the thousands of dollars.
Why does this matter?
It’s important to understand the distinctions between drink driving and drug driving because police are obligated to abide by certain protocols, codes of conduct and testing procedures. In the case of a breathalyser for alcohol presence, the instrumentation must be properly calibrated to ensure its readings are accurate. And in the case of saliva samples for drug testing, a follow-up test must be conducted if the initial sample showed a positive result. If a second one wasn’t completed, that’s a problem the court needs to know about.
Due process is an important component to the rule of law in Australia, and at Russo Lawyers, we’ll ensure that your rights are protected as drug driving lawyer experts.
I’ve been charged with drug driving and tested positive – What comes next?
Similar to drink driving, Queensland has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug driving. If even trace amounts of an illicit drug are detected in your bloodstream or saliva sample, and you were behind the wheel at the time, you could face criminal prosecution and the immediate seizure or disqualification of your driver’s licence.
Whether that happens is largely the decision of a magistrate. Their determination in this matter will largely hinge on the test result and the testimony of the arresting officer. For example, if the police officer who took you into custody had reason to believe you were driving recklessly and that drugs were the cause, the magistrate will seize your licence as soon as the charge is official. The length of your licence disqualification will depend on what happens with your case.
What is the legal definition of ‘reasonable suspicion’?
As the Queensland Government points out, whether you’re even tested for a relevant drug is based on whether a police officer “reasonably suspects” you’re under the influence of an illicit drug. But what does that term mean? It’s largely subject to interpretation, but for the most part, reasonable suspicion means that there is some fact, outcome or behaviour pertaining to an illegal action that warrants further investigation. In the case of drug driving, it may be within a police officer’s authority to request a saliva sample if they can establish your actions on the road were suggestive of impairment.
But if you contend that the police officer had no legal justification for pulling you over – never mind requesting a saliva test – then the positive test result may be dismissed. This is yet another reason why you may need legal counsel. A drug offence that goes on your criminal record can lead to consequences that can adversely affect your hireability, work licence disqualification or prison time. In short, if there was no just cause for drug testing, you need a drug driving lawyer that can defend your rights and help you get back your driver’s licence.
Whether it’s drink driving, drug driving, dangerous driving or all three, you as a citizen of Australia are entitled to your day in court and a robust defence. Russo Lawyers can provide you with the representation you need for a variety of legal challenges. Our experience extends beyond traffic law and extends to several others, so don’t hesitate to contact us for matters beyond the motor vehicle realm.