Drug Driving

ACT motorists are increasingly coming before the courts charged with drug driving offences. This is the result of new technology that allows police to find the presence of various drugs in drivers’ systems. The most common drug-driving charge is driving with a prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood. Whilst this is similar to the offence of drink driving, there are significant differences between the two.

Drink driving vs drug driving

The major difference is that the presence of alcohol in a driver’s blood is known to mean that their driving is impaired. Studies have shown this conclusively. The ACT has four levels of drink-driving, with each reflecting increasing penalties for increasing amounts of alcohol found in the driver’s system.

In contrast, drug testing shows only the presence of certain drugs in a driver’s system. It does not show the amount of those drugs nor if there was any impairment caused by them. This means that someone who consumed a small amount of cannabis on the weekend can be picked up for drug driving at some point late in the next week.

A person in this situation, if they are a first offender, faces the same driving disqualification as someone who is before the court for a first offence Level 4 drink-driving offence (where the BAC recorded was 0.150 or more.) Both offenders face automatic disqualification from driving for three years (reducible to six months if the driver can satisfy a court of unusual circumstances).

The drink driver faces a maximum fine of $2250 and/or nine months imprisonment. The drug driver faces a maximum fine of $1500 with no prison component.

Repeat offenders

As with drink driving, the penalties for drug driving increase if the driver is a repeat offender.

A repeat drug driving offender faces an automatic disqualification from driving for five years (reducible to 12 months). The same applies to a repeat offender Level 4 drink driver.

The repeat drink driver faces imprisonment for up to 12 months; the repeat drug-driver for up to three months.

Those apprehended for drug-driving are given a notice by police that they are not to drive a motor vehicle for 12 hours after their apprehension. Those apprehended for drink driving, if their blood alcohol content is more than 0.05 over their limit, are immediately suspended from driving for three months.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 


In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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