In Queensland the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 provides for two types of ‘drug driving’ offences. The first is treated the same as high range drink driving but, instead of having to prove that a driver has more than a prescribed concentration of a drug in their system, the police simply need to establish that the person is under the influence of the drug.
The second offence is slightly less serious, and does not require the police to establish that a person was actually under the influence of a drug, simply that the drug was present in their blood or saliva. This offence, unsurprisingly, is called ‘driving while a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva’.
Driving Under The Influence of a Drug
You might be guilty of driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug, drug DUI or drug driving for short, if you drive a motor vehicle while there is an intoxicating drug in your system and that drug measurably affects your ability to operate your motor vehicle.
The punishment for drug DUI is the same as for high range drink driving (they are, technically, the same offence) and carries a maximum of 9 months imprisonment and/or a 28 penalty unit fine.
A second, or subsequent, offence within 5 years, carries a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment and/or a 60 penalty unit fine. For a third, and any subsequent, offence within 5 years of the first, the law requires that a court impose a sentence which ‘includes imprisonment’. While this requirement does not mean, as a matter of law, that a person must serve a full time prison sentence, in practice this is usually the outcome.
Upon convicting a person of drug DUI a court is required to disqualify that them from holding or obtaining a Queensland drivers licence for a minimum of 6 months for a first offence, a minimum of 1 year for a second, and a minimum of 2 years for any subsequent, offences. A court is empowered to disqualify a person absolutely (meaning they can never hold or apply for another Queensland driver’s licence) even for a first offence (though in practice this is rare). If more than one period of disqualification is imposed (for example for repeat offences), they must be served cumulatively (that is, each period of disqualification does not commence until the previous one has expired).
Driving While Drug Present In System
You might be guilty of driving while a relevant drug is present in your blood or saliva if, as the name suggests, you drive while a relevant drug, which means every kind of illicit drug and also some prescription drugs, is identified as being present in your blood or saliva. Most often, this charge is laid after the presence of drugs is found in a person’s saliva because of a police ‘swab test’ during which a sample of saliva is taken and analysed, on the spot, by a hand held machine.
The police are not obliged to prove that there was a particular concentration of a drug in a persons system, or that the drug had a particular effect on that person, merely that the drug was present in the tested sample.
The punishment for driving while a drug is present in your blood or saliva is a maximum of 3 months imprisonment and/or a 14 penalty unit fine.
A second offence within 5 years, carries a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment and/or a 20 penalty unit fine. For a third, and any subsequent, offence within 5 years the maximum penalty increases to a maximum 9 months imprisonment and/or a 28 penalty unit fine.
Upon convicting a person of driving while a drug is present in their blood or saliva, a court is required to disqualify that them from holding or obtaining a Queensland drivers licence for a minimum of 1 month for a first offence, a minimum of 3 months for a second offence. Third and subsequent offences attract an automatic 6 month disqualification. If more than one period of disqualification is imposed (for example for repeat offences), they must be served cumulatively (that is, each period of disqualification does not commence until the previous one has expired).
WHERE TO NEXT?
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.