Queensland legislation currently provides for two types of drug driving:
- driving while under the influence of a drug; and
- driving while a relevant drug is present.
The former is the most serious of the two and carries much higher penalties and a higher licence disqualification period.
You can be charged with driving while under the influence of a drug if a police officer reasonably suspects that your driving ability has been impaired by a drug or if you refuse to provide a saliva test.
What Drugs Will Be Tested?
Saliva tests detect active ingredients for the following:
- THC – which is the active ingredient found in cannabis;
- Methylamphetamine – the drug also known as “speed” or “ice”; and
- MDMA – which is the active ingredient found in ecstasy.
Road Side Testing
Similar to a random breath test, you can be pulled over by a police officer and required to submit to a random roadside saliva test. Police can also require you to submit to a roadside saliva test if they suspect you are driving under the influence of a drug.
A saliva test completed roadside takes approximately three to five minutes to return with a result. If the result is negative you will be free to go. Where the result is positive you will be asked to attend a police vehicle for a second saliva test. If a second saliva result is positive a sample will be sent for laboratory analysis. You will also be suspended from driving a motor vehicle for a period of 24 hours.
Once police have a positive laboratory result, they will formally charge you with drug driving.
Failure To Provide Saliva Test
If asked to provide a roadside saliva test, it is important that you comply with the directions of a police officer. If you refuse to provide a saliva test when requested (either roadside or at a police station) you can be charged with an offence of failing to provide a breath or saliva sample. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.
Driving while under the influence
If caught driving under the influence of a drug the maximum penalties are as follows:
|One previous conviction of drink or drug driving in the past five years 60 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 18 months.||28 penalty units* or a term of imprisonment not exceeding nine months.|
|One previous conviction of drink or drug driving in the past five years||60 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 18 months.|
|If in the past five years the person has been convicted on indictment of any offence concerning driving a motor vehicle||60 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 18 months.|
|If two previous convictions of drink or drug driving within five years||Magistrate must impose as whole or in part of the punishment, imprisonment.|
* 1 Penalty Unit is equivalent to $126.15
If you are charged with driving under the influence of a drug your licence will be suspended immediately until your charge is later dealt with by court or the charge is withdrawn.
Driving while relevant drug is present
The maximum penalty for driving while a relevant drug is present is 14 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months.
Driving under the influence of a drug
If you are charged with driving under the influence of a drug your licence can be disqualified for a period of up to six months. If you have previously been convicted of driving under the influence of liquor or a drug within the last five years, the disqualification period can be up to two years.
Driving while relevant drug present
The minimum period of disqualification for this charge is one month with a maximum period of nine months.
When imposing a disqualification period the court has regard to a number of relevant factors. They are:
- the traffic history of the individual;
- whether the individual has previously been convicted of like offences; and
- the impact a period of disqualification will have on the individual, particularly on their ability to earn a living.
If you have been charged with drug driving you should seek legal advice immediately to have your options explained to you.
If you are dependent on holding a drivers licence to get to and from your place of work, you may need to consider applying for a restricted work licence. You will only be eligible to apply for a restricted licence if you have not in the past five years:
- being convicted of drink or drug driving;
- had your licence disqualified, suspended or cancelled;
- were charged with the offence while driving for work purposes;
- were deriving a certain class of vehicle namely a truck, bus or limousine.
What To Do If You Have Been Charged?
If you have been charged with a drug driving offence, you should obtain legal advice immediately particularly if you require your drivers licence to get to work or if you have had a previous like conviction in the past five years. If faced with a drug driving charge, our Criminal and Traffic Law team would be more than happy to provide you with advice on the likely penalty and period of disqualification that you face. Our team can also assist you in making an application of a restricted work licence.
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