What offences can I be charged with if I’m caught driving with drugs in my system?
It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle whilst drugs are present in a person’s system.
In Queensland there is a “zero tolerance” policy for drug driving. This means that you can be charged with a drug driving offence if you return any positive result for an illicit substance when participating in a saliva test.
The most common offences people are charged with when caught driving with drugs in their system are:
- Driving while relevant drug is present in blood or saliva; or
- Driving under the influence of drugs.
Driving while a relevant drug is present in your blood or saliva is the most common drug driving offence that a person is charged with. A person is guilty of this offence when they are found to be driving a motor vehicle (or are in charge of, or attempting to drive a motor vehicle) and have a drug present in their blood or saliva.
Driving “under the influence” of drugs is a more serious charge reserved for situations where a person’s driving has been seriously affected by the drugs they have consumed. This offence carries heavier penalties including a mandatory minimum 6 month disqualification period.
How will police prove I had drugs in my system?
Police typically prove the presence of drugs in a person’s system by collecting a sample of their saliva. This test can be conducted by police by the roadside (in addition to a RBT) and usually takes 5 minutes.
It is an offence for a driver to refuse to provide a sample of their saliva to an officer upon request.
What will be picked up by the roadside saliva test?
The random drug tests will detect traces of the following illicit drugs:
- Ecstasy; and
- Various amphetamines.
The time period in which the saliva test can detect a drug differs from drug to drug.
The quantity and frequency of drug use are factors that can increase the time in which a saliva test will detect drugs in your system.
What happens if I return a positive result on my roadside drug test? Is my licence immediately suspended?
If you return a positive result on your first saliva test police will generally require you to do a second test. If this second test returns a positive reading your licence will be suspended for a 24 hour period.
Being caught driving during this time can result in additional charges.
What penalty will I be given for driving with a drug present in my system?
The maximum penalty for this offence is 14 penalty units (a fine of up to $1,649.20) or 3 months imprisonment.
The law imposes a mandatory minimum period of driver disqualification for people convicted of this offence. This means that, regardless of your circumstances a magistrate must disqualify you for a minimum period of 1 month to a maximum period of 9 months.
While the legislation sets out the maximum and minimum penalties for this offence a court will consider the individual case and your personal circumstances when considering the appropriate penalty. Often this involves considering your traffic history and the impact that losing your licence would have on your life.
Engaging a solicitor experienced in appearing in traffic court and making persuasive, relevant submissions to magistrates can greatly improve your chances in minimising any disqualification period and penalty.
Can I obtain a work licence so I can keep driving for my job while I’m suspended?
In some circumstances you may be eligible to apply for a restricted driver licence that will allow you to drive for work purposes during your disqualification period.
In order to obtain this licence you must make an application to the court before pleading guilty to the offence.
If you need your licence to do your job we recommend contacting our traffic lawyers to discuss your eligibility for a work licence as soon as possible.
You can visit our work licence page for more information on this application.
What are the benefits of having a solicitor represent me on drug driving charges?
There are a number of benefits to engaging a lawyer to act for you on these charges. Our solicitors are highly experienced in these matters and can provide you with:
- Expert advice about the strength of the prosecution’s case, your eligibility for any work licence and the steps you can take to minimise any penalty imposed.
- A representative who can attend court on your behalf (and save you from having to attend and speak for yourself on every court date).
- Years of experience in successfully negotiating with prosecution on our clients’ charges.
- An experienced court room advocate who can effectively present your case and submit to the court relevant, persuasive information designed to minimise your penalty.
We understand that often losing your licence can have very serious consequences on your employment and day-to-day living. If you will experience severe difficulty without your licence engaging a solicitor can help to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible.