Drug Driving in QLD

The Offence

Drug Driving in Qld cases are a new and emerging area of law, with more and more cases appearing. As such, as these offences increase, prosecution of drug driving offences are becoming harsher. You need an expert who is up to date with the latest developments. When your licence is at risk, you have a lot to lose and should seek expert advice.

In Queensland the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 provides for two types of ‘drug driving’ offences.

  • driving whilst a relevant drug is in the system
  • driving under the influence of a drug (“DUI”)

The first offence does not require the police to establish that a person was actually under the influence of / affected by a drug, just that the drug was present in their blood or saliva.

The second is treated the same as high range drink driving and the police need to establish that the person was showing signs of being under the influence / affected. This can be shown by manner of driving, alertness or drowsiness, lack of attention or slurring when speaking or being unsteady on your feet.

Drug driving tests are conducted similarly to RBTs. The tests are mostly done through an oral saliva test, however they can be conducted through a blood drug test or a urine drug test if you are unable to provide a saliva sample.

Queensland police officers can ask you to provide a saliva sample at a roadside drug test to detect the presence of the following substances, known as relevant drugs:

  • Methylamphetamine—also known as speed and ice
  • MDMA—the active ingredient in ecstasy
  • THC—the active ingredient in cannabis.

If the test is negative at the roadside, you will be allowed to leave, however if returning a positive result you will be asked to go back to the Police Station to undertake a secondary test. If this returns a positive result, the sample will be sent to a laboratory for final confirmation pending delivery of the full brief of evidence for your charges in court.

The Penalty

Driving with a Relevant Drug Present

If testing positive to the secondary test and you have no other prior drug driving charges pending, you will be issued a 24-hour licence suspension. You should be aware however that although your licence is only suspended for 24-hours, most drugs can take a number of days (or up to two weeks for cannabis) to exit your system, and the short suspension does not mean you will necessarily be ok to drive after that point.

We recommend waiting 3-5 days to be safe before driving again, as if you are pulled over in the days following there is still a strong chance you could test positive again, and the police will not hesitate to charge you a second time.

If you have pending drug driving charges, your driver licence will be suspended immediately until your court date.

When dealing with your charge of driving with a relevant drug present, a magistrate may:

  • disqualify you from driving for between 1 to 9 months
  • fine you up to $1,868
  • impose a maximum term of imprisonment up to 3 months.

Driving Under the Influence of a Drug

If you are charged with DUI your licence will be immediately suspended and remain suspended until the charge is dealt with in court, withdrawn / discontinued, or you are issued with a court order permitting you to drive until your court hearing.

When dealing with your charge of driving under the influence of liquor or a drug, a magistrate may:

  • disqualify you from driving for up to 6 months
  • fine you up to $3,736
  • impose a maximum term of imprisonment up to 9 months.

If you are charged with a subsequent drug driving offence (convicted of another drug driving offence in the last 5 years) a court may:

  • disqualify you from driving for up to 2 years
  • fine you up to $8,007
  • impose a term of imprisonment for a period of time determined by the court.

Can I Defend the Charge?

Whether you have a defence to a drug driving will depend on the circumstances of the case, and include certain things such as necessity, duress, or honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Specifically, duress or necessity cannot be in relation to the taking of the drug, but more in regards to the circumstances that caused you to drive.

Contrastingly, honest and reasonable mistake of fact cannot be run as a defence on the grounds that you honestly thought you would be ok to drive by that point in time. This defence would apply more to circumstances where you honestly and reasonably held a belief that you had not consumed those drugs.

Whether you have a defence or are able to mitigate the penalty imposed will need to be determined by an expert Driving Defence Lawyer for your best chance at a positive outcome.