Drugs and driving
If you take drugs and drive you may have to go to Court. You may also be breaking the law even if you do not drive. For example, if you have taken drugs and you are the person ‘in charge’ of a vehicle.
If you drive a vehicle or are in charge of a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs, whether they are illegal drugs, drugs you can buy over the counter (including alcohol) or drugs your doctor has prescribed, you are breaking the law.
Just like with drink driving, the law allows the police to pull you over at any time for a random drug test. The police do this by getting a saliva sample from you. At the moment, the only drugs the saliva test will detect are cannabis, MDMA (ecstasy) and methylamphetamine (ICE). If you drive or are in charge of a vehicle with cannabis, ecstasy or ICE in your saliva or blood you are breaking the law. The police do not have to prove that having the drug in your system means you cannot drive safely or that you are driving less safely. It is a bit like if you have a licence that requires your blood alcohol level (BAC) to be zero, you drive after drinking and you are under .05 but over zero. With drugs (at the moment cannabis, ecstasy or ICE) if you are not “zero” you are breaking the law. The Government may increase the types of drugs that can be detected by the random tests at any time.
As well as the random drug tests, the law allows the police to make you have a blood test if they reasonably suspect that you have been driving or have been in charge of a motor vehicle while you were under the influence of any drug, including the drugs mentioned above. Being under the influence of a drug means that your ability to drive safely is lessened because of the effects of the drug. If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs, this is a more serious charge than a charge of just having a particular drug in your blood or saliva.
I do not take illegal drugs, but sometimes I take prescription/over the counter drugs. I am not breaking the law if I drive, am I?
Yes, if you are what the law calls under the influence of drugs.
If you drive under the influence of alcohol, the police use a breathalyser to find out if you have any alcohol in your system and if you are ‘over the limit’ that the law allows. The police can pull you over for a random breath test at any time even if you are not driving badly.
At present, the random saliva tests will not pick up any prescription or over the counter drugs that you have taken. The police can make you have a blood test, under certain circumstances, which will detect drugs in prescription and over the counter medications.
I am going to Court for driving under the influence of drugs. What will happen?
As with drink driving, if you are convicted of a ‘drug driving offence’ (including being under the influence in charge of a vehicle, failing to provide a blood specimen, or driving with particular drugs in your saliva or blood), you will always be disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver’s licence for at a period of time. The Court has no choice.
You should hand in your driver’s licence at the Court as it is cancelled then and there. To keep a cancelled driver’s licence is an offence.
You will not be eligible to apply for a work licence if you are convicted of the more serious offence of driving or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of a drug. You may be able to apply for a work licence if you are convicted of the lesser offence of having a drug in your saliva or blood while driving or in charge of a vehicle. Not everyone will be eligible so you should get legal advice about this.
As well as the licence disqualification, you are likely to be fined, given a Community Service Order or jailed.
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