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Drug Driving

Under section 49 of the Road Safety Act (RSA), it is an office to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the degree that the driver is incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.

While the blood alcohol content for alcohol is 0.05, the presence of any quantity of illicit drugs in a driver’s system, or even a legal or prescription drug that might make them incapable of properly controlling a vehicle, can result in a drug driving charge under the RSA. It is also an offence to supervise a learner driver while under the influence of drugs.

Roadside Testing

The Victorian government has significantly bolstered its efforts to decrease drug driving and has significantly increased the number of devices to be used for roadside drug testing. Drug testing units detect the presence of illegal substances, including methamphetamine (ice), cannabis, ecstasy, speed, and certain prescription drugs.

Police are empowered to request a sample of saliva under section 55 of the RSA if they suspect that a driver is under the influence of an illicit drug, or a legal drug that impairs their ability to properly control the vehicle. If the driver refuses a roadside saliva test, they may be charged under section 55D of the RSA.

If this test shows the presence of illicit drugs or a legal, impairing drug in the driver’s system, the police may require the driver to undergo a second saliva test at either a police station or at a nearby drug and alcohol bus. If a driver is unable to provide a saliva sample or if the testing unit is not in working order, the police may require the driver to provide a blood sample under section 55E(13).

If testing indicates the presence of illicit drugs, then a sample of saliva or blood is provided to both the police and the driver, who can request another analysis to be performed by a medical practitioner while the officer is present. After a positive indication of illicit substances, or a legal drug that impairs the driver’s ability to properly control the vehicle is found, the driver may be charged and the testing officer may issue an infringement notice. Depending on the severity of the offence, the driver may be summoned to appear in court, and/or have their licence immediately suspended.

Penalties for Drug Driving

Due to the dangers posed to the safety of other road users and the general public, courts take a firm stance against drug driving. The penalties for failing a roadside saliva test, may include a suspension of licence, a cancellation of licence, the recording of a conviction. Driving while impaired by a drug can result in the cancellation of drivers licence for up to 2 years and up to 18 months imprisonment. Penalties are much harsher for drivers who refuse to give a saliva or blood sample, and it does not prevent police from making a charge which a court may uphold, despite the lack of physical evidence.

Failing a roadside saliva test

OffencePenalties
First offence, receiving an infringement noticeFine (3 penalty units) 3 months suspension of licence
First offence, summoned to appear in courtFine (12 penalty units) Minimum 3 months licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded
Second offenceFine (60 penalty units) Minimum 6 months licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded
More than two offencesFine (120 penalty units) Minimum 6 months licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded

Driving while impaired by a drug

OffencePenalties
First offenceImmediate licence suspension. Fine (12 penalty units)
Minimum 12 months licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded
Second offenceImmediate licence suspension. Fine (120 penalty units), or 12 months imprisonment
Minimum 2 years licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded
More than two offencesImmediate licence suspension. Fine (180 penalty units), or 18 months imprisonment
Minimum 2 years licence cancellation
Potential conviction recorded

What if I’m charged with drug driving?

Don’t risk appearing in court without the help of an expert defence lawyer. There are a number of legal defences that can be raised on your behalf, however they require the assistance and advocacy of an experienced criminal lawyer. The best chance you have to reduce the duration of time without a licence, prevent the recording of a conviction, and avoid imprisonment, is with the help of a criminal lawyer with expert knowledge of the criminal justice system. If you’ve been charged with drug driving and are facing a court appearance, don’t delay! Contact us immediately for a confidential, no obligation consultation to discuss your case.

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