1. What is Drug Driving?

If you are the driver of a motor vehicle in the ACT and have a prescribed drug in your oral fluid or blood, you can be charged with “drug driving”.

2. What is a prescribed drug?

Prescribed drugs include:

  1. 1. MDMA (Ecstasy);
  2. 2. Methyl amphetamine (Ice);
  3. 3. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Cannabis).

3. Is drug driving similar to drink driving?

The testing processes for drink driving and drug driving are quite different.

For drink driving, testing (and any subsequent charges) is based on the concentration of alcohol in your system. In contrast, for drug driving, the concentration of a prescribed drug test is not tested for, merely its presence.

This zero tolerance policy towards drug driving can be described by some as problematic as the presence of a prescribed drug can be detected long after the concentration of drug has reduced to such a level that it no longer impacts on a person’s ability to drive.

4. What happens if you test positive for drug driving?

If you test positive to a drug screening test, you will be taken into custody by the police and conveyed to the nearest police station for the purpose of oral fluid analysis.

At the police station, you will be required to supply a sample of oral fluid which will then be sent to an ACT Government analytical laboratory for analysis. The formal testing process can take some time and as such, the police will usually issue you with a direction that you are not to drive your motor vehicle for a period of time (usually 12 hours) and release you from custody.

If the formal testing process confirms the presence of a prescribed drug in your system you will receive a summons to attend the ACT Magistrates Court.

5. Should I contact a lawyer?

If you receive a summons to attend Court you should call a lawyer as soon as possible.

Your lawyer should:

  1. 1. Inform you of your rights and the process to be followed;
  2. 2. Provide advice about whether you should plead guilty or not guilty;
  3. 3. Identify any mitigating and/or aggravating factors;
  4. 4. Instruct you as to any reference materials that may assist your matter;
  5. 5. Provide you with information as to an appropriate alcohol and drug awareness course to attend prior to your court date.

Your lawyer will also need to prepare submissions to put to the Court.

6. What penalties apply for drug driving?

The maximum penalty for a first offender is:

  • $1,500.00 fine; and
  • Automatic licence disqualification of 3 years.

The maximum penalty for a repeat offender is:

  • $3,750.00 fine;
  • Imprisonment for 3 months; and
  • Automatic licence disqualification for 5 years.

Where appropriate, your lawyer will make submissions to the Court that the maximum penalties should not be imposed. For instance, for first time offenders, the licence disqualification period can be reduced to a minimum of 6 months.

In rare cases, your lawyer may be successful in convincing the court to apply a non-conviction order, which means the conviction will not be recorded and you will be able to continue driving.

Baker Deane & Nutt regularly act in both drink and drug driving matters. If you have a query, or if you have received a summons to attend Court, please do not hesitate to contact our firm.