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Criminal Law Blog QLD

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

It is dangerous and unlawful to drive under the influence of drugs (Methylamphetamine). Substances affect your ability, thus increasing the risk of accidents.

Drugs affect your driving ability by resulting in:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • memory loss
  • hyperactivity
  • aggression
  • convulsions
  • tremors
  • hallucinations
  • unconsciousness
  • unpredictability
  • muscle weakness
  • distorted space, time and place perception
  • reduced concentration and coordination
  • reduced ability to judge speed and distance

Random Roadside Drug Tests

The Queensland police may pull you over to perform a random roadside saliva drug test. It may be performed at targeted drug test sites or at random breath testing sites, however, a police officer may pull you over whenever they suspect that you may be driving under the influence.

The saliva test will detect the presence of:

  • THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
  • MDMA, an active ingredient in ecstasy.
  • Methylamphetamine, which is also known as ice or speed.

Legislation lists these drugs as relevant.

The Roadside Drug Testing Process

When asked for a saliva test, you will need to wait for approximately 5 minutes for your result. The tests are only used in detecting drugs, and are destroyed when they are no longer in use. If, for whatever reason you can't supply a saliva sample, you will be asked to provide a blood sample.

The test detects active ingredients in drugs, and results will depend on:

  • the type of drug used
  • the quality and quantity of the drug
  • time elapsed since the drug was used
  • frequency of drug use

If your sample is tested positive, you will have to provide a second sample. If the second sample also tests positive, it will be sent to a laboratory for further analysis.

Drug Driving Penalties

Queensland has a zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

Driving with a drug present

If your saliva sample tests positive for a relevant drug, your driver licence will be suspended for 24 hours.

If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs, and have no pending drug driving charges, your licence will remain valid until the court has dealt with your charge, or until it is withdrawn or discontinued by other means.

If you do have pending drug driving charges when you are charged, your licence will be suspended until the court date.

The magistrate may:

  • impose a 3-month imprisonment term
  • fine you up to $1,649
  • disqualify you for driving for a term of 1-9 months.

Driving under the influence of a drug or alcohol

If a police officer suspects that you are driving impaired, you may have to provide a blood specimen for analysis. If you fail to cooperate, or if you cooperate and a drug or alcohol is detected in your blood specimen, you will be charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Of you are charged with drink or drug driving, your driver licence will be suspended until your charge is:

  • dealt with by the court
  • discontinued or withdrawn

or you may be issued a permit by the court to drive until your hearing.

The following penalties may apply to charges of driving under the influence:

  • 6 months' driving disqualification
  • a fine of up to $3,298
  • 9 months' imprisonment

The following penalties apply to repeat drug driving offences, in the past 5 years:

  • 2 years driving disqualification
  • a fine of up to $7,068
  • court-determined imprisonment

Should you fail to provide a saliva specimen, you could be fined up to $4,712, or sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. Additionally, the same penalties of being liable for driving under the influence of drugs may apply.

Driving under the influence of prescription and other drugs

Never drive after using over-the-counter or prescription medications that may affect your driving ability, or after using illegal drugs.

Drugs have a variety of effects on driving ability, as it impacts the body and brain in a variety of ways. It affects motor skills, attention, perception, judgment, and reaction times - all very important for safe driving.

If you have to take medications, or if you used illegal drugs, rather take public transport, a taxi or ask someone for a lift while becoming accustomed to a new drug treatment. Taking a break from driving for a period will help you monitor the effects of the drug on you and allow your doctor to adjust the dosage if needed. It is important to work closely with your doctor or pharmacist so that you can discuss:

  • best practices for using and storing your medication
  • what to do if you miss a dose of the medication
  • effects of alcohol when you use the medications
  • adverse effects from the medication
  • dosage changes, or any new medications you may be taking
  • potential effects on your driving ability
  • cumulative effects of of any medications you are taking
  • the appropriate time to stop taking medications

Central nervous system stimulants

Uppers' are stimulant drugs that speed up your brain and body, and may include:

  • decongestants or cold and flu medication that contains pseudoephedrine
  • slimming pills
  • amphetamines that are illegally prescribed to treat narcolepsy and ADHD.

Central nervous system depressants

'Downers' are depressant drugs to slow down the body and brain and may include:

tranquillisers and sedatives
painkillers that contain codeine
cough mixture
benzodiazepines
barbiturates
antihistamines
antidepressants
allergy medications

Narcotic analgesics

Narcotic analgesics are used to bring pain relief and include:

  • alcohol
  • high dose corticosteroids
  • antihypertensives (beta blockers)
  • inhalants
  • methadone
  • pethidine
  • some herbal medicines (valerian or passionflower)
  • opiates (oxycodone, morphine and codeine)
  • illegal drugs (heroin, marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, cannabis and hashish)

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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