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random roadside saliva testing

Am I required to take a random roadside saliva test?

We use the term "prescribed drugs" throughout this document. This term is also included under the Road Traffic Act of 1961. The legal term "prescribed drugs" should not be confused with prescription drugs.

The term "prescribed drugs" refers to the active ingredients in street drugs, namely:

  • THC - cannabis
  • Methylamphetamine - crystal meth, ice or speed
  • MDMA - ecstasy

Am I required to take a random roadside saliva test?

If you operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle, or if you are a passenger acting as a qualified supervising driver (under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1959) for a learner driver, the police may request that you undertake a random roadside saliva test to see if you recently consumed MDMA, Methamphetamine or THC.

Where will the random roadside saliva test be conducted?

A police officer may stop you anywhere in South Australia, at any time, to perform a saliva test, just for prescribed drugs and alcohol - similar to random breathalyzer tests. These tests are more common in entertainment precincts, on truck routes and high risk areas.

Can anyone perform a random roadside saliva test?

No. Only police officers who have undergone special training in saliva testing procedures and equipment are authorised to perform roadside saliva tests.

What does a roadside saliva test detect?

Roadside saliva tests scan for the three most commonly detected illegal drugs found in the blood of fatally injured motorcycle riders and drivers in South Australia, including:

  • THC - cannabis
  • Methylamphetamine - crystal meth, ice or speed
  • MDMA - ecstasy

How do THC, methamphetamine and MDMA affect driving ability?

THC, found in cannabis, reduces concentration and attention during driving, and therefore significantly increases a person's risk of crashing, even in the absence of outward signs of impairment. Alcohol used along with cannabis increases the risks severely.

Methylamphetamine and MDMA interferes with a person's ability to adjust speed and distance, and reduces coordination. Since it increases a person's confidence, it can cause them to drive recklessly.

How long will it take for the illegal drugs to be undetected by the test?

THC can be detected for several hours after use, and methylamphetamine and MDMA for approximately 24 hours. However, many factors can impact on the results, namely:

  • the amount used
  • the quality used
  • individual metabolism

Can THC from passive smoking be detected in saliva samples?

To date, experience has shown that THC levels from passive smoking are considerably lower than the lowest level detected by saliva testing devices.

Can certain substances mask MDMA, Methamphetamine or THC detection?

To date, no evidence has been found that any substance can mask detection of these active ingredients in a saliva test procedure.

Can random roadside saliva tests detect other illegal drugs?

No. The equipment only tests for MDMA, Methamphetamine and THC. Drivers who are impaired by other prescription or illegal drugs will be prosecuted under section 47 of the Road Traffic Act of 1961 for existing offences of driving under the influence (DUI) of intoxicating drugs or liquids. Penalties for a DUI are as follows:

First offences:

  • A fine of $700-$1,200; or
  • imprisonment of up to 3 months.
  • Additionally, a 12+ months licence disqualification and 6 demerit points also applies.

Subsequent offences:

  • A fine of $1,500 - $2,500;  or
  • imprisonment of up to 6 months.
  • Additionally, a 3+ year licence disqualification and 6 demerit points also applies.

Can random roadside tests detect other medications, such as prescription drugs?

No. The test only detects THC, Methamphetamine and MDMA. It will not detect prescription or OTC drugs and medications such as ADHD medication, sinus or cold medicines.

However, drivers who are impaired by other prescription or illegal drugs will be prosecuted under section 47 of the Road Traffic Act of 1961 for existing offences of driving under the influence (DUI) of intoxicating drugs or liquids.

Severe penalties apply, including $1,200 for a first offense, as well as a demerits, licence disqualifications and in some cases, even imprisonment.

Speak to your doctor about the side effects of your medication and how it may affect your driving ability.

Can common OTC (over the counter) or prescription medication affect your driving ability?

Many legal and illegal drugs can affect your driving ability. Hay-fever tablets and behavior modifying drugs are the most common medications with side effects that may impair driving. Look out for benzodiazepines in valium and antihistamine in hay-fever tablets. Read the side effects and be sure to follow the usage instructions carefully. If you're unsure about anything, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.

What is random roadside saliva testing?

It is a non-invasive method for detecting the presence of common drugs in drivers' systems. When ordered to do so by a police officer, drivers must place the test strip on their tongue. If the test is positive, the driver must provide an oral fluid sample, which will be analysed at the police station or in the drug bus. Another second saliva sample will be referred to a laboratory for further analysis.

Why use saliva samples to test for drugs?

Saliva samples are less intrusive and easy to collect. They can also be screened quickly and accurately.

How long does it take to perform a random roadside saliva test?

It only takes about five minutes. If the first test is positive, another sample will have to be performed, and the driver will be referred to the police station or drug bus. That will take around 30 minutes.

How is the test conducted?

You will first be asked to take a breathalyzer before the saliva test.

1. While seated in your car, you will be asked to place the saliva test strip on your tongue. The sample will then be screened at the roadside, with a result available in about 5 minutes.

2. If the test is negative, you will be free to leave. If the test is positive, you will be required to accompany the officer/s to a police station or drug bus to provide an additional oral fluid sample.

3.  If the second sample tests positive, you will be interviewed according to standard police procedure and your sample will be sent to the laboratory.

4.  On completion, you will be allowed to leave, but you will not be allowed to drive your car. The police will not take any action until the results are back from the laboratory. You will be informed in a few weeks if the laboratory result is positive. You will then be issued with an expiation notice, or you will be prosecuted for an offence.

Note:  If you refuse or fail to undertake the drug screening test, blood test or oral fluid analysis when a police officer requires it, you will be penalised.

How reliable are saliva test for detecting illegal drugs?

Saliva tests are accurate and reliable in detecting THC, methamphetamine and MDMA. All saliva drug screening devices must meet accuracy standards. No prosecuting action will commence until the laboratory confirms the results of a second oral fluid sample.

Must I leave my vehicle to undertake the random roadside saliva test?

You don't have to. The test may be conducted through your window, as with breath tests. You will only be required to leave your car if the initial test returns a positive result, in order to accompany the police officer for further testing.

If the initial test is positive, will further tests be required?

Yes. You will have to undergo either a blood test or oral fluid analysis, which will be sent to the laboratory. Results will be available from the police in a few weeks.

You may request for your own part of the sample if you wish to have it independently analysed.

The laboratory must confirm the presence of THC, methamphetamine or MDMA before the police can issue an expiation notice or prosecute the driver.

If you return a negative saliva test, you will not be detained further.

If the saliva test is positive, am I allowed to drive my car until the laboratory results are in?

The police will ask you to wait up to 4 hours for THC to leave your system, or up to 24 hours for methylamphetamine or MDMA to leave your system before driving.

If you have a passenger who can drive you home, they may also be tested first. If you try to drive, they may arrest you on suspicion of attempting to drive with a prescribed drug in your system.

The police may assist in driving your vehicle to a place where it can be parked legally. If you are alone, the police will try to help you arrange alternative transport.

The police has the power to direct you to leave your vehicle and to not drive any other vehicle until they permit you to do so. They may require that you surrender your keys and immobilise the vehicle

Can I refuse to undertake the random roadside saliva test?

If you are pulled over for a saliva test, you are legally required to do so, or face a penalty and will have to provide a blood or oral fluid analysis.

What if I can't provide a saliva sample?

If you can't provide a saliva sample due to a physical or medical condition, you may provide a blood sample, which will be conducted under medical supervision.

Can police officers require blood tests for drugs?

Yes. Situations in which they may direct you to undergo a blood test, includes when you are unable to provide sufficient saliva for the oral fluid test, or if you have a physical or medical reason that prohibits you from providing a saliva sample, or if you are obviously impaired. The blood test is performed at no expense to you, the driver.

Will the saliva and blood samples be destroyed, or kept?

If no proceedings have commenced during a certain time frame, samples must be destroyed. Likewise, once prosecution proceedings and any appeals have concluded, legislation calls for it to be destroyed.

Are samples used for DNA testing?

No. Samples can not be used for DNA testing.

If tests are positive, what charges may I face?

Under the Road Traffic Act of 1961, you can be charged with:

  • driving with a prescribed drug in the blood or oral fluid (prescribed drugs include MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine (speed) and THC (cannabis)); OR
  • driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

Penalties will also apply if you fail or refuse to submit to a drug screening test, blood test or oral fluid analysis when an officer requires it.

What penalties apply to drug driving?

The following penalties under the Road Traffic Act of 1961 are in effect as of 1 July 2008:

DRIVING WITH A PRESCRIBED DRUG IN BLOOD OR ORAL FLUIDS

(section 47BA of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

First

  • offence
  • $420 expiation fee; and
  • 4 demerit points
  • OR
  • Court penalty – a fine of between  $500 and  $900; and
  • 4 demerit points

Second offence

  • Court penalty – a fine ranging from $700 to $1,200; and
  • 4 demerit points; and
  • Licence disqualification - no less than six months

Third offence

  • Court penalty – a fine ranging from  $1,100 to $1,800; and
  • 4 demerit points; and
  • Licence disqualification - no less than 12 months
  • Subsequent offences
  • Court penalty – a fine ranging from $1,100 to $1,800; and
  • 4 demerit points; and
  • Licence disqualification - no less than 2 years

Should you fail to, or refuse to undertake the drug screening test, blood test or oral fluid test, you may face a penalty.

FAILURE OR REFUSAL TO UNDERGO A DRUG SCREENING TEST, ORAL FLUID ANALYSIS OR BLOOD TEST

(section 47BA of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

First offence

Court penalty – a fine ranging from $500 to $900; and

6 demerit points; and

Licence disqualification – no less than 6 months

Subsequent offences

Court penalty – a fine ranging from $1,100 to $1,800; and

6 demerit points; and

Licence disqualification - no less than 2 years

If you are impaired by other illicit or prescribed drugs, you will be prosecuted under section 47 of the Road Traffic Act of 1961 for existing DIU, which carries severe penalties.

Can I be charged with both a DUI and other related offences, such as possession and use?

Drug driving legislation is aimed at deterring drivers from driving while under the influence, and thus improving road safety.

The police may only use the results of oral fluid analysis, drug screening tests, blood tests or admissions of evidence for proceedings against the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 and Road Traffic Act 1961.

Have the demerit points and expiation fees for drug driving offenses been increased?

Yes. It increased in 2008 in order to send drivers a clear message about the dangers of operating motor vehicles under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Has the legislation been reviewed since it was passed?

Yes. Legislation from 2006 required a review after the first year, with the aim of measuring the effectiveness of the legislation and its operation to refine legislation and establish further amendments.Must all persons who present at a hospital after a MVA provide blood samples?

Yes. The Road Traffic Act 1961 (Section 47I) requires that all drivers and passengers over the age of 14 who present at a hospital due to a motor vehicle accident and have suffered injuries or are being admitted into the hospital, provide blood samples.

All blood samples are tested for alcohol.

All riders or drivers who attend or are admitted to a hospital due to a crash are required to provide a blood sample which will be tested for alcohol and prescribed drugs. Penalties will apply to all riders or drivers who test positive for one or more of the drugs and or alcohol at a concentration of 0.05 or more.

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