Similar to drink driving charges which are categorised as either low, medium or high range, drug driving has different categories in which you can be charged under.
If you are charged with drug driving you will either be charged with having a relevant drug in your system or, and more seriously, driving whilst under the influence of a drug.
The drug driving tests look for traces of the following drugs being relevant in your system:
1. THC – the active ingredient in cannabis
2. Methylamphetamine – also known as speed and ice; and
3. MDMA – the active ingredient in ecstasy.
Although the police can require a blood test to test for drug driving the most common way to test is through taking a sample of a person’s saliva.
If the preliminary saliva test is negative you will be free to go immediately. If a drug is detected in your saliva (positive result) you will be required to undertake a second saliva test. If the second test is again positive for drugs your driver’s license will be suspended for 24 hours. The remaining saliva sample will be sent to a laboratory and following the result you may be notified and charged with a traffic offence of drug driving. A person caught with these drugs in their system will normally be charged with driving whilst a relevant drug is in the system.
If the results of a drug driving test comes back positive it is irrelevant whether you’re driving was affected by having illicit drugs in your system. This means that for example, if you consume marijuana a couple of weeks before being tested you will still be charged with drug driving if the results are positive (marijuana can stay in your system for up to 40 days). However, saliva tests are designed only to react to the active ingredient of a drug. Therefore the period in which drugs can be detected varies depending on quality and quantity of the drug that has been ingested, the period of time since taking the drug and the frequency of use of the drug.
Driving whilst under the influence of a drug
You are likely to be charged with driving under the influence of a drug if you are pulled over by the police and appear to be under the influence of a drug eg. Red eyes, slurred speech, twitchy etc. If the Police believe you are under the influence of a dangerous drug or even a synthetic drug (for more information on this see our article about synthetic drugs) it is likely that they would search your vehicle. Quite often we have clients who are charged with possession of a dangerous drug and/or utensils and drug driving at the same time.
It is also possible to be charged with driving under the influence of a prescription drug if the police believe you have been affected to such a degree by the prescription pills that you pose a risk to other road users.
If you are charged with this offence your licence will be suspended immediately. You cannot apply for a work licence and face at least a 6 month disqualification.
Having a relevant drug in your system
If you undergo a drug driving test and it comes back positive but you appear to be sober you will be charged with having a relevant drug in your system. This is the lesser of the two drug driving charges. When you are charged with having a relevant drug in your system your licence will be suspended for a 24 hour period.
If you are charged with having a relevant drug in your system, depending on circumstances, you are eligible to apply for a work licence.
The information provided is for informational use only, and are in no way intended to constitute legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship, and you should not act or rely upon any information appearing in this article without seeking the advice of a lawyer. Moreover, because the law is constantly changing, the information appearing in this article are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. Steven and Clarity law only undertake matters in Queensland.
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