When most people hear DUI they usually associate it with a drink driving charge. Whilst this is correct, as DUI stands for ‘driving under the influence’ it can in fact relate to either a drink or drug driving offence.
There are three levels of drink driving charges, being
Driving with a low BAC (blood alcohol concentrate) reading of between .05 and .099. This charge carries a mandatory minimum of a 1 month suspension of your licence (for an open licence holder).
Driving with a mid BAC (blood alcohol concentrate) reading of between .1 and .149. This charge carries a mandatory minimum of a 3 month suspension of your licence.
Driving under the influence (“DUI”) of alcohol charge is a result of a reading of .15 or above. This charge carries a mandatory minimum of a 6 month suspension of your licence.
A DUI drug charge means that you were charged with ‘driving under the influence of drugs’. Drug tests search for traces of THC (active ingredient in marijuana), MDMA (speed or ecstasy) and methamphetamine.
There are two levels of drug driving charges, being
Driving with a relevant drug present in your system
This charge is issued when a drug test indicates there is drugs present in the driver’s system but they appear to be unaffected by the drugs or substance. If you are charged with this your driver’s licence will be suspended for a period of 24 hours. This charge carries a mandatory minimum of a 1 month suspension of your licence (for an open licence holder).
Driving under the influence of drugs (“DUI”)
This charge is issued when a drug test indicates there is drugs present in the driver’s system and/or the driver appears to be affected and impaired by drugs. This will be ascertained by the driver’s appearance (eyes, facials expressions etc), behaviour and mannerisms. If you are charged with this your driver’s licence will be suspended immediately. This charge carries a mandatory minimum of a 6 month suspension of your licence. Whilst if you are sentenced to in excess of this period the Magistrate can take into consideration the length of time you have already had your licence suspended, if you receive the minimum of 6 months, this period will be served in full from your Court date.
Driving under the influence of drugs can be a result of illegal drugs, synthetic drugs (designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs) prescription drugs (Xanax, Valium) and even some over the counter medical prescriptions. Anytime that you are effected by a substance which alters your abilities in any way you could be charged with driving under the influence of drugs.
A roadside drug test is simply an oral swab which is tested immediately and will indicate if there is traces of drugs in your system. If the test indicates the presence of drugs you will need to undergo another drug test which is sent to a Government laboratory for testing. You will receive a drug analysis certificate when it is available from laboratory testing. If your roadside drug test indicates no drugs in your system, the Police are still able to order you to undergo a blood test if they believe you are under the influence of a drug or substance.
We have been successful in the past in having some drug DUI charges downgraded to driving with a relevant drug in the drivers system by in putting forward to the Police Prosecutions submissions giving reasoning and information as to why the client should not have been charged with a drug DUI and have only received a driving with the relevant drug in their system charge.
Whilst with alcohol there are rough guidelines to how long the alcohol will take to be processed and out of your system there is no such recommendation for how long drugs may stay in a person’s system for. Many people find themselves being charged with driving with drugs in their system long after they have consumed or ingested drugs. Because each person responds to the consumption of drugs in a different manner based on their personal chemistry, past use, type of drug taken, amount of drug consumed, height, weight and other factors, unlike alcohol consumption there is no way in when to tell when the drugs have left your system.
It is important to note that you do not have to be driving your vehicle to be charged with a drink or drug driving offence, you could be charged if you are merely sitting in the driver’s seat.
Charges of low or mid BAC or a driving with a relevant drug in your system, depending on your circumstances and previous traffic history, can allow you to apply for a work licence to be issued to you for the duration of your suspension period. An alcohol or drug DUI charge however eliminates this option.
Here at Clarity Law we represent people charged with drink and drug driving offences in Courts across South East Queensland every day, it is this experience, and our expertise that allows us to get the absolute best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the process and the Magistrates like we do. We also offer the most competitive prices in Queensland that are all fixed fee so there are no nasty surprises when you receive your invoice. If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
Disclaimer – this article contains general advice only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We are also not health professionals and our observations on drink driving and what effects a person’s BAC reading is based on our knowledge of representing thousands of drink driving client’s overs the past 15 years and not any specific medical training.
In Queensland police are increasingly undertaking drug driving tests in conjunction with normal drink driving RBT units. Police officers who are able to conduct the drug testing need to be specially trained in the use of saliva testing equipment and testing procedures. The number of Police that are now qualified to conduct the drug tests has increased dramatically in the last few years as well as the addition of 13 specially built drug testing vehicle to Queensland roads. There is going to be an increasing amount of drug driving charges.
For example the amount of drug driving tests for the last 3 years include;
2014 - 21,000 drivers were drug tested in Queensland
2015 – 33,000 drivers were drug tested in Queensland
2016 – It has been estimated that over 50,000 drivers will be tested in Queensland
The roadside drug driving tests are carried out by taking a swab of a driver’s salvia. The tests are designed to pick up the following illegal drugs;
1. THC – the active component in cannabis
2. Methylamphetamine – also known as speed, ice or crystal meth
3. MDMA – also known as speed
A person caught with these drugs in their system will normally be charged with driving with a relevant drug in the system. When you are charged with this offence your licence will usually be suspended for a 24 hour period. Depending on your circumstances and traffic history it is possible to apply for a work licence if you are charged with driving with a drug in your system.
If the driver appears to be under the influence at the time they are driving or is believed to be affected by a drug to such an extent that they are endangering the public they will be charged with the higher of the two drug charges being, driving under the influence of a drug. If you are charged with this offence your licence will be suspended immediately up until your matter is dealt with by the Court. If you receive a driving whilst under the influence of drugs charge you cannot apply for a work licence. Further, if you are believed to be under the influence it is not uncommon for the Police to then search your vehicle for drugs or drug paraphernalia.
It is also possible to be charged with driving under the influence of drugs if you are driving a vehicle with legal drugs in their system, that being legally prescribed medication. The decision is made at the police’s discretion as to whether they believe the drugs have affected the person to such a degree that their driving was impaired.
If the police suspect a person has been impaired they may be required to give a sample of their blood for further testing. At the time a blood test is taken you are allowed to request that the Police provide you with a sample of your blood so you can have it tested independently.
A key component to proving the charge in court will be the statement of the arresting officer and their observations of the driver as well as the saliva or blood test results, which are confirmed in a drug analysis certificate. The blood test will generally report the amount of the drug in the person’s blood as well as any comments from a medical officer as to what impairment an ordinary person would have with that level of drugs in the system.
A refusal to provide a drug test will result in a charge of failing to provide a drug test. This is a serious charge and is dealt with harshly by the Courts. If you are charged with failing to provide a sample you will be dealt with as if you were under the influence.
A person who pleads guilty or is found guilty of the UIL charge is subject to the same punishment as a high range drink driver that is a minimum of 6 months disqualification of their drivers licence and no ability to apply for a work licence.
Queensland has some of the harshest penalties for drug drivers in both fines and suspension periods. It is critical to get good advice about the charge and whether you might be able to apply for a work licence. Information on applying for a work licence can be found on our work licence page.
Here at Clarity Law we represent drug driving charges in Courts across South East Queensland every day, it is this experience, and our expertise that allows us to get the absolute best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the process and the Magistrates like we do. We also offer the most competitive prices in Queensland that are all fixed fee so there are no nasty surprises when you receive your invoice. If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can call 1300 952 255 7am – 7pm seven days a week. Check out our drug driving charge for more information.
Disclaimer – this article contains general advice only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We are also not health professionals and our observations on drug driving is based on our knowledge of representing hundreds of drug driving client’s overs the past 15 years and not any specific medical training.
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.
Clarity Law's liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.