In Queensland, it is an offence to fail to provide a specimen of breath, or saliva for the purposes of determining a person’s blood alcohol concentration. Strictly speaking, there are two types of offences for failing to provide a specimen of breath or saliva. The first offence occurs when a person fails to provide a sample other than at a police station or in a booze bus. It is common for this kind of offence to occur at a roadside RBT, although it could happen somewhere else, such as a person’s home. The other offence occurs when a person fails to provide a specimen at a police station or booze bus.
Similarly high penalties attach to both offences.
The “roadside” failure offence attracts a maximum penalty of a fine in excess of $5,000 or 6 months’ imprisonment. Failure to provide a specimen of breath, after being taken to a police station or booze bus, is treated the same as a high-range drink-driving offence: the maximum penalty is a fine in excess of $3,500 or 9 months’ imprisonment and disqualification from driving for at least 6 months (for a first offence).
Work licences are available for anyone who is charged with a “roadside” failure to provide offence (as long as the person is eligible for a work licence). No work licence is available for the “police station” (or booze bus) failure to provide charge.
The word “fail” is broader than mere refusal (although it also includes refusal) – a person “fails” to provide a sample if that sample is insufficient to conduct the test or is not provided in such a way that allows for the test to be conducted. For example, if a person starts to breathe into a breathalyser, but stops before a sufficient sample is taken, that could amount to a “failure” to provide a sample, and the police could charge the person with failing to provide a sample. Similarly, if the person sucks in air, instead of blowing into the breathalyser, that person could also be charged with this offence.
Police Powers to Require a Sample of Breath, Saliva, or Blood
Police have the power to require someone to provide a specimen of breath, saliva, or blood for the purposes of determining that person’s blood-alcohol content. A police office may only make this request if the officer reasonably suspects that the person either drove a motor vehicle, attempted to drive it, or was in charge of the vehicle up to 3 hours prior (note that the definition of being “in charge” of a vehicle is quite broad – the person need only be in a position to be able to operate the vehicle without first taking control of the vehicle from someone else). The police may also require someone to provide a specimen of breath, saliva, or blood at the scene of a traffic accident that caused injury, death, or damage to property.
Once a police officer makes such a request, that officer may take the person to the nearest police station, or to some other place (such as a hospital) that has the necessary equipment for carrying out a breath or saliva test. The person may be taken there by force, if necessary. The police officer may require multiple samples of either breath or saliva (or both) if it is reasonably necessary to do so in order to complete testing.
It is a defence to the charge to prove that, at the time the request was made to provide a sample of breath or saliva, the person was suffering from an illness that made them incapable of providing such a sample. It is also a defence to prove that, at the time of the request, the person’s health could have been affected by giving the sample. Proof is provided by a medical certificate that the person carries with them and can show the police officer at the time of the request. Otherwise, the person must prove that they had such a medical condition in court, after they have been charged. Remember, however, that the police can ask the person for a different type of sample.
It is also a defence to prove, to the court, that the request was not made lawfully or that there was a substantially good reason to not provide a specimen (other than trying to avoid the results of the test).