Drug Driving

All about drug driving charges from Queensland's leading drug driving lawyers.

Drug Driving Lawyers


For 13 years Clarity Law has been the leading drug driving lawyers representing clients throughout South East Queensland from the Gold Coast to Brisbane and up to the Sunshine Coast and beyond who are charged with a drug driving offence, we have the experience and knowledge to make a real difference as your drug driving lawyer and all with upfront fixed prices. This article is intended to be the most comprehensive on the internet about what is drug driving, what happens in court, what is the penalty for drug driving, can you get a work licence for drug driving and finally are there any defences?


What is drug driving?

There are two possible drug driving charges in Queensland either;

  • driving whilst a relevant drug is in the system; or
  • driving under the influence of a drug (“DUI”)

In essence driving with a relevant drug in the system is similar to low range drink driving while driving under the influence of a drug is similar to high range drink driving.

In Queensland we have mandatory periods of disqualification which means even a first offence of drug driving will lead to the loss of the drivers licence this is why hiring an expert drug driving lawyer is so important.


How are the drug tests carried out?

Drug driving tests are conducted in a similar way to RBTs. The tests are mostly done through an oral saliva test, however they can be conducted through a blood drug test or a urine drug test if you are unable to provide a saliva sample.

To test for drug driving Queensland police will ask for a saliva sample for the purpose of testing for

  1. Methylamphetamine – also known as speed and ice; and
  2. MDMA – the active ingredient in ecstasy.
  3. THC – active ingredient in cannabis;
  4. Cocaine

If the preliminary saliva test is negative you will be free to go immediately. If a drug is detected in your system (positive result) you will be taken to a police station or testing location for 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.



Driving with a relevant drug in your system

The is the lessor of the drug driving charges.  It is generally imposed where a salvia test shows up positive but the person is not otherwise showing any signs or indicia of being affected by that drug.

For an open licence holder with no previous disqualification in the last 5 years the minimum disqualification starts at 1 month and can go as high as 9 months.  In many cases a person in this situation could apply for a work licence.


Driving under the influence of a drug

Driving under the influence of a drug (“DUI”) is the more serious of the drug driving charges in Queensland.  It is generally charged where a person is showing signs of being affected by drugs or where there is an accident and a blood sample is taken, tested and found to contain high levels of drugs.

The minimum disqualification period for this charge is 6 months, if the person has no previous convictions.  It is not possible to apply for a work licence or any type of hardship licence if you are charged with driving under the influence of a drug.

You can be charged with driving under the influence of any type of drug not just the ones tested for in the salvia test.  This means you can be charged with drug driving even on legally prescribed drugs.

Often we see this charge where a person is alleged to have shown Indica of being affected by drugs like;

  • The manner of driving
  • A person physical condition and appearance
  • Behaviour and attitude
  • A person’s eyes and breathing
  • Speech
  • Coordination
  • Memory
  • Health
  • Conduct at watch house or with police

Whilst the police would generally seek a salvia or blood test it is legal for them to charge someone for drug driving based on the driver’s indicia alone.

Qld police 4 resize


But I had the drugs the day before and it would not have affected my driving

If the results of a drug driving test comes back positive it is irrelevant whether your 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 20 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.

There is a strictly zero tolerance with drug driving. If any traces of illicit drugs are found in your system you will be charged.  


I’m being charged with driving under the influence of drugs but it was prescription drugs

It does not matter what drug you had, if the police allege you were under the influence of a drug to such an extent that it did or could have affected your driving you can be charged even if it was a legal and prescribed drug.

If a police officer believes that your driving has been impaired by prescription or other drugs you may be required to undertake a drug test.   If the results show there are drugs in your system at a level that might affect your driving you will, like any other drug driving charge, face possible fines, and license disqualification.  This is known as a DUI charge and is equivalent to a high range drink driving charge.

You cannot be charged with driving with a relevant drug on prescription medication unless that drug is cannabis as the only potential prescription medication the test can pick up is cannabis.



I’m being charged with drug driving but the police never tested me

The police can charge you for driving under the influence of a drug based off your indicia or in other words how the police observe you and your behaviour.  You cannot be charged with driving with a relevant drug in your system based off your indicia.


Are there defences to a drug driving charge?

Most defences to a drug driving offence have now gone.  The tests the police carry out are considered to be accurate and are accepted by the courts.  The police must conduct the salvia or blood test within 3 hours of you driving and it must be conducted in accordance with the law.  If we are engaged we always look for any possible defences that may exist.  We have an article on all potential drug driving "loopholes".


Will I get a criminal record?

This is a traffic offence that will appear on your traffic record but not your criminal history.  You can however ask the court not to record a conviction if it will affect your work, social wellbeing or prospects of getting employment (eg does your employer require you to show them your traffic history to get or maintain your job?).  In Queensland we have 3 levels of offences, crimes are he most serious, misdemeanours are less serious and the least serious is simple offences.  Drug driving is a simple offence not a criminal offence.


Can I get a work licence?

If you are charged with driving or being in charge of a vehicle with cannabis, ecstasy or ICE in your saliva or blood, in other words a relevant drug charge, then you may be able to get a work licence but this must be done at the time you appear in the court to plead guilty, it cannot be done afterwards.

If you are charged with driving under the influence of a drug (“DUI”) you cannot apply for a work licence or indeed any type of licence to keep driving during your disqualification. 

In general to apply for a work licence you would need to

  • be on an open Queensland drivers licence; and
  • have no disqualifications in the past 5 years

A work licence if granted allows a person to drive for purposes directly connected with the means of earning an income.  A work licence is available to employed and self-employed people.  A work licence will allow you to drive to and from your place of work using the shortest route possible as well as drive for any required work duties.

For more information on applying for a work licence if charged with drug driving or go to our work licence webpage for more information.

To make an application for a work licence you must provide the court with an affidavit of yourself and, if not self-employed, an affidavit of your employer.  Your affidavit will need to address your personal, work, financial and driving circumstances.

Your employer’s affidavit must also address why you need a licence for your job and an explicit statement that you will lose your job unless you are issued with a work licence.

The affidavit must be in the correct format, contain all the necessary information to satisfy the magistrate and properly witnessed.  The affidavits must also be accompanied by an application form.

You can read more about drug driving and work licences on our bloig.



I wasn’t driving the vehicle but I was arrested for being in charge of a motor vehicle

You can be charged with drug driving being in charge of a vehicle if you had control of the motor vehicle for example if you were in the driver’s seat and had the keys near you even if you were not driving or had no intention of driving.  Often this occurs when people are in the car waiting to be picked up, in the car wanting to find something or just sleeping.

It does not matter that the car was not on a road.  You can be charged with drug driving even if the car was on private property such as a car park or driveway.


I am legally prescribed cannabis and have been charged with drug driving

At the present time Queensland law does not provide an exemption for driving with prescribed cannabis in your system.  Therefore regrettably even if you had a valid prescription if any cannabis is found in your system you will be charged and the fact it was prescribed is not a defence recognised by the law.


What will happen in court?

If you plead guilty, the court will usually deal with your matter immediately. The magistrate will read the charge to you and ask you how you plead. The magistrate may also ask you if you are entering the plea of your own free will. The police prosecutor will then read the outline of facts and give the magistrate copies of the drug analysis certificate, your criminal history and traffic history. The police prosecutor may also offer an opinion as to what penalties should be imposed on you.

After the prosecutor has spoken, the magistrate will give you an opportunity to speak. Your lawyer (or you if you don’t have a lawyer) will then put explain what occurred, why it occurred, the positive things you have done since the offence, your general good character and the impact the penalty including the disqualification will have on you. This is done to support asking the magistrate to give you the minimum penalty that can be argued for on the strength of those facts and circumstances.

The court will also consider any other material you might have obtained that will help reduce the penalty such as character references or completing a driving course such at Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (“QTOP”).

Once your lawyer has spoken, the magistrate may seek further clarification of certain matter from the police, from your lawyer, or from both. The magistrate will then convict you, impose a penalty and disqualify you from driving for a certain period of time. That licence disqualification takes effect immediately.

If you have applied for a work licence, the magistrate will indicate whether the application is granted. If it is granted the magistrate will state the conditions on which the licence is granted.

Once you are disqualified, you must immediately surrender your driver’s licence to the police prosecutor. It is an offence to be in possession of your licence after you have been disqualified from driving.

court room


Can I change the court?

The court might agree to transfer the charge to another court in Queensland if you are pleading guilty and you have a connection to the new court.  For example if you lived 3 hours away from the court it might be possible to transfer it to the court closer to where you live. 


I live in another state what can I do about appearing in court?

In some circumstances the court might agree for you to not have to appear or to appear by phone in the court if you have engaged a lawyer to act for you.  Please contact us for more information about this.


Do I get to keep my physical licence?

No, you are required to surrender your licence to Queensland Transport by the day after the court disqualifies you or to the police prosecutor on the court date.

The surrender of your licence may in some circumstances deprive you of your main form of identification, you may therefore wish to attend Queensland Transport before the court and obtain a proof of age card (now known as photo identification card)  to help with identification during your period of disqualification.


Drug Driving Penalties

Well thought out submissions and arguments before a magistrate can in our experience significantly reduce the length of your disqualification.   For first time offenders with no other charges before the court the court will look to fines and disqualifications as a penalty.  For repeat offenders the court will be looking at a number of penalties from probation to prison.  No matter the penalty it will always include a disqualification as in Queensland a minimum disqualification must be imposed unlike other states.  Whilst the court cannot not impose a licence disqualification they can in certain circumstances issue a work licence.

In Queensland a first time offender on an open licence charged with driving with a relevant drug in their system faces a possible 1-9 month disqualification and a fine.  For a learner, P plates, or unlicenced driver, the minimum penalty starts at 3 months. The Court has the power to increase the disqualification past the minimum.

For driving under the influence of a drug the minimum disqualification increases to 6 months.  We have a blog post with more information on drug driving penalties.

Aside from disqualifications, the other penalty to expect is a fine and then the court must decide whether to record a conviction that would show on your traffic history.



What can I do to reduce my penalty and disqualification period?

The best thing is obviously to engage an experienced drug driving lawyer to act for you.  Good drug driving lawyers know what the court needs to hear to get the lowest penalty possible.  Your drug driving lawyer should be about to map out a plan to get you the least amount of disqualification as possible.  This is why you need a drug driving lawyer that is in court almost every day not someone that does a few appearances a year as traffic law is not their main area of practice.

Other things you can look to do is obtaining character references, where appropriate medical reports and completing the QTOP course.


What factors will the court take into account in deciding the punishment?

As the peak traffic law experts in Queensland, we know exactly what the court wants to hear. The court will take into account, among other things:

  • What drugs were in your system
  • Whether you have prior drink or drug driving offences
  • The extent of your traffic and criminal history
  • Your age
  • Your current work arrangements
  • Your family situation
  • How the disqualification will affect your work and family commitments
  • How early you pleaded guilty
  • Your participation in any courses such as QTOP
  • How cooperative you were with police
  • Your financial circumstances
  • How the recording of a conviction might impact your future


Will my matter be in the paper?

Possibly, the court is an open to anyone, what this means is that any person is entitled to watch the court proceedings and report what occurred. 


When does the disqualification begin?

The disqualification starts immediately.  You would not be able to drive once you leave the court.  


What happens after my disqualification period?

After the period of disqualification has ended you will need to attend Queensland Transport and reapply for your licence.  You cannot simply start driving after your disqualification period has ended.

After you have been disqualified for a drug driving offence you will be on a probationary licence for one year.

police 4


I’m really embarrassed at what has occurred

That’s understandable most of our clients haven’t intentionally driven thinking the drug would still be in their system or that the drugs would affect their driving.  We have no judgement, good people make mistakes and we are here to try and get the best outcome for the client so they can go on with their lives.



What legislation control’s drug driving in Queensland?

The Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995


I’m a P plater charged with drug driving and need a work licence

Unfortunately P Platers are not able to apply for a work licence.


I have a drug driving charge in Queensland can you help me?

Yes, we represent people charged with drug driving on the Gold Coast, Logan, Brisbane, Ipswich Caboolture, the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Maryborough and Hervey Bay.


I pleaded guilty online now the Maroochydore Court has sent me a letter saying I must appear next week

You cannot plead guilty online to a drug driving charge.  The letter the Maroochydore court sent is saying they won’t accept your plea online and now you must appear in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court in person.


I was caught driving in far north Queensland but I live in Ipswich what can I do

In most cases we can transfer your drug driving charge to be heard in Ipswich.


I got caught drug driving on the Sunshine Coast ago but I never went to court

Its likely the drug driving charge is still pending and an arrest warrant has been issued.  We can arrange to go with you to one of the Sunshine Coast courts, get the warrant recalled and then deal with the drug driving charge.


My 17 year old son has been charged with drug driving

We often act for newly licenced drivers charged with drug driving.  As consuming even a small of drugs can show in a test and lead to a charge.  Any person under 18 is considered a child which means they will attend children’s court for the charge.

Recent case law provides a basis for us to ask the court not to disqualify their licence.  This is because the children’s court has different rules than adult court.  This area of law is constantly changing and you should contact us for the most up to date information.


I’m in the Brisbane Magistrates Court and this isn’t my first drug driving charge

If the police serve on you a notice to allege previous offences then the minimum disqualification period will increase.  You should contact us for guidance on what the potential penalty may be or check our our dedicated drug driving lawyer brisbane page.


I’ve heard a lot of criminal lawyers are pretty shady so I’m worried ill get ripped off

Unfortunately there have been some lawyers that have really let everyone down with their behaviour.  Thankfully most traffic lawyers across Queensland are trust worthy. 

We will always be upfront with our clients about our costs, what will happen in court and what is the best way to handle the charge.  The money our clients pay sit in a Queensland Law Society regulated trust account until they authorise us to take the money after the matter has ended to their satisfaction.

Steven Brough the firms founder is the most respected traffic lawyer in Queensland and he ensures all our staff behave like they were representing a family member, always professional, caring and respectful but importantly utterly determined in court to get the best outcome.

Have a look at our reviews or call us to discuss, you will see how professionally and respectfully we treat our clients.


Top Myths of drug driving

Myth #1 – You Cannot be Charged with Drug Driving in Your Driveway

There are lots of reasons why this myth is wrong, most importantly, the legislation does not restrict where a drug driving offence can occur. In other words, you can commit these offences anywhere. You only need to have a relevant drug in your system or under the influence of a drug and be:

  • Driving a motor vehicle; or
  • Attempting to put it in motion; or
  • In charge of it.


We have encountered cases where people have been charged with drug driving offences where their car was:

  • Parked in a driveway;
  • Parked in a garage with the door shut;
  • Parked in a shopping centre or pub carpark;
  • Parked on the side of the road; and
  • Being driven on a dirt track on private property.

It is important to keep in mind that drug driving laws in Australia are not uniform across the various States and territories. It is crucial that you are getting information relating only to Queensland law, if you are planning to drive in Queensland.


Myth #2 – You can “Sleep it Off” in Your Car

As we have already discussed above, drug driving offences are not limited to public roads. You can commit them anywhere that you can get a car. Furthermore, as we discussed, you do not need to be actually driving a car to commit a drug driving offence.

If the police find you sleeping in your car while a relevant drug in your system or you are under the influence of a drug, you will probably be charged with being “in charge” of the car while drug driving. Being “in charge” of a motor vehicle has no precise definition in the legislation; however, there is case law which does provide such a definition.

In simple terms, being “in charge” has the underlying idea of being “responsible”. In Queensland, it seems that the courts consider someone must be responsible for cars parked on public roads. Therefore, you are in charge of your car until you give responsibility of your car to someone else. This notion is applied fairly broadly; for example, you can still be “in charge” of your car, even if it has been in an accident. Nevertheless, the legislation does provide for certain, very limited, circumstances where you will not be convicted of an offence even though you were found to be “in charge” of your car and were over the legal limit.


Myth #3 – You are Safe to Drive the Next Day

Speaking of driving the next morning, a common trap many of our clients fall into is driving the morning following a night where drugs were consumed, believing that they no longer have any drugs in their system. Regrettably, and depending on what and how much drugs you took the night before, this may not be the case.

Drugs, especially cannabis can stay in the system for a long period of time.  The tests the police use are quite sensitive and any amount of a relevant drug detected, even a tiny amount, will result in a charge.

It should be said that being mistaken about whether you have a relevant drug in your system is not a defence to a drug driving charge.


Myth #4 – I cannot be charged with drug driving as the drug was legally prescribed to me

Whilst you cannot be charged with driving with a relevant drug in your system on a legally prescribed drug (except cannabis discussed below) if the prescribed drug has affected your ability to drive the police can charge you with being under the influence of a drug.

Currently whilst cannabis can be legally prescribed in Queensland the laws do not allow you to drive with any cannabis in your system.  If any THC is found in a blood or saliva test you will be charged with driving with a relevant drug in your system.

The Government is currently reviewing whether to amend the laws to allow people with a cannabis prescription to drive in Queensland.


Should I get a drug driving lawyer to represent me?

In a word, yes this is not an offence where you should simply turn up to the court without an experienced drug driving lawyer.  The consequences and penalties the court may impose are too serious not to seek to minimise the penalty by having an expert drug driving lawyer represent you.

If you have a bad traffic history, have previously been convicted of drug or drink a lawyer is critical.  We get 3-4 calls a week from people who represented themselves in court and received extremely harsh penalties and need to try and appeal the result.  In most cases an appeal is exceedingly difficult and will cost a huge amount for the legal fees.  It is better to have drug driving lawyers from the start to handle the matter property especially if you want to apply for a work licence.


I’ll just turn up to court and use the duty lawyer for free

People can and often do represent themselves in court.  However the duty lawyer cannot act for people charged with drug driving unless they are likely to go to prison.  This means for 99% of people you will face the court by yourself.

Once the decision is made by the magistrate it is virtually impossible to change it, so if you get a bad outcome you are likely stuck with it.


Engaging Clarity Law to act for you

Engaging us as your drug driving lawyers gives you the best chance at obtaining the lowest disqualification period and a fine as low possible.   We are the leading drug driving law firm in South East Queensland, everyday our lawyers are in Court getting the best outcome for clients.  Since 2010 we have appeared in over 500 drug driving cases along with thousands of other traffic offence appearances and no one has the experience we do.  Just some of the benefits of us acting for you for your drug driving charge include;

  • we know the magistrates and what they want to hear to give you the best outcome
  • we have good relationships with the police prosecutors meaning we can often have them not object to the Court imposing the minimum disqualification period applicable.
  • we are there to help you through the process and make everything as stress free as possible, in most cases you will not have to say anything in court
  • engaging us shows the court you are taking your charges seriously
  • your matter will be heard early, often first, you do not have to wait for 20-30 other matters to be heard before you
  • you will be fully informed of what is to happen in court and what this means for you after court
  • unlike the police or the magistrate, we are there to look after you, your privacy and your interests
  • We can assess if you qualify for a work licence

Here at Clarity Law we appear every week in the courts with people charged with drug driving, it is this experience 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 magistrates like we do.


What courts do you appear in?

We appear in every court in Southeast Queensland from the Gold Coast to Hervey Bay.  Just some of the courts we appear in are representing drink drivers include;



Beenleigh            Brisbane              Cleveland           

Holland Park       Pine Rivers          Richlands            

Sandgate             Wynnum


Sunshine Coast

Caboolture         Caloundra           Gympie

Maroochydore   Nambour             Noosa


Gold Coast

Beaudesert        Coolangatta        Southport


Darling Downs

Gatton   Toowoomba   Ipswich


Fraser Coast

Maryborough    Hervey Bay


Where are your offices located?

We have 7 offices across Southeast Queensland.  Please always ring first as your local office may be unattended if our staff are in court.  We have spent years developing systems that mean in most cases you won’t even need to come in and see us to engage the best legal representation.




Gold Coast



Hervey Bay


Our Team

Every one of our traffic lawyers is extremely experienced appearing in the courts every week representing people charged with drug driving.

steven brough criminal solicitor

Steven Brough – Founder and traffic lawyer

russell tannock criminal lawyer

Russell Tannock – Traffic lawyer

lucy ferguson criminal solicitor

Lucy Ferguson – Traffic lawyer

jacob pruden criminal lawyer

Jacob Purden – Traffic lawyer

belinda smyth criminal lawyer

Belinda Smyth – Client Services Manager

Between our lawyers we have appeared in court thousands of times representing clients with driving charges throughout Southeast Queensland.


Is this all going to be a hassle to engage you?

No, we have offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, in Strathpine, Loganholme, Ipswich and Hervey Bay but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office.  We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.

Most of the information we require you can complete with an online form from your phone or tablet.

You will also have the direct email address and mobile phone number of your lawyer so you can ask any question you may have.  We believe in given client the very best experience possible and that starts with great communication and fast responses to your queries.  Our client services manager Belinda is also just a phone call or email away to answer any questions you have.  The fixed fee also sits in a Queensland Law Society approved trust account until the matter is completed and you give us permission to take the money to pay our fee.  We don’t and can’t just take your money and not properly help you.


What do you charge?

We charge a flat upfront fee for our services, that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. 

We are also upfront with our fees, if you look at other law firms few, if any, clearly list how much they are going to charge you.  Clarity Law on the other hand are happy to list our prices as we are sure no other South East Queensland law firm can match our prices and experience. We will never be the cheapest but we hope we are always the most reasonable given our experience level.

Our prices include;

  • full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
  • contact with the police prosecution unit to obtaining traffic history and charge documents (including the QP9) and what they will say to the court
  • drafting submissions for the court
  • arranging for you to attend a driving course (if appropriate)
  • all telephone calls, faxes emails and meetings with you
  • detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
  • appearing in the court with you for your guilty plea to the drug driving charge


Click here to see what we charge.


If I contacted you what would occur?

If you contact us then Steven Brough the firms founder or our client services manager Belinda Smyth will take the call or receive the email. They have 45 years legal experience between them, we can provide immediate legal assistance and answer any questions you have. We will discuss your case, provide guidance and send a quote by email with additional relevant information about your charge, all at no cost.

If you want to engage us then it’s easy, there is a form you can complete and email back or complete online. If you do not want to engage us or want to engage another firm that’s fine, you won’t be hassled and at worst you will just have more information about your charge. Once engaged one of our lawyers will go through your matter and contact you to discuss what the best way forward is to achieve the best results. Every one of our lawyers are very experienced with thousands of courts appearances between them.

low res group


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to book a teleconference at a time that suits you

  4. Email our firms founder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger

We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide information to assist you, if you want to engage us then great, if not then you at least have more information about drug driving. You won’t be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a drug driving charge will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  

contact us reduced size

Need more information?

We have a range of articles on drink driving on our blog.  Some of the most recent have included:


This article general information only and not legal advice and is written subject to our disclaimer that can be read by clicking here

Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation