QLD Drug Driving Offences & Penalties
When it comes to Drug Driving Offences and Penalties in Queensland we need to take a look at the governing legislation which is the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.
What quickly becomes apparent is that there are 2 different types of drug driving offences in Queensland. One is more serious than the other and that is due to the seriousness and risks involved in the act of committing these offences.
The 1st and most serious type of Drug Driving Offence is that of "Driving Under the Influence of a Drug" which is a charge that is generally laid when the Police believe that the driver of a motor vehicle is affected by a certain drug at the time they are operating the vehicle.
The 2nd and less serious of the 2 types of drug driving offences is that of a driver being found to have a presence or trace of certain types of drugs in their system. The formal term for this offence is called "Driving while a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva" and the offence can easily be proven by Police through simple road side mouth swabs.
Offence of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of a Drug QLD
This is the most serious of the Drug Driving Offences due to the fact that a person driving under the influence of a drug is far more likely to be impaired when operating a motor vehicle thus the risk of accident, damage or injury to others is significantly increased.
To charge a person with the offence of driving under the influence (DUI) of a drug the Police only have to establish that the person appears to be affected by a drug at the time of driving. This can be through their own observations of the driver such as the drivers speech, mannerisms, behaviour, motor skills and other physiological indictors which are usually present with drug affected people. Further drug testing to prove that there is a drug present in the persons system also proves that the person was under the influence of a drug at the time.
This offence is comparable in seriousness to that of a High Range Drink Driving offence and the penalties that the Court seeks to hand down for these types of offences are also comparable to High Range DUI.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Drug QLD
In relation to penalties at the Courts disposal for the serious type of drive under the influence (DUI) of a drug offence they mostly include a fine, conviction, licence disqualification however for more serious types of offences or for offences who are considered serious or repeat offenders then the Court may look to hand down additional penalties which can go as far as including full time jail. The offence of Driving Under the Influence of a Drug is found at 79(1) of theTransport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.
As mentioned the penalties for Drive Under the Influence (DUI) of a Drug are the same as the penalties Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol otherwise known as High Rage Drink Driving.
1st Offence of DUI of a Drug:
For a person charged with DUI of a Drug in Queensland where it is their 1st major traffic offence within the past 5 years then they can receive a maximum of 9 months in jail and/or a fine of $3,298 (28 penalty units).
The Court is required to disqualify an offender convicted of a DUI of a drug for a minimum period of 6 months for a 1st offence, however the Court can increase this period depending on the seriousness of the offence.
2nd Offence of DUI of a Drug:
For a person charged with DUI of a Drug in Queensland where it is their 2nd major traffic offence within the past 5 years then they can receive a maximum of 18 months in jail and/or a fine of $7,068 (60 penalty units).
The Court is required to disqualify an offender convicted of a DUI of a drug for a minimum period of 1 year for a 2nd offence, however the Court can increase this period depending on the seriousness of the offence.
3rd or Subsequent Offence of DUI of a Drug:
For a person charged with DUI of a Drug in Queensland where it is their 3rd or subsequent major traffic offence within the past 5 years then they can receive a maximum of 18 months in jail and/or a fine of $7,068 (60 penalty units).
The Court is required to impose a jail sentence (or term of imprisonment). This doesn't automatically mean that the Court must sentence the offender to full time jail since the Court can suspend the jail sentence however the offender must be aware that there is a very real prospect of serving a full time custodial sentence and usually this will be the case. The Court can also impose a hefty fine of a maximum of $7,068 (60 penalty units).
In addition the Court is required to impose a disqualification period of at least 2 years however the Court can increase this period depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Indefinite Disqualification Period:
The Courts in Queensland also have the power and discretion to disqualify an offender from driving, holding or applying for a Queensland driver's licence for an indefinite period of time, and that can be imposed on an offender even if it is their 1st offence (within the past 5 years) although this would be unusual it is still a discretion and power at the Courts disposal.
Cumulative Disqualification Periods:
All disqualifications are handed down are on a cumulative basis which means that if a person has existing disqualification periods to serve for other offences or if they receive multiple periods of disqualification then they need to be served separately from each other (cumulatively) and not at the same time (concurrently).
Offence of Driving with a Relevant Drug is Present
When we look at the more common (and somewhat less serious) offence of the 2 drug driving offences in Queensland it becomes evident that you don't necessarily have to be affected by the drug at the time of driving but merely having traces of the drug still in your system (blood or saliva) can indicate a positive reading whereby you will be charged with driving with a relevant drug present in your system.
The drug that may be detected in your system may not necessarily be an illicit substance, as we have seen in the past there are prescription drugs (e.g. Methadone, Pethidine etc) which can also be detected and lead to such a drug driving charge.
This charge is laid under section 79(2AA) of theTransport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995. Police will generally lay this charge after a road side saliva swab test has been conducted which will return a preliminary result of positive of negative for a presence of drugs. If a positive result is return then further testing and analysis will be conducted.
This is a strict liability offence which means that upon a positive reading it is not up to the Police or prosecution to prove their case further, instead it would be up to the defendant to prove that the results were inaccurate (this is often hard to do in most cases).
Furthermore, the Police do not have to prove that there is a specific concentration of the drug present in the driver's system, instead a basic positive detection of any amount will be enough for the prosecution to substantiate this charge.
Penalties for Driving with a Relevant Drug Present
The laws in Queensland relate the penalties to the offence of drive with a relevant drug present similar to that of a Low Range Drink Driving Offence whereby the following penalties are at the Courts disposal:
1st Offence of Drive with Relevant Drug Present:
The penalty for driving while a drug exists in your blood or saliva is a maximum of 3 months imprisonment and/or a$1,649 fine (14 penalty units).
Minimum disqualification period for 1st offence is 1 month.
2nd Offence of Drive with Relevant Drug Present:
A 2nd offence within 5 years, carries a maximum penalty of 6 months jail time and/or a $2,356 fine (20 penalty units).
Minimum disqualification period for 1st offence is 3 months.
3rd (and subsequent) Offence of Drive with Relevant Drug Present:
For a 3rd, and any subsequent, offence within 5 years the maximum penalty increases to a maximum 9 months jail time and/or a $3,298 fine (28 penalty units).
Minimum disqualification period for 1st offence is 6 months.
All sentences handed down must be served cumulatively, which means if there is more that 1 period of disqualification handed down then one period of disqualification must finish before any other period of disqualification can commence.