Drug driving

Drug driving

The police may charge you with an offence of drug driving if they think that you had:

  • an illicit drug in your system while you were driving, or
  • a prescription drug in your system while you were driving and you took the drug in a way that your doctor did not prescribe, which has affected your driving.

Speak to a lawyer if you have been charged with driving under the influence or if you have been found guilty of a drug or drink driving offence before.

Types of drug driving offences

Driving with more drugs than prescribed

Police will charge you with this offence if they suspect that you were driving while affected by a drug but no illicit drugs show up in your blood test. If you plan to plead not guilty, your defence will have to show that you took the medicine exactly as you were told to by your doctor, chemist or dentist.

Driving while impaired

Police will charge you with this offence if your blood or urine test show drugs were present after they gave you a drug impairment assessment.

Driving under the influence

If you are charged with this offence the police must prove that you had drugs in your system and that you could not control your vehicle properly. Get legal advice if you are charged with this offence.

Refusal offences

You will be charged with this if you refused to have a drug test or give a sample of blood, saliva or urine.

Driving with drugs and alcohol present

From 1 August 2015 a new offence applies to drivers who are caught driving with more than the prescribed amount of alcohol and illicit drugs present. Get legal advice if you are charged with this offence.

Going to court for a drug driving offence

For information about how to prepare for the court hearing see Going to court for traffic offences.

Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case. Look at the ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.

The prosecution has to prove that:

  • you were driving
  • you had consumed drugs
  • you did not have proper control of the car.

Possible penalties

Fine or time in jail

The magistrate may give you a fine with penalty units. The fines are:

  • 30 penalty units – driving with more than prescribed amounts of drugs and alcohol
  • 12 penalty units – driving with more drugs than prescribed
  • 12 penalty units – driving while impaired
  • 12 penalty units – refusing a saliva test
  • 12 penalty units or up to six months jail – refusing any other drug test.

The magistrate could send you to jail but this is not likely if this is your first offence.

If this is not your first offence the maximum number of penalty units is much higher. They will depend on how many times you have been found guilty before. The fines are:

  • up to 120 penalty units – driving with more drugs than prescribed
  • up to 180 penalty units or 18 months jail – driving while impaired
  • up to 120 penalty units – refusing a saliva test
  • up to 180 penalty units or 18 months jail – refusing any other drug test.

If it is not your first offence the penalty for a driving with both alcohol and an illicit drug present depends on how much alcohol was in your BAC. For example:

  • if your BAC was less than 0.15 the maximum penalty is 90 penalty units or six months jail
  • if it was your third offence and your BAC was 0.15 or more the maximum penalty is 270 penalty units or 18 months jail.

Losing your licence

If the magistrate finds you guilty of drug driving they must cancel your licence and disqualify you from driving for at least three months.

If this is your first offence your licence must be cancelled for at least:

  • 3 months – driving with more drugs than prescribed
  • 12 months – driving while impaired
  • 6 months – refusing a saliva test
  • 2 years – refusing any other drug test.

If you lose your licence you must not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. There are very serious penalties for driving while suspended.

Get in touch with a driver education agency as soon as you lose your licence. The agency will tell you what you have to do and what the costs are. You usually do two sessions with the agency. This lets them look at your progress over time. They will write a report about your alcohol use or drug use. The agency sends the report directly to court.

Other penalties

The magistrate can also choose to:

What else might happen if I am found guilty?

What happens in court goes on your criminal record.

See Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with traffic offences.