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 prescribed drugs present in oral fluid

Police may charge you with this offence if you get pulled over for random testing and they find that there is a prescribed drug present in your oral fluid. This oral fluid test shows up cannabis, methylamphetamine (or speed) and ecstasy. You could get an infringement notice instead of being charged for this offence. 

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

Drivers may be charged with a separate offence if they are caught driving with more than the prescribed amount of alcohol and illicit drugs present. The penalties for this offence are higher. 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, read 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.

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
  • 25 penalty units (or 3 months jail) – driving under the influence 
  • 12 penalty units – providing a sample of fluid with prescribed drug present
  • 12 penalty units – driving with more drugs than prescribed
  • 12 penalty units – driving while impaired
  • 12 penalty units – refusing to be tested for drugs or alcohol.

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 six months.

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

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

The only exception to this is if a driver gets an infringement notice for drug driving. Drivers who get a drug driving infringement will have their licence suspended instead of cancelled. This means that, VicRoads will return their licence when the suspension period ends. If a driver licence is cancelled, the driver will have to apply to be relicensed. 

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.

Behaviour change program

From 30 April 2018 all people caught drug driving must complete a behaviour change program (BCP). VicRoads will write to you and tell you which program you need to complete. 

Agencies that conduct the programs are approved by VicRoads. You can choose which agency you would like to attend. The BCP agencies are listed on the VicRoads or Directline websites. Contact the agency as soon as you lose your licence. Prices may vary so it is advisable to shop around and compare prices. A discounted rate applies for concession card holders. 

You usually do two sessions with the agency. The agency will issue a certificate when you successfully complete the BCP. The agency may also refer you to other services such as a drug and alcohol counsellor or your doctor if they believe that you have a drug problem. You will need this certificate to get another licence after serving your period of disqualification or suspension.  

There is a more intensive behaviour change program for drivers who have been caught drink or drug driving before, or who are found guilty of more serious drug driving offences, such as driving while impaired. 

When the police can suspend your licence

The police can suspend your licence if you are charged with:

  • a refusal offence (oral fluid, drug impairment, blood or urine tests)
  • a combined drug and alcohol offence (high alcohol reading)
  • being impaired by a drug
  • a second drug or drink driving offence within the last 10 years
  • refusing to have a blood or urine test. 

This is called an 'immediate suspension' even though it is not always immediate. It could take up to 12 months for this to happen. The suspension lasts until the date in the suspension notice or until your case is heard in court.

If the magistrate cancels your licence and disqualifies you from driving, usually the disqualification will be back-dated to the date you got the immediate suspension notice.

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.

Read 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.

Was this helpful?