07 Mar Drug Driving Penalties
Tougher penalties are being imposed for drug driving offences after Parliament made changes to the Road Traffic Act 1961 in November 2017. These changes came into effect on 8 March 2018 therefore any drug driving offence committed after this date will fall to be dealt with under the amended Act.
The offence is “driving a motor vehicle while a prescribed drug is present in their oral fluid”. A prescribed drug relates to cannabis, methylamphetamine and MDMA. The test is conducted as a buccal swab.
The ‘level’ of drug in your system is not relevant. Drivers must be aware that MDMA and methylamphetamine can remain in the body’s system for up to 3 days (or some cases longer) and cannabis can remain the in body’s system for much longer, depending on level of use. So even if a driver did not consumed the drug immediately prior to driving they are still at risk of returning a positive drug test days after the drug use occurred.
Prior to the changes, for a first offence a drug driver would be issued with an expiation notice (on the spot fine) and incur 4 demerit points.
Since the amendment, for a first offence a drug driver will still be issued with an expiation notice, incur 4 demerit points but will also have a licence disqualification of 3 months. This disqualification will be issued by the Department of Transport once the expiation notice has been paid. If the driver has already incurred 8 or more demerit points then they will receive an extra 3 month licence disqualification as a result of incurring the 4 demerit points for drug driving.
On every expiation notice there is an option where the driver can elect to be prosecuted. A driver would elect this option only if they wish to defend the charge. It is important you seek legal advice before electing prosecution because once the matter is before Court and if proved, a ‘first offence’ will be dealt with pursuant to section 47BA(1)(a) and (4)(a)(i) of the Road Traffic Act 1961. The penalty is much higher than if the offence was expiated with the fine being between $900 and $1300 and a licence disqualification of not less than 6 months.
Further amendments have been made to the penalties for drug driving and a full table of the changes can be found on the website for the Department for Transport.
At Mangan Ey & Associates, we are experienced in dealing with drug driving offences as well as all types of traffic offences. Remember, if you have a concerns about your licence or an expiation notice, contact us today for advice.