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Drug Driving

Cassandra Adorni-Braccesi
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26 October 2021

In Queensland, there are two offences relating to driving with drugs in your system. 

The offences are:-

  1. Driving with a relevant drug in your system; and
  2. Driving under the influence of a drug.

Both offences carry significant penalties and mandatory periods of disqualification.

Driving with a relevant drug in your system

It is an offence to drive with a relevant drug in your system.  You may be charged with this offence if you return a positive roadside test for methyl amphetamine (ice or speed), MDMA (the active ingredient of ecstasy) or THC (the active ingredient in cannabis). 

What are the penalties for driving with a relevant drug in my system?

The maximum penalty for driving with a relevant drug in your system is a fine of 14 penalty units (currently equating to $1,929.00) or three months imprisonment (current as at October 2021).

The maximum penalty for this offence increases if you have previously been convicted of a similar offence within a five year period.  The penalty will increase as follows:-

  •  If it is your second offence in the relevant period, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of 20 penalty units (currently equating to $2,757.00) or six months imprisonment; and
  •  If it is your third or subsequent offence in the relevant period, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of 28 penalty units (currently equating to $3,859.80) or nine months imprisonment.
Will I lose my licence?  

If you return a positive road side test, your licence will be suspended for 24 hours. 

You will also be subject to a mandatory disqualification if you are convicted of this offence.  The Court must disqualify you from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver licence for a period of one to nine months for your first offence.  You may be eligible to apply for a restricted licence (commonly known as a “work licence”) to allow you to drive during your disqualification period.  Please contact our office should you wish to obtain advice about your eligibility to apply for a work licence.

If you have a previous conviction for driving with a relevant drug in your system within a five year period, the Court must disqualify you for a period of three to 18 months.  If you have been convicted two or more times in a five year period, the Court must disqualify you for a minimum of six months.  In these circumstances, you may not be eligible to apply for a work licence.

Driving under the influence of drugs

It is an offence to drive under the influence of a drug.  You may be charged with this offence if a police officer reasonably believes that your driving was impaired due to you being under the influence of a drug.  If a police officer holds reasonable suspicion, you will be required to provide a specimen of blood for analysis.

This is a more serious offence than that of driving with a relevant drug in your system, as the police are alleging that your driving was impaired by the presence of the drug in your system.

What are the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs?

The maximum penalty for driving under the influence with a relevant drug in your system is a fine of 28 penalty units (currently equating to $3,859.80) or nine months imprisonment.

The maximum penalty for this offence increases if you have previously been convicted of a similar offence within a five year period.  If it is your second offence in the relevant period, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of 60 penalty units (currently equating to $8,271.00) or 18 months imprisonment.

If it is your third or subsequent offence the Court must impose a period of imprisonment as all, or part, of your sentence. 

Will I lose my licence?

You will be subject to a mandatory disqualification if you are convicted of this offence.  The Court must disqualify you from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver licence for a minimum of six months for your first offence.  You may be eligible to apply for a work licence to allow you to drive during your disqualification period.  Please contact our office should you wish to obtain advice about your eligibility to apply for a work licence.

If you have a previous conviction for a similar offence within a five year period, the Court must disqualify you for a minimum of 12 months.  If you have been convicted two or more times in a five year period, the Court must disqualify you for a minimum of two years.  In these circumstances, you may not be eligible to apply for a work licence.

Do I need to speak to a solicitor?

Both driving with a relevant drug in your system and driving under the influence of a drug are serious offences, and carry significant penalties and periods of disqualification.  We recommend that you seek legal advice to ensure you understand the process and the penalties prior to your matter proceeding.  This is particularly true if you have been charged with a similar offence within a 5 year period.

If you would like to discuss your matter, or have one of our local and experienced team represent you, please contact our office on 07 4963 2000 or via our online contact form.