Traffic Law

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

There are several Drug Driving Laws NSW Police can rely on to charge drivers with drug relate driving offences. Some of these offences are more serious than others. One of the more common and serious forms of Drug Driving is the offence of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUI). 

The Law

A person is committing this offence if, whilst under the influence of a drug:

(a) drives a motor vehicle, or

(b) occupies the driving seat of a motor vehicle and attempts to put the vehicle in motion.

Penalties

The penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs are set out in the table below:

PENALTIES

FIRST OFFENCE

SECOND OR SUBSEQUENT OFFENCE

Maximum court imposed fine

$2,200

$3,300

Maximum gaol term

9 months

12 months

Automatic disqualification period

12 months

2 years

Minimum disqualification period

6 months

12 months

Maximum disqualification period

Unlimited

Unlimited


It is also an offence if the person is the holder of an applicable driver's licence and occupies the seat of a vehicle next to a learner driver who is driving the vehicle. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $2,200, irrespective of whether it is a first or second offence, with no gaol term. The disqualification periods are the same as in the above table.

Commentary

There are different circumstances where one can find themselves charged with this offence. Two typical scenarios are where the person has been involved in a serious accident and taken back to a hospital, or being pulled over "randomly" by police at the side of the road. Typically, police rely on obtaining a blood sample or, a sample of the person's oral fluid.

There are certain legal requirements that police must first meet before being able to obtain an oral fluid or blood sample. For example, if police have pulled someone over at the side of the road and suspect that they are under the influence of a drug, they must first submit the person to a sobriety test. If the driver fails the test, then the police can arrest the person and take them to a hospital for the purpose of having a blood sample taken.

The sample is sent sent to a laboratory to be independently tested for the presence of a drug. An expert can then be called on to provide an opinion as to whether the drug is present at a level that would impair the person's ability to drive.

It must be noted, however, that an expert certificate alone may not be enough to prove that the person was "under the influence". Generally, the police will offer their own observations of how the driver appeared and conducted themselves, and for most part, this evidence is admissible in Court. Combined with an expert opinion that the person would have been impaired, this is usually enough to make out the charge. However, it is still sometimes possible to defend this type of drug driving charge, in the right circumstances.

Also, it must be remembered that the drug that is found in your system does not necessarily have to be an illicit or illegal drug to be charged with and found "guilty" of the offence. There are many prescription drugs, for example, that are considered at law "drugs" for this type of offence.

If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and wish to defend the charge or wish to engage an experienced lawyer to assist you in having your penalty reduced, we can help.

Contact us to speak to one of our lawyers at our offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, Sutherland or Wollongong.

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