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Recent Changes to Drug Driving Penalties and Roadside Drug Testing

In November 2017, the South Australian Parliament approved reforms to the Road Traffic Act 1961 to change drug driving penalties and roadside drug testing procedures. These changes have recently come into effect early this year with the final change having commenced on Tuesday 24 April.

Drug driving has contributed quite notably to the amount of deaths on South Australian roads. Between the years 2012 and 2016, the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure recorded that an average of 24% of motorists on our roads tested positive to either THC (the active component in cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth), or MDMA (ecstasy).

Unfortunately, and unlike drink driving, the number of drug driving fatalities is not declining. On average, there are 13 drug-related road deaths reported each year.

Roadside Drug Testing

From 22 February 2018 –

The changes to roadside drug testing procedures will come into effect:

  • Police will only undertake one roadside screening test, rather than two.
  • As per usual practice, if a motorist tests positive, an oral fluid sample will be sent off for laboratory analysis for further confirmation of the presence of the drugs.

Driving with Prescribed Drug in Oral Fluid or Blood

The current penalties, such as the usual ‘on the spot’ fine for a first drug driving offence, the usual loss of demerit points and the usual fines applied by the court will remain in place, along with new and increased disqualification periods:

From 8 March 2018 –

The court penalty for a first drug driving offence will increase:

  •  The minimum licence disqualification period for drivers who choose to be prosecuted and are then convicted by the court for a first drug driving offence will increase from three to six months.

Licence disqualification periods imposed for repeat drug driving offences will increase:

  • For a second drug driving offence, the licence disqualification period will increase from six months to not less than 12 months.
  • For a third drug driving offence, the licence disqualification period will increase from not less than one year to not less than two years.
  • For a subsequent drug driving offence, the licence disqualification period will increase from not less than two years to not less than three years.

The penalties for refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test will increase:

  • For a first offence the licence disqualification period will increase from not less than six months to not less than 12 months.
  • For all subsequent offences the licence disqualification period will increase from not less than two years to not less than three years.

From 24 April 2018 –

The penalty for a first drug driving offence will increase:

  • A driver who is required to pay the ‘on the spot’ fine for a first drug driving offence will incur a three month licence disqualification in addition to the existing expiation fee and four demerit points.

A driver detected drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child aged under 16 years in the car must show they are not dependent on drugs or alcohol before being re-licensed:

  • A person drug or drink driving places a child passenger at an increased risk of being involved in a serious crash. For this reason, a new offence will apply for drug or drink driving with a child under the age of 16 present in the vehicle. This offence will apply where the driver’s blood alcohol content is .08 or greater – that is, a category 2 offence and higher – and to all drug driving offences, including driving under the influence and refusing or failing to undertake an alcohol or drug screening test.
  • Drivers committed of this offence will not regain their licence until they demonstrate they are not dependent on drugs or alcohol.
  • Penalties that apply for the respective drug or drink driving offence such as a fine, licence disqualification period and demerit points will continue to apply.

Drink and drug drivers will be required to undertake a dependency assessment and will have the option to complete a treatment program:

  • Drivers who commit repeat drug and drink driving offences, or who commit one of the new offences with a child aged under 16 in the vehicle, must undertake a dependency assessment where they must be assessed as not dependent on drugs or alcohol in order to regain their driver’s licence.
  • These offenders will have the option of completing an alcohol or drug dependency treatment program.
  • Any costs arising from participation in a dependency assessment or a treatment program will be at the cost of the offender.
  • Drivers required to enter the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme will continue to be exempt from undertaking a dependency assessment.

The penalty for driving unlicensed at the end of the disqualification period, if the driver did not show they are not dependent on alcohol and drugs, will increase:

  • Driving unlicensed will attract an expiation fee of $454 or a maximum court penalty of $1,250.
  • From 24 April 2018, any person caught driving unlicensed who was required to show that they are not dependent on alcohol or drugs will face a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for one year and disqualification from holding or obtaining a licence for not less than three years.

If you are charged with drug driving or any other driving offence, give us a call. The quicker you contact us, the more options we have to minimise the penalty against you.

Contact us on 8210 5400 or at lawyers@georgiadis.com.au.

Today's blog article has been written by

Today's blog article has been written by

Dimitri Panayotopoulos

Associate
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