The Significance of Drug Driving in NSW
There has been a significant rise in fatal crashes since 2011 where the driver or person in control of a vehicle having illicit drugs in their system. In 2011 there were a reported 41 fatal crashes with the number nearly doubling to 75 fatal crashes by 2015, as reported by the Centre for Road Safety.
Because of this, there is a big push by state governments against driving offences and getting road tolls “toward zero”. Random Breath Tests or RBTs are one way the government tries to limit drink driving. You may also have heard of MDTs or Mobile Drug Tests.
Mobile Drug Testing (MDTs)
Mobile drug testing is done at the roadside in a similar way to RBTs. Police will ask you to “roll your tongue around your mouth” and then take a scraper and scrape your tongue from back to the tip of your tongue. From there, the scraper is placed in a bag and a reagent is added which will test for some specific substances. Like with an RBT, a positive reading will mean police will conduct a further test. If this comes back positive you will be suspended from driving for a short period and your sample will be sent to a forensic facility for official testing.
If the forensic test returns a positive result the person is generally charged with an offence and a Court Attendance Notice or CAN is issued and the person will be required to attend court.
What is the offence?
One of the most common forms of drug driving offences is Drive with illicit substance in oral/other fluid. In NSW it is an offence to merely have an illicit substance in your saliva even if there is no indication that you are under the influence. This can have serious implications as people metabolise or remove drugs from their systems differently and some people can have a residual amount of an illicit substance in their system for days or even weeks after consuming a substance. This is a “fine-only” offence with no gaol time however, there can still be a hefty fine and a minimum period of disqualification of your licence.
Another more serious offence is Drive under the influence of a drug. This carries a maximum penalty of full-time gaol but more commonly a hefty fine and many months off the road by way of a licence disqualification.
Why is it an offence if I’m not even affected?
This is a very good question and remains a public policy issue that is hotly debated by politicians, lawyers and the public. The take-home message is that it is currently an offence to merely have it in your system, regardless of whether the driver is “affected” or not. Many courts will not give much weight to arguments regarding the affect (or lack of affect) on the driver because they do not make up part of the offence itself. Simply having the drug in your system and being caught driving is enough to substantiate the charge.
If you’ve been charged with a drug driving offence, call our professional lawyers at Whitfield|Legal on 1300 818 626 or fill out the form below for a confidential, free initial-consult and we can discuss your options today!