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The Festive Season, Christmas Albums and Driving Under the Influence

With the holidays around the corner and Michael Bublé Christmas Albums making their annual debut, we look forward to days off, gathering with friends and family, Christmas Day backyard Cricket and, of course, great food. 

During this time of year people oftentimes make the decision to drive after a few drinks (or after consuming other illicit substances) under the assumption that they are “fine to drive”. With heavier police presence on the roads during the festive season, many may end up being charged with traffic and/or criminal offences.  

This article looks at the laws and penalties relating to driving under the influence and is not intended to be legal advice. 

Driving Under the Influence of Liquor 

You can be pulled over by police for the purpose of a random roadside breath test (or if police reasonably suspect your ability to drive has been impaired by alcohol or another substance) to determine whether you are driving under the influence of alcohol. If you return a reading that is over the limit for your class of licence, you will be charged and you will be required to appear before a Magistrates Court.1 

If you are charged, your licence will be suspended immediately until the charge has either been dealt with by a Court, withdrawn or discontinued, or you have been issued with a Court order permitting you to drive until the matter is finalised.2 

The Court will consider a number of factors when dealing with a charge of ‘drink driving’ such as your breath/blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time and your traffic history (incl. previous entries for ‘drink driving’ offences). 

Penalties 

When dealing with this charge (as your first offence) before a Court, the presiding Magistrate may impose the following penalties:-3 

  • A fine of up to $3,859; 
  • A term of imprisonment of up to nine (9) months; 
  • Disqualify you from driving for a period of six (6) months.4 

If you are charged with a repeat ‘drink driving’ offence (i.e., you have been previously convicted of a like offence in the last five (5) years), the Court may impose:-5 

  • A fine of up to $8,271; 
  • A term of imprisonment for a period of time that is determined by the Magistrate; 
  • Disqualify you from driving for a period of up to two (2) years.6 

Driving Whilst a Relevant Drug is Present in Your Blood or Saliva 

You can also be pulled over by police for the purpose of a random roadside saliva test (or if a police officer reasonably suspects that you are driving under the influence of a drug) to detect the presence of any illicit substances. These tests can be conducted on the side of the road or at designated drug testing sites. If you cannot provide a specimen of saliva, you may be asked to provide a blood sample.  

Roadside drug tests are used to detect the following:- 

  • Methylamphetamine (‘Ice’ or ‘Speed’); 
  • 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (‘MDMA’); 
  • Cannabis.  

If the test returns a positive result, you will be required to take a second. If the second test returns a second positive result, it will be sent to a laboratory for further analysis to determine which drug has been detected (this can include prescription medication). The result of a test depends on several factors such as the type of drug, the quantity and quality consumed, frequency of use and the lapse of time since consuming the drug. 

Penalties 

If you return a positive test result, your licence will be suspended for a period of 24 hours, and you may be charged with ‘driving whilst a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva’.7 When dealing with this charge before a Court, the presiding Magistrate may impose the following penalties:-8 

  • A fine of up to $1,929; 
  • A term of imprisonment up to three (3) months;  
  • Disqualify you from driving for a period of one (1) to nine (9) months.9 

If you are charged with a repeat ‘drug driving’ offence (i.e., you have been previously convicted of a like offence in the last five (5) years), the Court may impose the same penalties as if you were ‘drink driving’ (see above).10 

Failing to provide your name and address, or providing a fake name and address, when asked by police is an offence and may result in you being charged.11 Further, refusing to provide a specimen of saliva may also result in a fine of up to $5,514 or a term of imprisonment of up to six (6) months; you may also be subject to an ignition interlock.12 

Have you been charged with a traffic and/or criminal offence? 

It is always recommended that you obtain proper legal advice when you have been charged by police. If you have been charged with a traffic and/or criminal offence, our Criminal defence lawyers can assist you in advising you of your rights, your likely penalty and appearing with you for Court representation. Contact our client engagement team and make an appointment with us today.  

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