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In Queensland there are two types of drug driving offences. In the first, when police are able to establish that a person is ‘under the influence’ of a drug, the driver will be treated by the Court as seriously as a high range drink driving. With this offence, instead of having to prove that a driver has more than a prescribed concentration of a drug in their system, the police simply need to establish that the person is under the influence of the drug.
Upon convicting a person of driving under the influence of a drug, the Court is required to disqualify the person from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for a minimum of 6 months for a first offence, 1 year for a second, and 2 years for any subsequent offences. In instances where other offences are involved (speed, disqualified driving, accident, etc) the Court is more likely to move to the most severe punishment which can include absolute disqualification (meaning the person is banned from ever having a Queensland driver’s licence) and potential imprisonment.
The second type of drug driving offence is called ‘driving while a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva’. This offence does not require the police to establish that a person was actually ‘under the influence’ of a drug but rather that the drug was present in their blood or saliva. The result is that people who have consumed an illicit drug in the day or days before driving and are no longer drug affected will often still fail the saliva or blood test due to traces of the drug remaining in their system.
This offence is slightly less serious than driving under the influence. Upon conviction a court is required to disqualify a person from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for a minimum of 1 month for a first offence and 3 months for a second offence. Third and subsequent offences attract an automatic minimum 6 months disqualification.
In some limited circumstances there may be a defence to a charge of drug driving.
Examples of this are: