When it comes to roadside breath testing, most of us are aware of what is involved and what to expect when we are pulled over. In the ACT, police officers have the right to request a blood test in certain circumstances to check for the presence of any drugs and/or alcohol in the driver’s blood.
It is an offence in the Road Transport (Drugs and Alcohol) Act 1977 to refuse a request for a blood sample. This Act also sets out the powers that police officers have when requesting and taking a blood sample, and also any defences that may be available if you have refused a blood test in the ACT.
In the ACT, police have general powers to stop a vehicle and request that a breath/saliva sample be taken. However, in certain circumstances, a police officer may request that a blood test also be undertaken. This typically occurs in circumstances where an insufficient breath sample was provided or where the police officer believes a substance has influenced the alleged offender’s ability to drive.
The blood test follows standard procedure, which requires that a doctor or nurse conduct the blood test within a hospital or other health care facility. The medical professional conducting the test must be made aware of any existing medical condition that you may have as this may impact whether or not the blood test is performed. In certain circumstances, the medical professional conducting the blood test has the discretion to forgo any blood testing if they believe it will be detrimental to your medical condition.
As stated above, the law in the ACT has a separate offence for refusing to provide in a blood test, found under section 23 of the Act. Therefore, if you have been reasonably requested to provide a blood sample for analysis and subsequently refuse this request, you will be charged under this section of the Act and may be liable for a fine and/or disqualification of your licence.
For a first time offender who has refused to provide a blood sample upon reasonable request by a police officer, you may be liable for a fine of over $4,000. Similarly, if you consent to the blood test but then behave in such a way that will make it impossible for the medical professional to complete the blood test, you may also be charged under this section and be liable for a fine of over $4,000. Refusing a blood test in the ACT is a serious offence and will typically also involve the disqualification of your licence for a period to be determined by the court.
The ACT legislative scheme does however provide possible defences for any alleged offender that refuses to provide a blood sample. Under the Act, an alleged offender may avoid liability if the person charged can clearly establish that the refusal to provide a blood sample was based on a religious belief or other grounds. Further, an alleged offender may avoid being charged with a refusal to provide a blood sample if it can be established that there are clear medical grounds that would detriment the alleged offender if a blood sample was taken.
It is also important to keep in mind that any blood test that is conducted must be completed within 2 hours of the alleged incident taking place. Under the Act, any sample taken more than 2 hours after any alleged incident will not be allowed as evidence in any court proceedings that may be initiated against you. There are also strict guidelines as to what a medical professional must do when conducting the blood test in order for it to be validly used as evidence in any court proceedings.