The law in the Northern Territory regarding alcohol testing are very strict and it is important that you understand your rights when submitting to a breath test, saliva test or a blood test. The police have extensive powers to request that samples be taken from drivers in order to determine whether any drugs or alcohol is present in the driver’s blood.
In certain circumstances, a police officer may request that in addition to a breath or saliva test, a blood sample is required, and refusing a blood test in the Northern Territory may be deemed a breach of the Traffic Act. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to understand your rights when providing a blood sample.
Under the Northern Territory legislation, a police officer has the power to request any driver to provide a breath/saliva test as part of random breath testing. In addition if a police officer believes that you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you may be required to submit a further blood sample for testing purposes.
In the event a blood sample is required, it is compulsory for the police officer to make arrangements for the alleged offender to be taken to a hospital or other health care facility. The blood sample must be taken within 4 hours of the alleged incident occurring otherwise it may not be able to be used as evidence in any court proceeding.
The legislation in the Northern Territory creates a specific offence of refusing to provide a blood sample in section 29AAH of the Act. Under this section, it is illegal for a person to refuse to provide a blood sample after a request is made by a police officer. As stated above, the penalties that are imposed for this type of offence are quite serious and can involve a fine, licence disqualification or even imprisonment.
Any offender who refuses to provide a blood sample or fails to comply with directions given regarding a blood sample may face a fine or imprisonment for a period of 12 months. A subsequent offence will attract a larger fine or imprisonment for the same period of time being 12 months.
In addition to the above penalties, a first time offender will be disqualified from driving for a period of at least 12 months. For any subsequent offences, the driver will be disqualified from driving for a period of at least 18 months.
However, it is important to note that a second offence will only be made out if the offender has previously been found guilty of one of the following offences;
- Driving with a confirmed breath or blood alcohol reading.
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Failing to provide a breath sample.
- Failing to provide a blood sample.
If you are disqualified from driving for a second time within a 5 year period, you will only be able to obtain an AIL (Alcohol Ignition Locking) licence for at least 12 months after the disqualification has ended before applying for a standard licence. An AIL licence requires that your vehicle is fitted with an alcohol ignition locking system that ensures the vehicle does not start if there is an illegal quantity of alcohol present in the driver’s system.
Under the Northern Territory Act, a possible defence to a charge of refusing to supply a blood sample includes satisfying the court that it would have been detrimental to the offender’s medical condition for a blood sample to have been provided at the time the request was made. The Act further provides a broad defence that is based on whether the defendant can satisfy the court that there were other reasonable grounds for failing to provide a blood sample at the time of the request.