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Drug Testing in South Australia

Written by Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

In South Australia, any motorist who commits a drink driving or drug driving offence will be charged under the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under these laws, a police officer has the power to request that a motorist take a roadside drug test in certain circumstances in order to test for illegal substances.

This means that if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, have broken a law or are driving in a manner than shows you may be affected by a drug, you may have to take a random roadside drug test. These powers are quite broad and therefore it is important that you understand the testing procedure and your rights when dealing with a police officer.


Testing procedure

Roadside testing involves the taking of a small swab of saliva from the inside of your mouth and then using that sample to test for any illegal drugs present in your sample. This includes substances such as THC, methamphetamines and MDMA. The first testing procedure takes no longer than five minutes to complete. Those who’s test returns a result indicating drug use, will be required to attend a drug bus or at a police station to be tested for a second time. After this process, the motorist will be charged with the relevant drug driving offence and be suspended from driving for a period of time stipulated by the police officer.

It is important to note that you can also be charged with drug driving if a police officer determines that a prescription drug has affected your ability to drive safely. This includes treatments of anti depressants, antihistamines and some cold and flu medications.

Penalties and Charges

Under South Australian law, you can either be charged with driving under the influence of a drug or driving with a prescribed drug present. Both of these drug related offences carry different penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Driving with a prescribed drug present

The less serious of the two offences is driving with a prescribed drug present in the system. This law makes it illegal for a person to attempt to drive a motor vehicle while a prescribed drug is present in their system. As explained above, a prescribed drug includes MDMA, THC and methamphetamines as provided under the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous) Regulations 2014. The penalties for this offence range depending on how many times you have committed the offence.

First Offence A fine of $900 to $1300 and a disqualification of 3 months
Second Offence A fine of $1100 to $1600 and a disqualification of 6 months
Third Offence A fine of $1500 to $2200 and a disqualification of 12 months
Further Offence A fine of $1500 to $2200 and a disqualification of 2 years

Driving under the influence

The more serious offence of driving under the influence makes it an offence for a person to attempt to drive a vehicle after taking a drug that has impaired their ability to drive safely. A motorist will generally be considered to be driving under the influence of a drug if the person’s mental or physical abilities appear to be compromised i.e. slurring, incapacity to walk or confused speech. As above, the penalties for this offence vary depending on whether it is a first or second time offence.

First Offence A fine of $1100 to $1600 and a disqualification of 12 months or imprisonment for 3 months
Further Offence A fine of $1900 to $2900 and a disqualification of 3 years or imprisonment for 6 months

Refusing a roadside test

It is also an offence in some circumstances to refuse a police officer’s request to provide a sample for testing. If you decline a roadside test, you will generally face a fine of $900 to $1300, as well as a probable driving disqualification of 6 months. If you commit the same offence for a second time, you may be facing a penalty of $1500 to $2200 and a driving disqualification for 2 years. Therefore, it is important to always comply with the instructions of a police officer in relation to drug driving tests in order to avoid unnecessary penalty.

Do I need legal advice?

Due to the complex nature of South Australian drug driving laws, it is important to understand the nature of the charges laid against you and whether any avenue of appeal is available to you. A lawyer can assist you with this and also help prepare you for any court appearances that are involved with the charge.

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