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Drug Driving in Western Australia
What is Drug Driving?
It’s not only drinking that effects driving performance – there are a range of drugs that can increase crash risk and negatively impact on road safety. ‘Drug driving’ is the term used to describe an offence of driving while under the influence of drugs or driving with an illicit drug in your system.
Since October 2007, WA Police have been conducting random tests of drivers and riders for illicit drugs and prescribed medication in much the same way they are tested for alcohol. Under ss 64 AB and 64AC of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (RTA), it is an offence to drive with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug in oral fluid or blood, and or driving while impaired by a drug. The RTA also gives police powers to carry out random roadside drug testing where drivers will be required to provide a saliva sample to be tested for drugs.
If you are found to have an illicit drug in your system at the time of driving, you are committing an offence no matter how much of the drug is recorded. If you have been taking prescribed medication and you have been charged with an offence of drug impaired driving, you should get legal advice from one of our expert lawyers. In certain circumstances it is possible you may have a defence to the charge.
Do I have to do a driver assessment test or do a blood or urine test for drugs?
If you are the driver of a vehicle and have been pulled over by the police on suspicion of drug driving, the police may ask you to either do a driver assessment test to see if you are impaired by drugs, or ask you to do a blood or urine test to check for the presence of illicit drugs in your system. You must comply with the request. It is an offence to refuse to comply with the request.
What should I do if I am charged with drug driving?
The first thing you should do is consider if you are guilty or not of the offence. For example, were you the driver of the vehicle? Were you driving on a road or other place to which the public has access? If you believe you are not guilty of the offence or to find out more information about what possible defences are available to you, you should arrange an appointment with one of our lawyers who specialise in this area of law.
If you are facing a drug driving offence and another driving offence at the same time, such as careless driving or dangerous driving, your situation is more serious and in some circumstances there may even be a risk of imprisonment. If you are in this situation, we strongly recommend you get legal advice before entering a plea of guilty or not guilty.
What penalties can apply if I am convicted of drug driving?
If you plead guilty or are found guilty of a drug driving offence, the penalty that will usually apply is a fine and a period of licence disqualification. If your licence is disqualified you will not be allowed to drive for a period of time specified by the court. Licence disqualification is also sometimes referred to as suspension.
What are my chances of requesting that the Court not fine or disqualify me from driving?
For most drug driving offences, the minimum penalty is fixed by s 64 of the RTA, so the court must impose at least the minimum fine, which is $150.00 and 3 demerit points for a first offence. A minimum period of 3 months disqualification will also apply for a second offence. The court can impose more than the minimum if it thinks it is appropriate in the circumstances, but can never impose less than the minimum.
If you are a P-plater and have been disqualified for drug driving, your licence will be automatically cancelled.
If you want to know what penalty you are likely to receive in your particular situation, please contact our lawyers on 1300 636 846.
Am I able to apply for an extraordinary driver’s licence?
If you have been disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence, you may be eligible to apply for an extraordinary driver’s which may allow you to drive in certain specified circumstances, such as driving to and from paid employment. This type of licence is granted at the discretion of a court. If you would like to know whether you are eligible to apply for an extraordinary licence, please speak to one of our lawyers who will be able to assist you.