Drink and drug driving
Drink driving and drug driving offences are serious. If convicted, you can be disqualified from driving, and have to pay a fine or undergo counselling. You can also go to prison for serious traffic offences involving alcohol or drugs.
You can also be charged with an offence if you don’t cooperate with police when they are investigating drink or drug driving offences, even if you haven't consumed anything. The penalty for refusing a breath-test or provide a sample for testing is often the same as committing a serious drink or drug driving offence. This can mean fines, imprisonment and license disqualification.
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This information will help you to understand:
- What drink and drug driving is
- Whether you have to give a sample of your breath or blood
- What to do if you are charged with drink or drug driving
- What penalty the court might impose.
What is drink driving?
When you drive with more alcohol in your system than you are legally allowed. Your exact charge will depend on the level of alcohol in your system. Different drivers and licences also have different limits.
What is drug driving?
When you drive with an illegal (illicit) drug in your system or while you are impaired by drugs.
Driving with an illicit drug in your system is an offence. It does not matter how much of the drug is in your system.
Driving while impaired by drugs is when you cannot drive safely because of the drugs in your body. It can apply to prescribed medication and illicit medication. To decide if you are impaired, the police may test a sample of your blood, or make you complete a driver assessment test.
Do I have to give a sample of my breath or blood if police ask me?
Yes, in most cases you must provide a sample of breath or blood if requested by the police.
For example: A preliminary breath test is the first test conducted by police at the side of the road. You must comply with this test and provide a sample of your breath if:
- you are the driver of a vehicle, or
- the police reasonably believe you were driving the vehicle earlier.
It is an offence to refuse to comply with this request.
You must provide another sample of breath, blood or urine to police if:
- the preliminary test shows that you have an unlawful amount of alcohol in your system
- you refuse to do or cannot do a preliminary test, or
- the police reasonably believe that you may have committed specific traffic offences or may have been the driver (or instructor of a learner driver) involved in certain traffic incidents.
These tests usually happen at a police station. Samples of blood or urine must be taken by a nurse or doctor. It is an offence to refuse to comply with this request.
What penalty might I get if I am charged with a drink or drug driving offence?
There are a range of penalties that the court might impose for a drink or drug driving offence. The exact penalty will depend on the type of offence, the blood alcohol reading, and whether or not you have prior convictions for drink or drug driving.
The most common penalty is a fine and disqualification of your licence for a certain period. There are often minimum fines and minimum periods of disqualification that must be imposed. Your licence might also be cancelled. For some serious drink driving offences you can also go to prison.
For some offences, you might also be subject to the Alcohol Interlock Scheme. You will then need to meet certain requirements from the Department of Transport before being permitted to drive.