Many people are accustomed to the idea of random breath testing in Australia, but did you know that in many states, including New South Wales, there are increased random drug driving tests?
This is because police have found that there is a public perception that drunk driving is illegal, but driving under the influence of drugs is acceptable.
To curb this trend, you may find yourself giving a swab of saliva to police to prove that you are not under the influence of any psychoactive substances while you are driving a car.
Under to Australian law, alcohol is the only psychoactive substance that the police consider safe in small dosages. For other psychoactive substances, all you need to be charged with an offence is to have any at all in your system. The message is clear – if you ingest any drug other than alcohol, then you should not get behind the wheel.
What types of drug driving tests are used in NSW?
The roadside drug driving test involves a quick swipe of the tongue with a plastic strip. If the test shows a positive reaction, you will be required to do a second saliva test.
If your first test turns up positive, you can be placed under arrest while you are completing the secondary test. If the second test shows up positive as well, then you are not legally allowed to drive for 24 hours.
The secondary saliva swab is then taken to the police forensics laboratory. Legal action may be taken once the forensics results for the second saliva sample are analysed. If drugs are found to be present, the driver will be given a court attendance notice. It is worth noting that the results of this laboratory analysis and not the roadside test results are what the police will rely on in court.
The Australian law that relates to these offences in NSW is the Road Transport Act 2013. This law states that it is illegal to drive with THC (the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis), methamphetamine or ecstasy present in the driver’s system. This can be tested with saliva, blood or urine, but saliva is by far the most common method of testing drugs in Australia.
What are the penalties for drug driving in NSW?
Driving with THC, methamphetamine or ecstasy in the system can result in a maximum fine of $1,100 for a first offence and $2,200 for further offences. The driver will also lose their drivers licence for a minimum of three months.
Repeat offender drivers found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs more than once in five years risk losing their drivers licence for a minimum of six months.
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