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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Drug Driving Offences Drug Driving Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    Drug Driving Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    Few offences are as serious as Drug Driving offences in the ACT, and the punishments can vary depending on the;

    • Type and Quantity of the Drug
    • The presence of aggravating circumstances (where the drug driving act leads to graver incidents)
    • If there is a previous record of the candidate for such offences
    • And sometimes, the type of vehicle the person was driving at the point
    • The area where the person was driving

    The common form of Drug driving offence is driving with certain drugs present in the oral fluid or blood system. The ACT’s strict punishments for Drug-related offences make it a punishable offence to even in any form of Drug Driving. The Road Traffic Act (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (ACT) stipulates punishments and descriptions for this offence;

    • Lists some of the prescribed drugs, and
    • Even allows an authorised officer to conduct a test anytime.

    If an individual is convicted in an ACT court for a drug driving offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in the ACT.


    Drug Driving and related offences

    Part 3 and section 19 of the Road Traffic Act (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (ACT) describes an offence if a person is operating/driving a vehicle, and

    • The person drives along a road or related area, or
    • Supervises a person/driver trainer on the related area, and
    • They have a prescribed drug within the relevant period in their oral fluid or blood within that system.

    It is a criminal act that incurs penalties up to;

    • 10 penalty units in fine amounts (for a first offender)

    However, a repeat offender will incur penalties up to;

    • 25 penalty units,
    • 3 months imprisonment, or both
    • And if the offender holds a learner licence, the punishment is to be 20 penalty units.

    For this case, a relevant period for a Drug Driving offender begins from where the driver is stopped, and;

    • A breath or Oral fluid test is carried out, or
    • If the person's blood sample is taken under the section.
    • Considering the evidence of a Drug Driving offence.

    There are many ways the prosecutor can prove or present evidence against the accused of a Drug Driving offence.

    Proof of evidence of prescribed Drugs in a person's oral fluid can be proven by providing an analysis of the part or sample of the person's oral fluid.


    • 1. The offence of refusing to provide a breath sample

    A person is guilty of this offence listed under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (ACT) if they;

    Refuse to provide samples of their breath for analysis, as specified in the Act. It includes where such a person is driving the car or is training/supervising another person driving the vehicle. It is an offence that can lead to fines of 30 penalty units.


    • 2. Refusing to provide Oral Fluid samples

    Section 22A of the Act describes an offence where a driver, who is lawfully required to provide an oral fluid for a test, refuses to provide it.

    It includes cases where the person is actively controlling the vehicle or training another person behind the wheel.

    It is an offence if the person refuses this test from the reasonable directions of the Police officer. The act incurs as much as 30 penalty units in fine amounts.

    However, it can be a defence against this section if the accused can prove that they refused based on medical grounds.


    • 3. Failing to adhere to a Screening Test

    A screening test may be ordered for a conclusive report on an alleged Drink/Drug Driving offence. The ACT laws regard it as the true test of the presence of Drugs or other prescribed substances in the body. It is an offence for a person to refuse a Police officer's request for such a test.

    Refusing to undergo a Screening test

    It is an offence if a person refuses to undergo a drug screening test after being required by a Police officer or any other authorised body.

    It is an offence that carries punishments up to 30 penalty units.

    However, the section considers a defence to this charge if the person refused the test based on medical grounds.


    • 4. Refusing Blood Tests

    The ACT courts also accept samples from blood tests to indicate whether a person is guilty of a Drug Driving offence. It is an offence for an accused person/driver to refuse a blood test if the Police request them. It incurs up to 30 penalty units in fine amounts.


    • 5. Medical examination tests

    It is also an offence for a person to refuse to undergo a medical examination when required to take one. It is an offence that incurs a penalty worth up to 30 penalty units in fine amounts.

    For this section, it is an offence if the person refuses to submit a medical examination test, or refuses permission to any authorised practitioner required to take blood samples for analysis.

    However, the Act may excuse the accused of their refusal if it was on the reasonable ground of;

    • Religious beliefs or any other conscientious actions
    • Medical grounds.

    The offence of Driving Under the Influence

    Section 24 of the Road Traffic Act (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (ACT) describes a more serious offence when a person is proven to be affected by a substance or prescribed Drug while driving. The prosecutor or Police must prove that the person was affected by this substance when they were caught.

    A person may also be guilty of this DUI offence even if they were driving through high BAC levels. The BAC level measures the amount/concentration of Alcohol in the Blood at the relevant periods. It is an offence that incurs up to 30 penalty units.

    If the court does not find strong evidence to convict a person for a DUI offence, they may convict them of a Drug/Drink driving offence if the evidence so suggests. It is also possible that a person is convicted of both drink and drug driving offences for the same incident if both substances are found in their body.


    Using a Vehicle or Animal on the road under the Influence

    Section 24A of the Act prohibits a person from riding a vehicle or animal while they are under the influence of a drug or other substances. It is an offence that attracts penalty up to;

    • 50 penalty units, or
    • 6 months imprisonment, or
    • Both

    An animal considered in this section refers to a horse, cattle, sheep, or other animals used for transport.

    A vehicle in this section refers to;

    • Bicycle,
    • Personal mobility device,
    • Animal drawn vehicle/cart

    Drug Driving offences that may lead to Imprisonment

    Section 27 provides special law that allows the court to issue imprisonment as a penalty if the person is convicted of any of these offences;

    • Objecting to provide breath samples (section 22)
    • Unwilling to provide an Oral fluid sample (section 22A)
    • Refusing to undergo a screening test (section 22C)
    • Refusing a Blood Test (section 23)
    • Driving under the influence of an intoxicating drink or Drug (section 24).

    Will a Drug Driving offence in the ACT show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a drug driving offence in a NT court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the result of their criminal background check in Australia.

    Individuals can obtain a nationally coordinated criminal history check (NCCHC) via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Road Traffic Act (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/1977-17

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