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  • Drug Driving Offences and Penalties in Tasmania

    Drug driving has been one of the major reasons for road accidents. This is because when a person is under the influence of drugs it inhibits their mental and psychomotor skills.

    Based on this reason, the state of Tasmania considers it a serious offence for any individual to try and operate a vehicle while being under the influence of drugs. This act can result in severe penalties such as fines and imprisonment.

    The Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas) governs the offences considered as drug driving and the penalties that follow.

    This article will be considering what the law says regarding drug driving, its penalties, and the possible defences when charged with drug driving.

    If an individual is convicted in a Tasmania 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 Tasmania.

    What Tasmanian Law Says Regarding Drug Driving

    Based on the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas), a person can face charges for an offence if they:

    #1. Drive while under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs or any Intoxicating Substance

    Section 4 of the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas) states that it is an offence for any individual to drive while under the influence of one or more intoxicating substances to the point that they are incapable of having full control of the vehicle.

    A first-time offender under this section is liable to 1-year imprisonment or a fine of $5040 along with a licence disqualification for a maximum of 3 years. For a repeat offender, the penalty will be imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years or a fine of $10,080 along with a licence disqualification not exceeding 6 years.

    Nevertheless, before the court can convict a person for the crime of driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance, the prosecution will need to establish that:

    • The defendant was under the influence of an intoxicating substance which made them unable to have full control of the vehicle.
    • The accused operated a motor vehicle on a road, irrespective of whether it was a public road or not.
    • The accused has no legally justifiable excuse for operating a car while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

    It is important to note that a police officer has the right to arrest anyone suspected of driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance without a warrant.

    Furthermore, a police officer has the authority to impound the vehicle of a suspect. In such a situation, a person will need to appear in court before they can get their vehicle back. During the proceeding, the court will order them to pay a particular fee. This fee covers the cost of safekeeping the vehicle.


    #2. Drive with a Prescribed Illicit Drug Present in the Blood

    Under Section 6A of the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas), a person can become guilty of an offence if they drive a motor vehicle while having a prescribed illicit drug present in their oral fluid or blood.

    This offence attracts a maximum of 3 months imprisonment or a fine of $1680 along with a licence disqualification for a period not exceeding 12 months. While for a repeat offence, this carries a fine not exceeding $3360 or a maximum of 3 months imprisonment and a licence disqualification lasting anywhere between 6 months to 2 years.

    However, the prosecution must prove the presence of some elements before the court can find a person guilty for the crime of driving while having a prescribed illicit drug present in their oral fluid or bloodstream. These elements are:

    • The accused was driving a motor vehicle on a road whether public or not.
    • The appropriate authorities carried out a test and discovered that the accused had a prescribed illicit drug present in their oral fluid or blood.
    • The defendant has no legal excuse to operate a vehicle.

    Possible Defences to the Accusation of Drug Driving

    Just like for other criminal cases, a defendant can also raise defences to counter a drug driving accusation. If a defendant can successfully convince the court, this can lead to an acquittal or a reduction in sentence.

    Nevertheless, if a person is guilty of a crime and they have no justifiable excuse, they can plead guilty to the charge of drug driving. Pleading guilty right from the beginning may influence the court to give a less severe sentence.

    Some of the defences that a defendant can claim during a trial for drug driving are:

    #1. Involuntary Intoxication

    A defendant can claim that they did not intentionally get intoxicated. For instance, a person who was near someone smoking cannabis may test positive for having drugs in their system. Another example of involuntary intoxication is when a person takes medication without knowing that it is capable of getting them intoxicated.

    #2. The Defendant Took the Drug after Driving

    For a person to be guilty of drug driving, they must have been driving while being under the influence. If an accused had stopped driving before taking a drug, they may not be guilty of drug driving.

    #3. Wrong Proceduresv

    There are several strict procedures that the police must follow when trying to detect if a person is driving under the influence of drugs. If a police officer did not abide by these rules, the defendant may have the drug driving case dismissed.

    #4. False Testing Results

    A defendant can challenge the test results for the blood sample or oral fluid taken. If the prosecution cannot prove beyond all reasonable doubt the genuineness of the result. The court may dismiss the case.

    #5. Medical Emergency

    The defence of a medical emergency is applicable in a situation where the defendant had to take a drug in an emergency. For instance, a person might be driving and all of a sudden need to take their medication.

    #6. The Defendant Never Drove a Vehicle

    An innocent person can face charges for the crime of drug driving as a result of mistaken identity. In such a situation, the defendant can raise the defence that they did not drive a motor vehicle. However, the court will expect that they provide evidence to back up their claim.

    The Court that Conducts the Trials for Drug Driving

    There are primarily two courts; the Magistrate Court and the Supreme Court. The Magistrate Court handles most of the trials for drunk driving.

    Bottom Line

    The laws regarding drug driving serve the purpose of deterring people from committing the crime of drug driving. This is because of the dangers involved when a person drives under the influence of drugs. If a person faces charges of drug driving, they should seek the help of a legal practitioner.

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

    If an individual is found guilty of a drug driving offence in a Tasmanian 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 Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 (Tas) - https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1970-077

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