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  • Drug Driving Offences and Penalties in Victoria (VIC)

    Driving with traces of Drugs or other prescribed substances in your body/blood is considered a serious driving offence. The Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) ensures that Divers and other road users abstain from any form of intoxicating or proscribed substances while driving.

    If an individual is convicted in a Victorian 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 Victoria.

    What is Drug Driving in Victoria?

    If you are charged for Drug driving offences, the prominent law is the RSA earlier mentioned, and such offences fall under two main categories;

    Driving While Impaired

    Under section 49(1)(ba) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), it is an offence for a person to be visibly impaired or affected by a drug or other intoxicating substance. DUI offences are more severe than other Drug driving offences since there must be clear evidence that the drug-impaired is the person.

    It is equally an offence if the person was impaired by a drug or any other prescribed substance and directs or controls any person driving the vehicle. The prosecutor must prove that the drug-impaired was the driver at the time. The Police or any other authorised officer may request a form of impairment test focused on balance and attention.

    Penalty for a Driving while impaired offence

    A person who is convicted of an impairment offence or any DUI offence is liable to punishment of not more than 12 penalty units. However, this is only for a first-time offender; the punishment increases for second or subsequent offenders.

    • Second offenders will receive punishments up to 120 penalty units in fine amounts, or
    • Imprisonment term, not more than 12 months

    However, if the person re-offends within a given period resulting in a third or subsequent offence, the penalty increases too;

    • 180 penalty units in fine amounts, or
    • 18 months imprisonment

    Defence for Driving while impaired

    It can be difficult to prove a DUI offence, unless in certain complex cases with more destructive outcomes. However, the accused can have a reprieve in court if they prove that;

    • The drug was prescribed to them, and they did not exceed the expected dosage,
    • The drug was a legal non-prescription drug (had varying effects on your body)
    • There was no way that the accused would have known it would impair their ability to drive or operate the vehicle.

    Driving Under the Influence

    Section 49(1)(a) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) describes an offence where a person drives or moves a vehicle while under the influence. A person is under the influence if they were unable to manoeuvre or control their vehicle at the time of the incident.

    DUI offences in Victoria are one of the severest drug driving offences in Victoria. The Police will have to prove other circumstances and the presence of drugs in the system. They must prove that the driver was incapable of driving safely at the time of the offence. The penalties for DUI offences are severe and incur as much as

    First-time offenders;

    • Three months imprisonment as a maximum sentence
    • 25 penalty units in Fine amounts

    Second offenders;

    • Up to 120 penalty units in fine amounts
    • Maximum of 12 months imprisonment term

    However, if there are subsequent cases of convictions, the penalty increases to;

    • 180 penalty units in fine amounts,
    • Up to 18 months imprisonment

    Driving with prescribed drugs found in the system or body fluids

    The Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) has a section 49(1)(bb) that prohibits a person from driving with an amount of (cannabis) marijuana or other prescribed drugs in their system. Some of the prescribed substances include;

    • MDMA (Ecstasy)
    • Methamphetamine,
    • Or any other drug in your saliva or other bodily fluids.

    Penalty for this offence includes;

    • More than 12 penalty units in fine amounts for first-time offences,
    • More than 60 penalty units in fine amounts for second offences
    • Subsequent offences attract a penalty of over 120 penalty units in fine amounts

    Driving a vehicle while having more than the prescribed concentration of blood and Drugs

    A person is guilty of offences under section 49(1)(bc) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) if they are caught driving a vehicle or supervising similar, while;

    • Having more than the prescribed quantities/concentration of Alcohol, and
    • Having a prohibited drug in their body fluid.
    Penalty for this offence

    A person guilty of offences under this section will get punishments up to;

    • 30 penalty units for first-time offences

    However, if the person is guilty of subsequent offences (second-time offenders), it attracts penalties up to;

    • (90 -180) penalty units in fine amounts, or
    • (6 - 12) months imprisonment for subsequent offences
    • Depending on the BAC levels

    For any subsequent offences depending on the BAC levels, it attracts punishments of;

    • (180 - 270) penalty units
    • (12 – 18) months imprisonment term (depending on the BAC levels)

    Refusing to undergo a Drug assessment test when required

    It is an offence for a person to refuse or object to an assessment of Drug impairment or other substances test. The Police officer on the ground is authorised by the law at s 55A of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) to stop a vehicle and request them to undergo a drug test or its equivalent.

    Refusing to stop or comply with the signal from the Police

    It is an offence for a person to refuse or fail to comply with a request or signal to stop their motor vehicle. Section 54(3) of the Act allows the Police officer or others in authority to signal the driver to stop or halt where they suspect a traffic offence (Drug driving offence).

    Penalty

    A person convicted for this offence is liable to punishments of;

    • 12 penalty units in fine amounts for first offenders,

    However, for subsequent offenders, it is an offence that incurs as much as

    • 120 penalty units in fine amounts, or
    • Maximum of 12 months imprisonment term

    For a third or subsequent offences, the person is liable to punishments as much as;

    • 180 penalty units in fine amounts, or
    • Maximum of 18 months imprisonment

    Refusing to provide Oral fluid

    Sections 55D and 55E of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) requires a driver or any other person legally required to;

    • Provide an oral sample,
    • Or any other requirement under the section,

    To the Police officer when they are requested to do so.

    What type of test is required from a driver?

    There are different kinds of tests used to ascertain the presence of Drugs or prescribed substances in a person's system. The commonest and fastest test to decide a drug's presence is through a saliva test. However, if a person tests positive for a drug or other prescribed substance on a saliva test, the Police will often request a blood test.

    However, if it is limited to a saliva test, the Police may only issue an infringement notice.

    Supervising Drivers

    A person can still be guilty of a drug-driving offence even when they did not move the vehicle or are in the driver's seat. A person who supervises another person while driving can also be guilty of a drug-driving offence if they violate any of the stipulations mentioned here.

    A person is a supervising driver if the driver affirms that they hold a special/learner's permit, and the person was supervising their operations. Usually, a supervising driver will receive similar or more severe punishment in fines and imprisonment for these offences.

    What should you do if charged with a drug driving offence?

    Drug Driving offences are handled seriously in Victoria and can often lead to imprisonment. If you receive a charge or court notice for drug driving, it is best to contact the services of an experienced lawyer.

    There are various defences to a Drug Driving offence, including;

    • It was medically or legally prescribed

      A prescribed drug-taking in the proper dosage and under the correct circumstances will hardly incur punishments.

    • The drug did not impair you

      Since it can be challenging to prove a case of impairment, the person can strongly oppose a case of impairment.

    • Unknown status of the drug

      It can hardly be an offence if you are unsure of the composition of the drugs. However, the person must reasonably prove this case.

      Also, a Driver or any other accused person may refuse to provide a blood or saliva sample on grounds such as;

      • Health grounds,
      • Religious grounds, and so on.

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

    If an individual is found guilty of a drug driving offence in a Victorian 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.

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