New Penalties for Drug Drivers

On 29 November 2017, the South Australian Parliament approved changes to alcohol and drug driving penalties and roadside drug testing.

The changes are intended to reduce the incidence of drug driving and improve road safety for all road users.

Drug driving is one of a number of contributors to road deaths in South Australia.  Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 24% of drivers or riders killed on South Australian roads tested positive to THC (the active component in cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth), MDMA (ecstasy) or a combination of these drugs.

Unlike alcohol-related road fatalities the number of motorists killed in road crashes who are testing positive to drugs is not decreasing, with an average of 13 drivers/riders killed testing positive each year.

Key changes coming into effect include:

From 22 February 2018 –

The roadside drug testing process will be streamlined so that only one, rather than two, screening tests will be undertaken by Police

If a screening test is positive, an oral fluid sample will be sent for laboratory analysis to confirm the presence of drugs, as per existing practice.

From 8 March 2018 –

The court Penalty for a first drug driving offence will increase

The minimum licence disqualification for drivers who elect to be prosecuted and are convicted by the court for a first drug diving offence will increase from three to six months.

Licence disqualification periods imposed for repeat drug driving offences will increase

  • For a second offence the licence disqualification will increase from six months to not less than 12 months.
  • For a third offence the licence disqualification will increase from not less than one year to not less than two years
  • For a further subsequent offence the licence disqualification will increase from not less than two years to not less than three years

The penalties for refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test will increase

  • For a first offence the licence disqualification will increase from not less than six months to not less than 12 months
  • For all subsequent offences the licence disqualification will increase from not less than two years to not less than three years
  • CURRENT PENALTIES

    CHANGES  FROM 8 MARCH 2018

    Driving with prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood

    (section 47BA of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

    First
    offence

    ‘On the spot’ fine (currently $587); and
    4 demerit points
    OR
    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 3 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification  - 3 months

    OR

    Current penalties with  increased Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

    Second offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than six months

    Current penalties with Licence disqualification increased to not less than 12 months.

    Third
    offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 12 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 2 years

    Subsequent offences

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 2 years

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 3 years

    Refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test

    (section 47EAA of the Road Traffic Act 1961) 

    First
    offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
    6 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 12 months

    Subsequent offences

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    6 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 2 years

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 3 years

    * Penalties do not include $60 Victims of Crime Levy

  • From 24 April 2018 –

    The penalty for a first drug driving offence that is expiated will increase

    A driver who expiates a first drug driving offence will incur a three month licence disqualification in addition to the existing expiation fee and four demerit points.

    A driver detected drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child aged under 16 years in the car must show they are not dependent before being re-licensed

    A person drug or drink driving places a child passenger at an increased risk of being involved in a serious crash.  For this reason, a new offence will apply for drug or drink driving with a child under the age of 16 present in the vehicle.  This offence will apply where the driver’s blood alcohol content is .08 or greater – that is, a category 2 offence and higher – and to all drug driving offences, including driving under the influence and refusing or failing to undertake an alcohol or drug screening test.

    Drivers committing this offence will not regain their licence until they show they are not dependent.

    Penalties  that apply for the respective drug or drink driving offence such as a fine, licence disqualification period and demerit points will also apply.

    Drink and drug drivers required to undertake a dependency assessment will have the option to complete a treatment program

    Drivers who commit repeat drug and drink driving offences, or who commit one of the new offences with a child aged under 16 in the vehicle, must undergo a dependency assessment and be found not dependent in order to regain their driver’s licence.

    When the new laws take effect, these drug and drink drivers will have the option of completing an alcohol or drug dependency treatment program. Drivers must show they are not dependent in order to regain their driver’s licence.

    The cost of a dependency assessment will continue to be borne by the driver. Any costs arising from participation in a treatment program would also need to be borne by the driver.

    Drivers required to enter the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme will continue to be exempt from undertaking a dependency assessment.

    The penalty for driving unlicensed at the end of the disqualification period, if the driver did not show they are not dependent on alcohol and drugs will increase

    The offence of driving unlicensed attracts an expiation fee of $454 or a maximum court penalty of $1,250.

    From 24 April 2018, any person caught driving unlicensed who was required to show that they are not dependent on alcohol or drugs will face a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for one year and disqualification from holding or obtaining a licence for not less than three years.

    This is consistent with the approach taken for motorists caught driving unlicensed following disqualification for a serious drink driving offence and not having entered the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme.

    More information:

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