Drug Driving Penalties in Victoria
Drug driving means driving under the influence of a drug or while impaired by drug consumption. In Victoria, it is also against the law to drive with any amount of certain illicit drugs in your system.
That means a test showing that you consumed the drug will have consequences even if the drug does not affect your ability to drive safely. This article will explain the differences between those laws and the applicable penalties.
Driving under the influence
It is a violation of section 49(1)(a) of the Road Safety Act to drive under the influence (DUI) of any drug, whether legal or illegal. You are “under the influence” if you are incapable of having proper control of your motor vehicle. This is the most severe drug driving offence in Victoria and is usually charged when a driver is clearly incapable of safe driving.
A first DUI offence can be punished by a fine or a maximum sentence of 3 months. The maximum sentence increases to 12 months for a second offence and to 18 months for a third or subsequent offence. Drivers also face an immediate suspension and a court-imposed licence cancellation.
Driving while impaired
It is a violation of section 49(1)(ba) of the Road Safety Act to drive if you are impaired by the consumption of any drug. Impairment is usually demonstrated by your inability to perform field tests for balance and attention. You may have a defence to the charge if:
- the drug was prescribed to you and you did not exceed the prescribed dosage, or the drug is a legal nonprescription drug, and
- you had no way to know that the drug would impair your ability to drive safely.
A first offence of drug impaired driving is punishable by a fine. A second offence is punishable by a fine or a maximum sentence of 12 months. The maximum sentence increases to 18 months for a third or subsequent offence. Drivers also face an immediate suspension and a court-imposed licence cancellation.
Driving with illicit drugs in blood or fluids
It is a violation of section 49(1)(bb) of the Road Safety Act to drive with any amount of cannabis (marijuana), MDMA (Ecstasy), or methamphetamine in your blood or bodily fluids (saliva). It does not matter whether the drug impaired your ability to drive.
The police can ask you to provide a saliva sample to test for the presence of those drugs. Refusing the test is an offence that is punishable by a fine and licence suspension or cancellation. A first offence for refusing a saliva test will result in a traffic infringement notice. Subsequent offences require a court appearance to address the charges.
If you fail the saliva test, you will probably be asked to submit to a blood test. Harsher penalties, including the possibility of imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence, apply if you refuse that test. It usually makes sense to take the blood test since the offence of driving with illicit drugs in your blood is only punishable by a fine and licence cancellation, not by imprisonment.