Driving Under Influence
To be guilty of DUI, the police only need to prove that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of driving, the law doesn’t require proof that your driving skills were effected by drugs or alcohol.
Under the current law in NSW, you can therefore be guilty of DUI and face heavy penalties with significant consequences where you are under the influence of drugs/alcohol although there is no evidence that your driving skills and road safety is affected.
There needs to be no evidence as to the extent of your intoxication from drug/alcohol in order for the court to find you guilty to this, so long as there is enough evidence to establish that you were under the influence at the time of driving.
This is different to the categories of drink driving laws which impose penalties based on the extent of your intoxication to reflect the extent of concern for road safety.
In an purported effort to increase road safety, the law under section 111 of the Road Transport Act 2013 criminalises drivers having the mere presence of an illicit drug in the saliva, urine or blood without any evidence of being under the influence or being impaired from driving from an illicit substance.
Driving with the mere presence of a prescribed illicit drug in your oral fluid, blood or urine under section 111 carries a drug driving conviction, penalties of up to $1,100 and a 6 months automatic driver licence disqualification.
2013 to 2015 data shows that “drugs other than alcohol were detected in association with motor vehicle fatalities. Psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants were the most commonly detected, followed by hallucinogens such as cannabis. Opioids were detected on just seven occasions”.
The NSW Government has now introduced further controversial changes to drug driving laws and the penalties on using a mobile phone when driving.
DUI laws have changed to now include prescription and non-prescription drugs, including pharmaceutical drugs that can be obtained over the counter, including drugs containing codeine, diazepam.
The new laws on drug driving have now expanded to include legal and illegal drugs.
To be guilty of driving under the influence of a prescribed or non-prescribed drug there must be evidence that you were under the influence of it at the time of driving. To prove that you were under the influence, an expert is not necessarily required.
Being under the influence can be proven by observations from other witnesses, including police officers as to your behaviour, slurred speech, shaking hands and manner of driving at the time.
The manner of driving can therefore be relevant for the Magistrate or Judge to determine whether you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of driving, but it’s not necessary to also establish that at the time of driving you were incapable of properly driving or controlling the car.
The offence of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carry heavy penalties, including a criminal conviction, automatic 3 years driver licence disqualification, a fine of up to $3,300 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months. There are heavier penalties than this if this is considered your second or subsequent DUI offence within the last 5 years. This is reflected in section 112 of the Road Transport Act 2013.
A licence disqualification to most people will have disastrous consequences on maintaining a job, earning an income that dependants rely on, and maintaining personal responsibilities that others rely on.
The only way to avoid a driver licence disqualification is if the Court imposes a non-conviction as a type of penalty on a plea of guilty. This is commonly known as a section 10, but with the new laws on sentencing it will now be replaced with a Conditional Release Order (CRO).