Drug driving involves driving with an illicit substance in your system, such as THC (which is the active ingredient in cannabis), MDMA (which is contained in ‘ecstacy’ pills), amphetamines or cocaine.
It is different to a DUI (driving under the influence) charge as the prosecution is not required to prove that you actually were affected by the drugs at the time of driving– it is enough that you had simply had drugs in your system.
Since 20 May 2019, police have been given the power to issue a penalty notice in the sum of $561 and impose a 3-month licence suspension to those who drive with an illicit substance in their system.
A penalty notice will be issued if the laboratory analysis returns a positive reading.
A laboratory analysis is a secondary test which occurs after the initial roadside ‘lick test’.
The penalty notice can be appealed to the Local Court, on the basis that you are:
- Not guilty of the offence, or
- Guilty but wish to persuade the court to grant a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order‘ (without a conviction), so that you do not receive a fine or a licence disqualification.
If you plead not guilty and the case is ultimately dismissed, there will be no conviction recorded against your name and no penalties.
If you plead guilty, it is important to prepare your case properly in order to maximise the prospects of a non-conviction order, because if such an order is not granted the court will issue penalties as explained below.
Your Options in Court
Pleading Not Guilty
To be found guilty of drug driving, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving on a road with drugs in your system.
Police will determine whether you have drugs in your system by conducting a drug test.
Generally, police will require you to provide a saliva sample via a lick test, however in some cases, for example, where you have had an accident, they can conduct a blood or urine test to detect whether you have drugs in your system.
If you wish to plead ‘not guilty’ to drug driving, our expert defence lawyers can help you fight the matter by raising problems with the prosecution case.
A common way to avoid a conviction is to prove that police obtained evidence illegally. When carrying out drug tests, police have to abide by certain rules and procedures – when they fail to comply with these processes, the evidence that they obtained illegally may be dismissed and you may be found ‘not guilty.’
Our lawyers often get charges dropped on this basis.
We can also help you identify and raise any defences to the charges, which will result in a finding of “not guilty” if accepted by the court. These include:
- Where you made an honest and reasonable mistake regarding drugs being in your system, or
- Where you were threatened or coerced into drug driving (duress)
If you do not wish to fight the charges, you may consider pleading guilty from the outset.
Often, pleading guilty at an early opportunity is a good option as it will show to the court that you have accepted responsibility for your actions. In most cases, this will mean that the court will give you a lesser sentence compared to what you could have received if you pleaded not guilty.
However, you should always ensure that you speak to a specialist lawyer with in-depth knowledge of drug and traffic law before entering a plea, as there may be a way in which you can defend the charges and be found ‘not guilty.’
If you are going to court for a drug driving case and it’s your first major traffic offence in 5 years, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200 and a 6 month licence disqualification, which the court can reduce to a minimum of 3 months.
If it’s your second or subsequent drug driving offence, the maximum is a fine of $3,300 and a 12 month licence disqualification, which the court can reduce to 6 months.
However, it is important to bear in mind that whether it’s your first, or second or subsequent major traffic offence in the past 5 years, a court can grant a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’, which means you will have is no criminal record, no disqualification and no fine – provided you have not received a non-conviction order for a major traffic offence within the previous 5 years.
The full range of penalties available to the court are:
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results
Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.
Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.
Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.
We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.
Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
Highest Level of Client Satisfaction
We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.
Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.
We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.
We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.
Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm
We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.
The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.
We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.
We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.
Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.
Free First Appointment
For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.
We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.
Specialist Lawyer Guarantee
We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.
This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.
All NSW Courts
From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.
And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.
All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.
An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.
Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.
Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
Results-Focused Law Firm
Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.
The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.
Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.
No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.
The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
Team of Lawyers Behind You
Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.
Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.
A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.
In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
Familiar with Magistrates and Judges
Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.
Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.
We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:
- the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
- Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
- Parramatta, near the justice precinct.
We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.
For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.
If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Need for a Medicinal Cannabis Driving Defence: An Interview With Former Magistrate David Heilpern
- The New Offence of Combined Drink and Drug Driving in New South Wales
- SA Police Advertise That Drug Driving Laws Target the Unimpaired
- Charged with Drug Driving? Have a Cannabis Prescription? Speak to Former Magistrate David Heilpern
- Drug Driving Laws Are “a Great Wrong”: An Interview With Former Magistrate David Heilpern