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Drug driving offences

It’s an offence to have any amount of certain drugs known as ‘relevant drugs’ in your saliva or blood while you drive or ‘are in charge of’ a motor vehicle.  For all other drugs, it is an offence to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle or other vehicle while you are ‘under the influence’ of a drug.

Drugs and driving

You may have to go to court if you take drugs and drive. You might be breaking the law even if you don't drive. For example, if you have taken drugs and you are the person 'in charge' of a vehicle.

You’re breaking the law if you drive a vehicle, or are in charge of a vehicle, while you are under the influence of drugs, whether they are illegal, bought over the counter or prescribed by a doctor.

Driving with a relevant drug in the saliva or blood

The police can pull you over at any time for a random drug test. They will do this by taking a saliva sample from you. Currently, the only drugs the saliva test will detect are THC (in cannabis), MDMA (ecstasy) and methylamphetamine (ICE). The law calls these drugs ‘a relevant drug’. You’re breaking the law if you drive or are in charge of a vehicle with a relevant drug in your saliva or blood. The police don’t have to prove that having the drug in your saliva or blood caused you to drive less safely. The saliva or blood test must simply show that you had a relevant drug in your saliva or blood. The Government may in the future add other drugs to the definition of ‘relevant drugs’.

Driving under the influence of a drug

As well as the random drug tests, the police can make you have a blood test if they reasonably suspect you’ve been driving or have been in charge of a motor vehicle while you were under the influence of any drug (including those mentioned above). Being under the influence of a drug means your ability to drive safely is lessened because of the effects of the drug. If you’re charged with driving under the influence of drugs, this is a more serious charge than a charge of having a relevant drug in your blood or saliva.

Am I breaking the law if I drive while taking prescription or over the counter drugs?

Yes, you will be if the drug is a relevant drug.

For all other drugs, you will be, if you are what the law calls under the influence of drugs.

Always make sure that you’re not taking more than the prescribed dose from your doctor. Don’t take more than the maximum recommended dose of over the counter medication. If you do take more than the prescribed or recommended dose, it increases the risk of you being under the influence of a drug if you drive.

Even if you don’t take more of a medication than you are supposed to, you could still be under the influence of a drug if you take the medication and drive. Check the box, bottle or information leaflet provided with your medication for any warnings about possible effects of the medication on your ability to drive safely. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you need more information to work out whether you can take the medication and safely drive.

What happens when I go to court for a drug driving offence?

If you are convicted of a 'drug driving offence' (including being under the influence of a drug, failing to provide a saliva or blood specimen, or driving with a relevant drug in your saliva or blood while driving or in charge of motor vehicle, you will always be disqualified from holding or getting Queensland driver's licence for a period of time. The court has no choice.

You should hand in your driver's licence at the court as it will be cancelled straight away. It’s an offence to keep a cancelled driver's licence.

You can’t apply for a work licence if convicted of the more serious offence of driving or in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of a drug. You might be able to apply for a work licence if convicted of the lesser offence of having a relevant drug in your saliva or blood while driving or in charge of a vehicle. Not everyone will be eligible so you should get legal advice about this.

As well as the licence disqualification, you are likely to be fined, given a community service order or probation order or jailed.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been charged with a drug driving offence
  • want to plead not guilty to a drug driving charge
  • need to know if you will be successful in appealing a decision of a Magistrate about the disqualification period
  • want to apply for a work licence for drug driving.

Important: before getting legal advice, you must have a copy of your traffic history to show the lawyer. You can get this from Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre by filling in a form and paying a fee. Alternatively, you may be able to get a copy of “Queensland Traffic Outcomes” from Police Prosecutions with your QP9 for free. This will sometimes be sufficient, however if you dispute anything on your traffic history or the conditions of your licence, you will need to get your traffic history from Department of Transport and Main Roads. You should also apply for your QP9 before seeing a lawyer. Contact your local police or police prosecutions office.

Get legal advice

We may give legal advice on drug driving offences. Our Traffic Clinic gives legal advice if you are pleading not guilty to a drug driving charge or there is something complicated about your matter.

These services may be able to give you legal advice:

Community legal centres may give preliminary legal advice on drug driving matters—check with individual CLCs whether they will advise on your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

The following organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Queensland Traffic Offenders Program (QTOP) is an educational court diversion program for first and second time offenders pleading guilty to a traffic offence, including drink driving, unsafe driving, disqualified driving, suspended licence, appealing licence disqualifications (fees apply for this service).

Department of Transport and Main Roads deals with complaints and enquiries concerning driver licences, registration, traffic fines, etc.


Disclaimer: This page is provided as information only, and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

Last updated 21 April 2022

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