Drugs and driving
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.
It is also an offence if you don't provide a saliva or blood specimen when the police ask you to
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), cocaine and methylamphetamine (ICE). The law calls these drugs ‘a relevant drug’.
You are breaking the law if you drive, or are in charge of a vehicle, with any detectable level of a relevant drug in your saliva or blood, irrespective of whether your driving is affected or not.
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. You can be charged even if the relevant drug you have taken is a prescription or over the counter drug.
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.
You can be charged even if the drug you have taken is a prescription or over the counter drug.
Prescription or over the counter 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, or have a relevant drug in your saliva or blood, 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. You should also check whether the medication contains a relevant drug. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you need more information to work out whether you can take the medication and safely drive.
Failing to provide a saliva or blood specimen
It's an offence if you:
- refuse or don't take a saliva test at the roadside (or other place), if asked, when police have a reasonable suspicion of you having driving or being ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle within 3 hours, or you have been involved in a traffic accident as the driver. This is called failing to provide a saliva specimen.
- Refuse or fail to provide a specimen of saliva or blood for analysis, if requested, within 3 hours of you driving or being ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle, or after having been involved in a traffic accident as a driver. You don't have any right to demand a blood test instead of a saliva test.
What happens when I go to court for a drug driving offence?
You might be either fined, given a community service order or probation or jailed.
Also, when you are convicted of a ‘drug driving offence’ whilst driving or in charge of a vehicle (including failing to provide a saliva or blood specimen for analysis), the court has no choice but to disqualify you.
You will have to hand in your driver's licence to the Police Prosecutor at the court or to the Department of Transport, as it will be cancelled straight away. It’s an offence to keep a cancelled driver's licence.
If you want to apply for a work licence you should get legal advice, before your matter is dealt with by the court, about whether you are eligible for a work licence. See - Work licences—drink driving and drug driving.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you
- have been charged with a drug driving offence
- want to appeal a decision of a Magistrate about the disqualification period
- want to apply for a work licence.
Get legal advice
We may give legal advice on drug driving offences, including advice from our Traffic Clinic if you are pleading not guilty to a drug driving charge or there is something complicated about your matter.
Before your advice session with the lawyer we may ask you to obtain certain documents, for example, your traffic history (also known as your traffic record), or your QP9 (Queensland Police Statement). We will tell you what documents you need to get before you talk to the lawyer
These services may also 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 anyone who has committed 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 content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 3 October 2023
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.