A couple of weeks ago, here in the Northern Rivers, police set up a roadside blitz, covering every on/off ramp on the highway heading north from Ballina, Byron, Mullumbimby, through to Tweed Heads (plus the usual testing in places such as Lismore and Lennox Head). It’s reported that during the blitz, more than 100 drivers tested positive for alcohol or drugs.
While most blitzes are set up with the intention of alcohol and drug testing – because driving under the influence is a major killer on our roads – police will conduct a thorough check if you are pulled over and although you might pass the drug or alcohol tests, you can also be charged with other offences.
If pulled over by Poilce, what information do I have to provide?
If you are stopped by police, then you will be asked your name and you will be asked to provide your driver’s license. If you do not have your license on you, then you may be issued with an immediate $110 fine.
What happens during a roadside alcohol or drug test?
If you are requested to undertake either a roadside breath test (RBT) which detects alcohol consumption, or a mobile drug test – a saliva swab test – which detects (at the very least) cannabis, drugs in the amphetamine-class, and cocaine, police are likely to check your license details and run your information through the police database.
Police may also look over your vehicle and you could be charged for anything that is not deemed roadworthy, for example, for not having your phone stored in a secure holder that meets Australian standards, for worn tyres or broken lights. You can be given a fine of $448 in New South Wales if your pet is in the vehicle with you and is considered to be a distraction or not safely restrained.
If you have outstanding driving or traffic offences, if your car is not registered or if you have any other criminal charges against you, then police will take appropriate action in relation to these offences. You are not required by law to answer any questions asked by police except those which confirm your identity – name, address, birthdate etc.
Police can undertake a search of your car and belongings
In New South Wales police do have the power to search your car or your phone, handbag or other belongings without a search warrant if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you may be involved in criminal activity.
‘Reasonable suspicion’ has a fairly vague definition, it can be simply that a police officer considers that you are acting suspiciously.
It is always recommended that you cooperate with police, but under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act police have a range of obligations and must also treat you respectfully, and fairly.
Testing positive to a roadside breath test or drug test
If you test positive for a roadside drug or alcohol test, then you will be taken to the roadside testing van or to the local police station to provide another sample. Usually, you’ll be banned from driving for 24 hours. All samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis and if yours comes back positive then tough penalties apply.
Drink and drug driving penalties depend on the amount of drugs or alcohol in your system, the type of drugs detected, and also whether or not it is a first offence.
In 2021, the New South Wales Government passed new laws that created a new combined drug and alcohol driving offence. The penalties for this offence also depend on the amount of alcohol and drugs detected in the driver’s blood stream, and whether or not the offence is a first or subsequent offence.
Do you need to appear in a local court for a traffic offence or a positive roadside alcohol or drug test?
The penalties are severe including jail time, license disqualification, fines and the imposition of interlock devices fitted to their car.
Courts take drink driving and drug driving very seriously. If you have been charged with an offence, you need professional legal advice to help you understand the charges and penalties and to represent your case in court. Contact The Local Court Lawyers for experienced help and guidance.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.
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