New Drink and Drug Driving Laws In Effect Across The State
At the start of this month, the Western Australian government’s newly legislated drink and drug driving offences came into effect. Here’s what you need to know.
Last year across the state, 42 people died in road accidents where alcohol was suspected to be a factor. In an effort to get the message across to drivers that drink and drug driving can cost lives, the Western Australian government has introduced a range of changes which came into effect on July 1, 2021.
New ‘Polydrug’ offence
This new law separates the offence of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from the offence of driving under the influence of both.
Under the new “polydrug” offence a person commits an offence if they drive or attempt to drive with a blood alcohol content of above 0.05 while also under the influence of drugs. The penalties are significantly higher than the penalty for drink driving by itself.
From July 1, any driver who records a blood alcohol reading in excess of 0.05 and also tests positive to having a prescribed illicit drug in their oral fluid or blood will have their licence disqualified for a minimum of three months and face a maximum fine of $1,900 for a first offence. Repeat offenders could face a mandatory licence disqualification of 15 months and fine of up to $3,000.
Penalties for existing, stand-alone drink and drug driving offences have also been significantly increased.
For driving with a blood alcohol content of or above 0.07 but below 0.08 for a first offence a person is liable for a fine of up to $1,250.
Depending on the blood alcohol reading, drink driving penalties range from fines of $1,250 to $4,500. Committing a third or subsequent offence of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol can lead to a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment. Depending on the drink driving offence you can also be disqualified from driving for a significant period .
It is an offence to drive while impaired by drugs, even if they have been prescribed by a doctor. Current legislation states that it is also illegal to drive while impaired by drugs including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC/cannabis), methylamphetamine and MDMA and prescribed drugs.
It's also important to be aware that if you are found to be driving with drugs in your system (which is detected by a drugs test) there is no need for the prosecution to demonstrate that you were “incapable of having proper control of the vehicle” or a similar element. It is sufficient that the illicit drug or drugs were detected.
Refusing to comply with police
Under the new laws, the penalties for refusing to comply with a direction from police to provide a breath or saliva sample for testing will more than double. In Western Australia, as in all states and territories nation-wide, the police have the right to stop your vehicle and to require the driver to produce a current licence, and to undertake certain tests, including tests for detecting alcohol and drugs. Failure to follow police requests for an alcohol or drug test so can result in a range of serious penalties from a fine, disqualification of your drivers licence and even a term of imprisonment.
But as of July 1, 2021, police have been given additional powers to prohibit any driver who tests positive to the presence of THC, methylamphetamine and MDMA at the roadside from driving for the next 24 hours, in addition to any other penalties that they might face.
Andrew Williams is an experienced criminal and traffic lawyer with offices in Perth and Fremantle. If you have been charged with a drink driving or drug driving offence, contact us for expert legal advice without delay on (08) 9278 2575.
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.