You may have recently seen advertisements about the increased mobile drug testing (MDT) presence out in force on NSW roads for the upcoming festive season. Below is a short outline of what is happening and how it may affect you.
How does it work?
MDT operates in concert with some random breath testing (RBT) operations. In the same way that police can test for the presence of alcohol in your blood, they also have the power to test for illegal or prescription drugs.
The MDT procedure is very similar to an RBT. During the roadside test, drivers are asked to swipe a plastic strip across their tongue. The strip will indicate if drugs are present in your saliva. If the test returns a positive result, you will be arrested and asked to provide a second oral fluid sample at the drug testing bus or police station.
What can be tested?
MDT is used to detect drivers who have recently used three common illegal drugs: MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy), THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) and methyl amphetamine (the active ingredient in speed and ice). It has been reported that cocaine may not be detected by a saliva sample.
How long will drugs remain present for testing purposes?
Drugs can sometimes remain in a person’s system for several days after using. This depends on the quantity and quality of the drug and the individual’s metabolism and resistance.
What are the penalties?
The penalty for the offence of driving under the influence (DUI), if it is your first or only offence within the last 5 years, is as follows:
(a) a fine of up to $1,100; and
(b) automatic licence disqualification for 6 months. However, the court may order a shorter (but not less than 3 months) or longer disqualification period.
If it is your second or subsequent serious traffic offence within the last five years, the penalty is as follows:
(c) a fine of up to $2,200; and
(d) automatic licence disqualification for 12 months. However, the court may order a shorter (but not less than 6 months) or longer disqualification period.
You are more likely to be pulled over by a MDT unit now than ever before – especially considering the usually high police presence during the holidays. If you get tested this silly season and are found to have recently used cannabis, ecstasy or MDMA, you will likely be arrested. If convicted of DUI, you are looking at maximum fines of one to two grand and a stint off the road until anywhere from March to next Christmas or beyond.
The above is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.