Do police test for impairment or drug presence?

Whilst controversial politicians like David Shoebridge call for drug testing to be reviewed (effectively legalising driving under the influence of drugs), the police have made it clear Roadside Drug Testing is here to stay. But is it fair and evidence backed?

Queensland Police Service (QPS)

The Queensland Police Service are one of 3 bodies that enforce road rules in Queensland, in fact they are the Primary Agency that enforces road rules.

Under Section 79(2AA) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 [Qld] it is an offence in Queensland to;

drive etc. while relevant drug is present in blood or saliva Any person who, while a relevant drug is present in the person’s blood or saliva

This includes attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle. Generally, possessing the keys of the vehicle makes you in charge of the vehicle. The maximum penalty includes a fine and/or 90 days imprisonment.

Whilst Australian Standard AS 4760:2019 sets out the standards for 'positive' testing the QPS have chosen to ignore the standards outlined and instead have concluded that;

There is zero tolerance for driving with a relevant drug present in your saliva. Any trace of the relevant drug/s in your saliva/blood will result in you appearing in court.

Quote from QPS Statement issued 2019.

Let's use THC as an example. A field test is tripped when you have 25 nanogram of THC in 1 millilitre of saliva or more. The Australian Standards cut-off level for THC is 5 ng/mL meaning that up until. 5.00ng/mL you are considered negative.

Even if Queensland police analysed your saliva and found 0.02 nanograms of THC per millilitre (an amount I am happy to consider would not cause impairment in any human) you would still be charged.

New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF)

Like the Queensland Police Service, NSWPF can punish you for driving with drugs in your system, whether or not they are influencing you. However, there is a separation of the offences, Driving with a drug in your system is usually a short licence cancellation (24 hour suspension whilst laboratory confirmation is being undertaken) and a fine.

Driving under the influence (testing over a cut-off limit) can result in imprisonment, licence disqualifications etc.


Whilst workplaces test for levels accepted to be where you are 'under the influence' in compliance with Australian Standards, the Police services can and will penalise you for driving with the drug in your system.

In conclusion, whether it is a fair system or not, the police forces are not going to change so having any illicit drugs (including prescription drugs taken without a prescription or failing to take it in accordance with the prescription) in your system at any level is an offence in New South Wales and Queensland.

if you have any questions about police roadside drug testing you can email (Transport for NSW) and/or (Queensland Police Service).

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