Aim: In 2015 the NSW government announced it would significantly increase the number of roadside drug tests conducted. This paper examines the impact of increased drug driving detections on the New South Wales Criminal Courts.
Method: Descriptive analysis of drug driving matters finalised in court from January 2007 to June 2016.
Results: Over the 24 months to June 2016, the number of drug driving charges finalised in court increased by 320% (up from 2,331 in 2014/15 to 9,808 in 2015/16). The overwhelming majority of persons found guilty of drug driving offences were males (79.3%) and persons aged between 18 and 39 years (72.4%). The rate of prosecution was twice as high in Regional NSW compared to the state average (180 per 100,000 compared to 93 per 100,000). Almost all drug driving charges brought to court are proven. The most common penalties imposed are fines and Section 10 bonds (i.e. no conviction recorded), however approximately 80 per cent of persons found guilty also received a period of mandatory licence disqualification in addition to their principal penalty. The number of offenders previously found guilty of drug driving and now being found guilty of driving while disqualified more than tripled (from 133 to 542) in the 12 months to June 2016 compared with the 12 months to June 2015.
Conclusion: As a result of the NSW Police Force conducting more mobile roadside drug tests, the number of persons charged and consequently found guilty of drug driving has rapidly increased since 2015. This has had a significant impact on the workload of the Local Court. The drug driving increase also has the potential to increase the Corrections NSW workload due to a corresponding increase in convictions for driving while disqualified, which often attract sentences involving imprisonment or community supervision.