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Under the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970, police officers have powers relating to drug and alcohol consumption in drivers. Since the introduction of random breath testing, a driver must take a breath test when stopped and asked to do so by a police officer (s7A). If that test is positive, then that driver must undergo a breathalyser test. This is also the case where a driver commits an offence (including a traffic offence), is involved in an accident, or is found in a situation where police reasonably believes the person has just been driving or is about to drive. There are also powers for police officers to require a driver of a motor vehicle to undergo an oral fluid test to test for illicit drugs (s7B). A positive breath test most often will mean a trip to the nearest police station to be processed. The breathalyser test will be administered, the level of alcohol recorded, and your details noted so that a court appearance letter can be mailed to your address.

The legislated powers for traffic cases have created police powers so that any person who is driving a motor vehicle on a public street is required to comply with police directions to undergo a breath test or oral fluid test. There does not have to be a reason to suspect or believe the person has committed or is committing an offence. You can also be followed on to private property by police officers to have a breath analysis performed, if you have attempted to evade this procedure by entering on to private property.

A person may be detained for a random breath test for so long as it is reasonably required to administer that test. If that test is positive, a person may be further detained to enable the administering of a breath analysis. This may be done either in a random breath test station or at a police station. It is the duty of police officers to ensure that they do not cause a person to be detained for a period longer than is necessary for the proper exercise of the powers conferred by the Act (s7A(5)).

A person can request a blood sample be taken after receiving a statement of the blood alcohol reading on a breath analysis (s11). If a person does request a blood sample be taken, a medical practitioner or qualified nurse must carry out the request within 3 hours of the time of the alleged act of drink driving (s24(1)(b)) or the original breath analysis will not be admissible in evidence in any proceedings under the Act. This does not apply if the person refuses to submit to the taking of blood after appropriate arrangements were made to do so within the 3 hour period (s24(1)(b)(ii)).

Police Powers

Motor vehicles present a different case to other circumstances, because police have a broader range of powers to stop and ask people to identify themselves, and direct people to undergo breath and swab tests than in any other circumstances. This is a public safety issue because of the dangerous nature of motor vehicle accidents, and the contributory factors of alcohol and drugs to motor accidents. This means that police can require you to stop, submit to a breath test, and produce identification at any time that you are driving.

Some of the powers concerning traffic and vehicles are contained in the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999, particularly Part 7 – Compliance and Enforcement. This applies where there has been or is suspected to be an offence. Where the driver of a motor vehicle is charged or suspected of being guilty of a traffic offence or where the vehicle has been in an accident, a person (if able to do so) must give the name, age and address of the driver of the motor vehicle when required to do so by the police. A person must also give a specimen signature for identification when asked to do so by police.

More generally, it is an offence to not carry your licence whilst driving or to refuse to produce your licence if requested to do so by a police officer (s46A). It is also an offence to drive in excess of the allowed alcohol limit for your particular license, to drive without a license, drive in excess of the speed limit, drive outside the permissions in a restricted license, or drive outside the permissions of any other particular license. The penalties for these can be found in the Vehicle and Traffic Act in Part 3 – Motor Vehicle Drivers. The permitted speed limits and alcohol levels for learner and provisional licenses are outlined on the Service Tasmania website.

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