From 2 March 2015, a new law is being introduced that specifies the offence of drug driving. This is very much a new specified offence and is likely to be dealt with by the courts in the same way as a drink driving case.
Comparison With Drink Driving
Whereas with drink-driving the initial test by the roadside is done with breath and a breathalyser, the initial test for drug driving will be by saliva swab. Analysis of the swap will show whether the driver has taken cocaine or cannabis. In the event the test is positive the police will take the suspect into custody to have a blood test.
In the event you are convicted of drug driving the powers of the courts are similar to those when sentencing drink driving cases. On a guilty plea or if found guilty after trial, you can expect a minimum 12 month driving ban, a fine up to £5000 and costs. As with extreme cases of drink driving, the courts will always retained the powers to pass a custodial sentence if they deem the offence so serious that only custody is appropriate.
Historically, there has been the offence of driving or attempting to drive when unfit to drive through drink or drugs. The difference now is that the police are able to do a roadside test for drugs whereas before they have not been able to.
As with drink driving there is a limit specified for the roadside test and subsequent tests if the roadside test is a fail. With drink driving the legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 mL of breath. Please note that this is in regard to drink driving cases in England and Wales, whereas in Scotland the legal limit has been dramatically reduced.
What Are The Drug Driving Limits?
In creating this drug driving offence the Home Office stated that a zero limit for illegal drugs would penalise those people who innocently came into contact with drugs, such as inhaling cannabis smoke unknowingly in a public area, or for having small traces of the drug in their system long after the drug is used. After consultation and advice from doctors the government has set down the following initial limits for drug driving.
- 10 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood
- 2 micrograms of cannabis per litre of blood
- 1 micrograms of LSD per litre of blood
Not all drug driving cases will be regarding illegal drugs, a vast amount will include people on prescription drugs, such as
- 80 micrograms of morphine per litre of blood
- 500 micrograms of methadone per litre of blood
- 550 micrograms of diazepam per litre of blood
Owing to concerns raised during the consultation period the government has stated that they would revisit the proposed limit on amphetamine which has been currently identified as 50 micrograms per litre of blood.
A Word Of Warning
Make no bones about this new offence of drug driving, the police will be very keen in using the new roadside tests and charging drivers where appropriate. As there is little or no quality control over illegal drugs it is virtually impossible for anyone to say what amount of physical consumption of an illegal drug can be had before it is unsafe to drive. The initial advice that should be given to anyone is not take illegal drugs and then drive a motor-vehicle. If a person is taking prescribed medication they must take real care in checking that their medication does not put them over the new drug driving limits. The onus must really be put on the driver of the vehicle to make sure that they are driving legally, again very similar to the common sense advice given to those who are considering having a drink of alcohol before they drive.
Latest Drug Driving Updates (June 2016)
- Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) – 50 micrograms per litre of blood (µg/L)
- Cocaine – 10µg/L
- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis and cannabinol) – 2µg/L
- Ketamine – 20µg/L
- LSD – 1µg/L
- Methylamphetamine – 10µg/L
- MDMA (ecstasy) – 10µg/L
- Heroin and diamorphine – 5µg/L
- Clonazepam (used to treat seizures and panic disorder) – 50µg/L
- Diazepam (anti-anxiety) – 550µg/L
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol – sedative) – 300µg/L
- Lorazepam (anti-anxiety) – 100µg/L
- Methadone (heroin substitute) – 500µg/L
- Morphine (pain relief) – 80µg/L
- Oxazepam (anti-anxiety) – 300µg/L
- Temazepam (anti-anxiety and sedative) – 1,000µg/L
The limits for the majority of prescription drugs are above the normal doses; the new legislation will give police the power to test and arrest motorists who are suspected of driving over the new levels.
Unlike the existing ‘impairment’ offence, the new law provides a medical defence if you are taking a prescription in accordance with medical instructions – provided, of course, you’re not impaired.
Penalties for Drug Driving
If you’re convicted of drug-driving you can expect:
- A minimum one-year driving ban
- A fine up to £5,000
- A criminal record
- Your driving licence will also show a conviction for drug-driving and it will stay on there for 11 years.
A conviction for drug-driving also means you may not be able to get car insurance.
If you have a driving job your employer will see the conviction on your licence and you may have trouble travelling to certain countries, such as the USA.
What To Do Now?
We have helped many people who faced road traffic offences in the courts. With our experience, we have helped save driving licences for people who rely on their cars for work and family.
We are experts in our field. We are not judgemental and only want to offer you the best advice and representation when you are facing the courts and a possible disqualification from driving.
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