Drug Driving

In Your Defence Ltd have been at the vanguard of defending those arrested or with cases before the criminal courts for drug driving since it came into operation in March, 2015. The law in England and Wales is as follows:

Driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit

(1) This section applies where a person (“D”)—

(a) drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or

(b) is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place,

and there is in D's body a specified controlled drug.

Contrary to Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Brought into enforcement by the Crime and Courts Act 2013. 

With over 110,000 drivers banned from driving each year, drug driving is becoming an increasingly common offence resulting in this outcome.

If the police stop you and believe you are unfit to drive because you are on legal or illegal drugs they might make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’. Or they will use the latest approved roadside drug kit which screens for cannabis and cocaine. If the officers believe you are unfit to drive because of taking drugs, an arrest will no doubt follow and a journey to the nearest custody suite for a blood or urine test. So to clarify, in England and Wales, it is an offence to drive over a specific limits of certain drugs in your blood. Motorists should seek advice from the prescribing doctor or pharmacist when starting or continuing with the medication. This also applied when existing medication may be affected by a new prescription.

Initially, there seemed to be two schools of thought as to the sentencing parameters for this new offence. One was to place it on a par with drink driving and the second approach was that it was to be treated more seriously than driving offences involving excess alcohol. The latter is in the ascendant.

The latest situation is that the Sentencing Council has issued guidance that it is not appropriate to equate the guidelines for excess alcohol with drug driving. There should be a zero-tolerance approach for driving on illegal drugs. Accidental exposure of course is an exception. The Sentencing Council’s Guidance on prescribed drug driving is based on basically the same guidance you would find in a leaflet accompanying these medications. That is to say a road safety risk based approach at the normal concentration levels for therapeutic benefits. Contrast this to the excess alcohol limits, which were set at what would probably be a level that might impair a motorist’s ability to drive.

It is to be noted that the Sentencing Council’s guidance is not to be treated as a formal Sentencing Guideline but in reality, we expect most courts to adopt this advice.

A conviction for drug driving will last on your licence for eleven years. The sentence carries up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a minimum one year disqualification from driving (driving ban). In Your Defence ltd also advise that certain countries around the world may deem you an undesirable alien and may not allow you into the country. We believe that the USA would be the top of this list. And then there’s your employment marketability!


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