New Drug-Drive Legislation

New drug-drive legislation is to come into force in March 2015. It will be a motoring offence to:

  • Drive / attempt to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or
  • Be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place,
  • When there is a specified controlled drug in the defendant’s body and
  • The proportion of the drug in the defendant’s blood or urine exceeds the specified limit for that drug.

The motoring legislation sets very low limits in relation to the specified controlled drugs concerned.

Where drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine are detected in the bloodstream above a set level, this will be sufficient to charge the driver with a motoring offence.

Importantly, eight prescription drugs are also included with this drug driving legislation, namely:

  • Clonazepam.
  • Diazepam.
  • Flunitrazepam.
  • Lorazepam.
  • Methadone.
  • Morphine.
  • Oxazepam.
  • Temazepam.

The specified limit set for the above drugs generally exceed normal prescribed doses. As such, drivers who are prescribed such drugs should not fall foul of the law, provided that:

  • The specified controlled drug had been prescribed or supplied to the defendant for medical or dental purposes,
  • The defendant took the drug in accordance with any directions given by the person by whom the drug was prescribed or supplied, and with any accompanying instructions (so far as consistent with any such directions) given by the manufacturer or distributor of the drug, and
  • The defendant’s possession of the drug immediately before taking it was not unlawful under section 5(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (restriction of possession of controlled drugs) because of an exemption in regulations made under section 7 of that Act (authorisation of activities otherwise unlawful under foregoing provisions).

The above defence is not available if the defendant’s actions were:

  • Contrary to any advice, given by the person by whom the drug was prescribed or supplied, about the amount of time that should elapse between taking the drug and driving a motor vehicle, or
  • Contrary to any accompanying instructions about that matter (so far as consistent with any such advice) given by the manufacturer or distributor of the drug.

As a general rule, where prescription medication is taken in accordance with directions given by the prescribing doctor and the standard of driving is not impaired, then there should be a defence.

Drivers who take prescription drugs are being urged to take advice from their doctor / pharmacist to see whether the new drug-driving legislation applies to them. The driver might also consider taking a doctor’s letter, together with prescriptions slips in their vehicle when driving as a means of assisting any potential police investigation and to advance the above-mentioned defence as early as possible.

M23LAW Nationwide Motoring Solicitors and Lawyers are at the forefront of legal developments such as the above. We are there to represent those who are accused of such motoring offences at both the police station and court levels. Contact us for further legal advice.