Advice for drivers who have questions about the legal aspects of drugs and driving. If you require a Barrister for drug driving offences such as DG10 or DG40 contact Universal Motoring Lawyers. With over 15 years’ experience, we are the natural choice to defend you if you are charged with drug driving.
Drug Driving Offences
The 4 most common driving offences involving drugs are as follows:
- Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs.
- Being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drugs.
- Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while over the limit for the particular drug.
- Being in charge of a vehicle while over the limit for the particular drug.
Over The Drugs Limit?
The new “over the limit” drug driving offences (section 5A Road Traffic Act 1988) cover such drugs as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy (also called Mandy drug) and ketamine even if you are fit to drive. In these cases, the police will have to prove that you were over the limit, but they will not have to prove that your driving was impaired. It is important to realise that even taking some prescription drugs can put you over the limit. Examples are diazepam, temazepam, and morphine. However, unlike illegal drugs, you will have a defence to an over the limit charge for a prescription drug if you can show that you kept to the doctor’s instructions for taking the drug including any advice about when it was safe to drive. However, even if you are below the specified limit for a prescribed drug you could still be guilty of the offence of driving while unfit if your driving was impaired.
Being in Charge While Over the Limit
Being in charge of a vehicle while over the drug drive limit is a separate offence in UK drug driving law. Being ‘in charge’ occurs where although not actually driving you are in control of the vehicle. Examples are having the key in the ignition while sitting in the driver’s seat. There is a defence if you can show that there was no likelihood of you commencing driving before the amount of the drug in your body fell below the prescribed limit. A similar defence applies when the offence is being in charge of a vehicle while unfit to drive through drugs.
Roadside police checks
The police can stop you and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests, eg asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine.
If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station.
There are a number of issues that should be examined in these instances including whether the police have adhered to the correct procedures before and after taking the sample. For example, they must not insist on a blood test if there is a genuine medical reason for not taking blood. We will check whether the sample has been stored and analysed correctly. We will also check the police evidence very carefully including the CCTV footage. If there is a defence we will find it.
Drug Driving Consequences
The penalties for drug driving are the same as for drink driving. If you are convicted you could face:
- A minimum 12-month driving ban
- A criminal record
- An unlimited fine
- Up to 6 months in prison
- An endorsement on your driving licence for 11 years
The maximum sentence for being in charge when unfit through drugs is 3 months in prison. Disqualification is discretionary. Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drugs carries the same penalties as over the limit drug driving. The consequences of a drug drive conviction are far reaching and can include:
- Job loss
- Loss of independence
- Increase in car insurance costs
- Trouble getting into countries like the USA
Often there is no defence to a drug driving charge and no Special Reasons to avoid a ban. In such cases we do our utmost to get the most lenient sentence possible. The courts are instructed to take into account your personal circumstances when deciding on the punishment. We ensure that we present all the facts to enable us to argue for a lower sentence.