With the help of one of our team of experts, there are a number of defences and other factors which may apply to save your licence or limit the sentence when faced with a charge of drug driving.

Drug Driving

Drug driving is a serious offence. However with the help of one of our team there are a number of defences and other factors which may help save your licence or limit the sentence.

We have regularly advanced successful defences around failures in police or forensic procedures in relation to blood samples.

We’ll meticulously check all the evidence against you and uncover any failings in forensic or police procedures.

Our damage limitation strategy has helped avoid or minimize driving bans for many clients and we’re often chosen by many as we have a track record of winning cases which others thought were unwinnable.

What is the procedure if I am stopped by the police whilst driving my vehicle?

If the police speak to you at the roadside they could request that you provide a roadside drug swipe sample if they believe you were driving under the influence of drugs. It is common if the police believe the driver’s behaviour is unusual to request for a roadside drug test to see if the driver is under the influence of cannabis or cocaine or a roadside breathalyser test which would indicate if the driver exceeds the drink driving legal limit. If a drug swipe returns a positive reading then the driver will be arrested and taken to a police station custody suite where a blood test will be undertaken by a health care professional.

The driver would then be released from the police station as the blood sample would need to be sent to the laboratory to be forensically analysed. The police will contact the driver once they receive the result of the blood test. Should the sample show that the driver exceeded the legal limit for a specified controlled drug then they would be charged with the offence under Section 5A Road Traffic Act 1988.

This section of legislation also includes individuals who attempt to drive and are ‘in charge’ of a vehicle whilst exceeding the legal limit for a specified controlled drug. If you refused to provide a sample of blood either at the roadside or in the police station then you would likely be charged with a failure to provide offence. A further offence of being unfit to drive through drugs (Section 4(1) Road Traffic Act 1988) can also apply but this is usually the case when the police don’t have a positive blood test result from you but would base the charge on observations as to your behaviour, driving and condition.

What are the legal limits on drugs whilst driving in England and Wales?

It is an offence to drive whilst exceeding the drug drive legal limits. The limits set for illegal drugs are in line with a zero-tolerance approach but ruling out accidental exposure.  On 2nd March 2015, eight generally prescription and eight illicit drugs were added into new regulations that came into force in England and Wales. Further regulations on amphetamine came into force on 14th April 2015.

Below is the table of these drugs and the legal limits:

‘Illegal’ drugs (‘accidental exposure’ – zero tolerance approach)Threshold limit in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L)
benzoylecgonine50µg/L
cocaine10µg/L
delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis)2µg/L
ketamine20µg/L
lysergic acid diethylamide1µg/L
methylamphetamine10µg/L
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)10µg/L
6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin)5µg/L
‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach)Threshold limit in blood
clonazepam50µg/L
diazepam550µg/L
flunitrazepam300µg/L
lorazepam100µg/L
methadone500µg/L
morphine80µg/L
oxazepam300µg/L
temazepam1,000µg/L
Separate approach (to balance its risk)Threshold limit in blood
amphetamine250µg/L

How long do certain drugs stay in your system for?

Every drug on the above list affects each person in a different way so it is impossible to say when someone is legally allowed to drive after taking one of these drugs. Drugs are very different to alcohol in a way that they take a lot longer to be eliminated from the body. It may have been a few days since the drug had been taken and the driver may feel fine in themselves to drive but could still find themselves exceeding the legal limit.

The government is unable to provide any guidance on what amounts of dosage would equate to being over the specified limits. There are too many variables, such as physical characteristics, where each person will metabolise the drug at different rates. Eating or drinking will also have an effect on the blood concentration.

What if I am taking prescription medicines that contain one of these controlled drugs?

It is advisable to continue taking medicine as advised by your doctor or healthcare professional and always to read the patient information leaflet that accompanies the medicine.

A medical defence would be available if you were taking prescription drugs in accordance with instructions from a healthcare professional or an accompanying leaflet. It may be advisable if you drive and take prescription medicine, to keep evidence of this in order to be able to provide this to the police if they question you at the roadside.

What will happen at Court if I have been charged with a drug driving offence?

The drug driving law is such that if you are convicted for drug driving or attempting to drive a vehicle whilst exceeding the legal limit for a controlled drug then a fine along with a driving ban for a minimum of 12 months is inevitable unless a special reason exists. If you plead guilty or are found guilty after trial for a drug driving ‘in charge’ offence then the Court would have a discretionary power to disqualify you from driving as they could endorse the driving licence with ten penalty points as an alternative punishment.  If a special reason is proved then this can result in penalty points being recorded against the licence rather than a minimum period of disqualification from driving of twelve months. Any penalty points or a disqualification will likely affect the cost of car insurance  in the future.

Should you want to discuss the possibility of a special reason or a defence to a drug driving charge then contact our highly experienced road traffic team today and they will be happy to discuss your case and advise you on the best course of action to take. The sentencing council have provided some helpful guidance relating to drug driving offences and this can be found here https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/magistrates-court/item/drug-driving-guidance-only/

Contact us today

Being charged or summonsed for a drug driving offence should not be taken lightly. Acting quickly to get an expert team on your side can help minimise the disruption and uncertainty. Get in touch to set up a meeting today.

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