Drugs, Driving & The law
Drug-Drive offence Code: DR80 offence code
On the 2 March 2015, new legislation came into force making it illegal to drive with certain levels of drugs in your system. Section 56 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 inserted s.5A into the Road Traffic Act 1988 making it an offence to drive with a blood concentration in excess of a specified limit for a specified controlled drug.
It is now going to be a lot easier to convict someone of “drug-driving”. A simple blood test at the police station by a medical practitioner will enable the police to test if you are above the limit. Drug driving sentencing guidelines are set out in the table below.
According to mirror.co.uk and other news websites, around 400 drivers are being arrested each month.
If you are charged then what? You will be going to Court. Keep your blood sample refrigerated and call Patterson Law. If you are sentenced, there are, unfortunately, no sentencing guidelines in relation to driving whilst unfit through drugs and the Magistrates’ currently appear to be taking the route of using the existing guidelines for driving with excess alcohol when sentencing. In our opinion this is wrong and a case we had in Court recently illustrates why.
Driving While Unfit Through Drugs
Mr X was charged with driving whilst unfit through drugs. Benzoylecgonine was found in his system at a level of 465ug. The legal limit is 50ug. MDMA was also present at a level of 49ug. The legal limit is 10ug. Mr X was 10 times over the legal limit for benzoylecgonine and nearly five times for MDMA.
Had the Magistrates’ applied the guidelines for driving with excess alcohol then Mr X would have most certainly received a lengthy custodial sentence and disqualification of more than three years.
Mr X is not a habitual drug user and he had consumed a large amount of cocaine on a Friday night and a small amount on Saturday night. He was stopped by police and tested on Sunday morning. Mr X maintains he was not impaired. He would not have driven if he were.
There was no evidence of impairment in the officer’s statement. Had he been ten times over the drink drive limit he would have given a breath reading of 350ug. On consulting experts we were advised that Benzoylecgonine is the derivative of cocaine that remains in your system for a long time after the effects of cocaine wear off.
It would not impair someone’s ability to the drive to the extent that being 10 times over the drink drive limit would…far from it.
From the figures above it is clear to us that the Magistrates’ should not apply the same guidelines when sentencing. How can they put Mr X in the same bracket as someone who has given a breath reading of 350ug?
The officer that stopped him did not note any evidence of impairment and therefore we were able to argue that Mr X should be disqualified from driving only. Mr X was disqualified for 18 months.
What To Do If You Face ‘Driving Under The Influence of Drugs’ Accusations
If you are stopped by the police on suspicion of drug & drive we can help.
It seems a huge proportion of drivers who are stopped do have illegal substances in their system. It used to be the case that the police could only charge you with driving whilst under the influence of drugs. The new limit is designed to create a zero tolerance situation.
As with any piece of new legislation we are going through a phase of testing the law.
We are finding that the police are often making procedural mistakes in relation to taking mouth swabs/blood samples at the station. This will often create the potential to defend the allegation.
Frequently Asked Drug Driving Questions:
There is also an opportunity to avoid disqualification by arguing special reasons, especially in relation to prescribed drugs.
Most people we speak to are unfamiliar with the legislation/police procedures. You will often not realise that you have a potential defence/special reasons argument to avoid disqualification. We need to speak to you in each and every case to assess your prospects of success.
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As with any case we take on we like to go through the evidence with a fine tooth comb. We often obtain the forms that the police fellow at the station including your custody records and any statement from a force medical practitioner. We will also often ask for the CCTV of the custody centre to see what was said to you by the officer in the case/custody sergeant.
Clients have also reported that they are finding it extremely difficult to locate a pharmacologist/chemist with the necessary accreditation to get their own blood sample tested. When the police take a blood sample they divided into two portions. You have the option to take your own sample and get it tested independently.
At the moment we are struggling to locate any chemists/pharmacologist who are credited and willing to carry out these reports on behalf of defendants. This may well amount to an abuse of process because it denies the defendant the opportunity to have the sample double checked.
Again this is a growing area of law and things are changing rapidly. It does seem that the legislation has been brought in without actually putting the necessary infrastructure in place and without a huge amount of training for the police.
We have one client at the moment who was taken to 4 different police stations in order to find a force medical practitioner who could take the necessary blood test.
Table of Drugs and Driving Limits
|‘Illegal’ drugs (‘accidental exposure’ – zero tolerance approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
|benzoylecgonine (ecgonine benzoate)[main metabolite of cocaine]||50µg/L|
|lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)||1µg/L|
|methylamphetamine (Crystal Meth)||10µg/L|
|‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
|amphetamine (regulations were recently laid with the proposed limit and expected to come into force after 2 March 2015)||250µg/L|
How do these drugs affect the ability to drive?
If you want to know more about the impact each of these drugs has on your driving, please click here
How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?
The time required for each type of drug to leave your system varies greatly depending upon several factors including the amount and specific type of exact drug consumed, how it is taken, the biological makeup of the user and consumption of other substances (such as alcohol) at the same time.
The government has intentionally not provided any guidance for drug detection times.
While absorption rate will vary greatly from person to person due to your height, weight and metabolic rate, approximate times needed for your body to flush each drug type are indicated below.
|Typical Time Limits for Commonly Used Drugs|
|Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannibinol – Cannabis||48 – 72 hours (Up To 10 Weeks for Chronic Users|
|Cocaine||12 – 72 Hours|
|Methylenedioxymethamphetamine – MDMA||24 – 96 Hours|
|6-Monoacetylmorphine – Heroin||48 – 120 Hours|
|Ketamine||48 – 96 Hours|
|Lysergic Acid Diethylamide – LSD||24 – 72 Hours|
|Methylamphetamine – Crystal Meth||24 – 96 Hours|
Drug Driving Offences & Penalties
12 month minimum driving ban
Up to £5,000 fine
Up to 6 Month prison sentence
Roadside Drug Testing
Roadside drug testing is being developed for Cannabis, Cocaine, Opiates, Amphetamine, Methadone & Benzodiazepines although currently, only Cannabis and Cocaine are tested at the roadside using drugaliser machines. Other illegal and legal drugs are tested using a variety of impairment tests which include; assessing pupil dilation, standing on one leg, walk and turn, finger to nose and balance & judgement tests (Romberg test).
If you are deemed to have failed one or more of these roadside impairment tests, you will be taken to a police station to be blood tested.
We Provide Free Drug / Driving Offence Advice
There is a lot of confusion at the moment with regard to drug drive offences and sentencing, leaving many drivers at risk of excessive punishments. We have helped many drivers facing these offence allegations, and we can help you…… please click here and Ask a FREE question without obligation.
Please call us and talk to us if you are caught drug driving. Don’t just throw in the towel. It’s a free advice call. You have nothing to lose.
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