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We all feel a bit under the weather from time to time but it is quite possible that your valiant efforts to drive to work when “drugged up” on certain legal drugs or medicines could lead to you being prosecuted and convicted with a criminal record!  It is also clearly an offence to be under the influence of any illegal drugs so that you are driving whilst unfit to do so.

An allegation of driving whilst unfit under the influence of drugs can be brought if the Police have reason to believe that you were driving a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place after consuming drugs. That includes drugs that are legal as well as those that are illegal!

The new drug driving law came into force on 2nd March 2015 and there is now a number of drug driving limits introduced by the new laws. However, the old law will still stand whereby it will continue to be an offence to be unfit due to drugs. The test is first of all whether the substance is a ‘drug’. In the case of Armstrong v Clark it was held that a substance used as a medicine is a drug, something to cure, alleviate or assist an ailing body. Therefore, this substance will be classed as a drug. However, the quantity will affect each person differently.

To secure a conviction, the Crown must prove:

  • That a person was unfit to drive;
  • Through drugs; and
  • His driving was impaired

From 1st January 2015 until 20th December 2018

  • We WON 93% of our Drug Driving cases!†

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†Figures include successful appeals and exclude cases lost that are the subject of appeal as at 20th December 2018.

Drug Driving at the Roadside

The official figures for the number of drug driving offences in the UK are relatively low because there are no easy ways to test for drug impairment which must be proved in addition to the presence of drugs.

At the roadside the Police must administer a Field Impairment Test where they test for impairment by observing you whilst you carry out a serious of five tests:

  • The Pupil Measure Test: testing the size of your pupils
  • The Romberg test: testing balance and judgement
  • The Walk and Turn test
  • The One Leg Stand test, and
  • The Finger to Nose test

These difficulties are set to be reduced with the introduction of a drugalyser device at the roadside, testing the motorist’s saliva for the presence of drugs. Drugalysers are now used since the new laws came into force on the 2nd March 2015.

Drug Driving Test at the Police Station

If you fail the roadside test, you will be asked to consent to giving a biological sample usually a blood sample, although could be urine, at the police station and for this to be tested for the presence of drugs. The Police should also offer a sample of blood for you to take away from the station. We recommend that you should arrange to have your sample tested as soon as possible.

Why should I consent to providing a blood sample?

If you do not consent to providing a blood sample you can be charged with another offence of failing to provide a specimen. Unless you have a reasonable excuse for failing to provide the sample such as a fear of needles, you could face conviction of this alternative offence.

Legal or Illegal Drugs?

This charge can be brought against anyone who has taken legal or illegal drugs and those drugs impaired their ability to control their vehicle. Over the counter or prescription drugs can often have side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness and impaired judgement which can affect your ability to drive a vehicle. We would assess exactly what you had consumed and how the side effects, if any, would have affected your driving ability.

S.11 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that a drug includes any intoxicant other than alcohol. This is likely to mean any substance that affects the self control of the body.

In a leading case on this issue, Leetham v DPP, the Divisional Court upheld a conviction for driving whilst unfit under the influence of drugs. Their decision was based upon the defendant’s fast and erratic driving, his admitted consumption of cannabis, the presence of cannabis in his blood on subsequent analysis, the known effects of the drug and the evidence of the officers who stopped him that his eyes were red and glazed and that his speech was slow and slurred.

However, merely a trace of a drug will not amount to driving whilst unfit through drugs. A principle established in a very old case authority R v Hawkes (1931) 22 Cr App Rep 172 is that the police must also prove that the driver’s driving ability was impaired.

This is why the new legislation has been introduced. Under the new laws, the need to prove impairment will no longer be required. There are a number of drug driving limits for legal prescription drugs and a zero tolerance approach to illegal drugs. We have dedicated a separate drug driving offence website to the new and existing drug driving laws. Please feel free to browse the new site.

Fighting the drug driving allegation

The allegation of drug driving is an extremely serious one and could lead to a custodial sentence. Our specialist team of lawyers will review the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and advise you on the merits of your case. There are numerous strategies we can successfully apply to drug driving allegations and we would always recommend you speak to us before making any decisions about what to do next.

We are always more than happy to chat things through with potential clients Free of Charge. Call us now on Freephone 0800 1389 123 to speak to one of our specialist motoring offence solicitors. It is only once you decide to instruct us that payment will become necessary and we can often arrange instalment plans to assist you. Many satisfied clients have thanked us for offering this free consultation service as it has prevented them from following inaccurate non-expert advice which could have led to them accepting a driving ban unnecessarily.

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