From 1st January 2015 until 31st December 2017
From 1st January 2015 until 31st December 2017
WON 93% of our Drug Driving cases!
From 2nd March 2015 the law on drug driving changed. The old offence of driving whilst unfit through drugs remains in place but is now rarely used as the old offence requires there to be proof of driver impairment.
The new offence of drug driving means it is now illegal to drive if you have certain levels of legal or illegal drugs in your blood even if your driving is not impaired.This has seen a surge in arrests and convictions of many motorists who arguably posed no threat to others but because when arrested, their blood was over the drug drive limit.
We are regularly contacted by people who face prosecution seeking clarification of the new laws. Below we have addressed the most common questions we are asked by people facing a drug drive charge.
|‘Illegal’ drugs (‘accidental exposure’ – zero tolerance approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
|Lysergic acid diethylamide||1µg/L|
|‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
Technically it could amount to a ‘special reason.’
A special reason is not a defence, but if accepted by the court allows the Magistrates to exercise their discretion to impose a disqualification of a period less than the mandatory 12 months or to impose penalty points if they feel you inadvertently consumed cannabis.
The laws surrounding drug driving are rapidly developing and currently there have been no cases setting a precedent for passive smoking. Release, a company specialising in health, welfare and legal needs of drugs users, have concerns about the new law as research shows that passive inhalation of cannabis smoke has resulted in drug levels between 1-7μg/L. This, they believe, could mean that an individual who has been exposed to passive cannabis smoke, could potentially be over the legal limit of 2μg/L for Cannabis.
However, there have been conflicting reports and the Government is confident that the scientific advice provided by an expert advisory group, recommending a limit of 2μg/L is at a limit where anything above is unlikely to be through accidental exposure.
No. Nothing you say or do will avoid you being disqualified for at least 12 months if you plead guilty or are found guilty of drug driving.
You may present mitigation to the court to reduce your disqualification period down to receive the minimum disqualification, or put forward special reasons, which if accepted will give the Magistrates discretion to impose a period less than the mandatory 12 months or penalty points.
Unlike drink driving, there are no sentencing guidelines for drug driving setting out the penalty range for a specific drug reading.
A pattern has emerged within the courts to take the drink drive guidelines as a template of what sentence to impose in drug driving which we consider to be completely perverse and unfair. Some courts have been known to take the view that if you are twice over the drug driving limit then a sentence should be imposed as if you were twice over the drink driving limit.
This causes great concern as the legal limit for illegal drugs has been set at a zero tolerance approach unlike drink driving. If a defendant’s drug reading is double the cannabis limit their driving is still unlikely to be impaired, unlike if someone’s alcohol reading is double the drink driving limit, yet they could still be facing a disqualification period of nearly 2 years.
At Geoffrey Miller Solicitors we put great weight on this point when it comes to sentencing where we are instructed on a guilty plea case (for defended cases since the new law has been in force was have had a 100% acquittal rate!*) and we ensure that the court do not take this approach when determining a disqualification period.
Yes. The new drug driving law does not take into consideration your quality of driving – if you are over the prescribed limit you will be prosecuted.
There is no set answer to this as it is dependent on the drug and the person in question. A recent study has shown a cannabis concentration up to 2μg/L (the legal limit!) nine days after abstaining from cannabis use.
No. A patient will be able to rely on the medical defence if each of three conditions are met:
Cannabis is an illegal drug and only prescribed in the UK in an extremely limited number of cases in the form of a mouth spray called Sativex.
Sativex is a whole cannabis extract and can be prescribed for patients with multiple sclerosis. Currently in the United Kingdom it is also being considered as treatment for brain cancer too.
The Department of Transport has provided guidance for Sativex users confirming, if you are an MS sufferer who in the opinion of a doctor is able to drive safely you should not be deterred from either taking your medicine or from driving. In these circumstances there is a statutory medical defence that can be raised for the new drug driving offence.
There is a potential defence as long as you can prove the following conditions:
If your driving was found to be impaired as a result of taking prescribed drug you can still be prosecuted for driving whilst impaired through drugs which has no medical defence available.
The penalty for this offence is also a mandatory disqualification period of at least 12 months and you could potentially be at risk of a custodial sentence up to 26 weeks in extreme cases.
Section 34 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act confirms that if you have been convicted for one of the following offences in the last 10 years this will trigger an automatic 3-year ban:
a) Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs;
b) Driving or attempting to drive while unfit;
c) Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol;
d) Driving or attempting to drive with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit; or
e) Failing to provide a specimen (if a mandatory disqualifcation period is applied).
We have experienced a significant rise in queries relating to being stopped and tested for drugs after visiting Amsterdam due to airport staff liaising with the police to crackdown on drug driving.
There is no set answer to whether you will be under the legal limit on your return to the UK and therefore you could be at risk of being charged with drug driving if you plan on driving in the UK.
A conviction for drug driving will be endorsed on your licence for 11 years and can have a long term impact on you financially. In 2013 Compare.com conducted a survey that revealed that a conviction for drink driving increases your insurance on average by 115%. This will be similar to a drug driving conviction, so even after your disqualification period is served you may find it extremely difficult and costly to obtain insurance.
Drug driving is a strict liability offence, meaning the Prosecution don’t have to prove that you had any intention to drive with excess drugs in your system or while impaired. Nor do they need to witness you take drugs. All they need to prove is you were over the legal limit whilst driving.
This means that even if you smoked the night before and genuinely believed you were under the legal limit you will still be charged with drug driving (or driving while unfit if your driving is impaired) and face a mandatory 12-month disqualification period if you plead or are found guilty.
(*As at the date of publication. Please check our results page for any updated information regarding our acquittal rates.)
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†Figures include successful appeals and exclude cases lost that are the subject of appeal as at 31 December 2017.
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