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DRUG DRIVING FAQS

From 1st January 2016 until 31st December 2016

We WON 96% of our Drug Driving Blood Sample cases!

The Drug Driving Law

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.

The Consequences:

  1. Mandatory minimum penalty of 12-month disqualification and a fine of 1.5 weeks’ net wages;
  2. For repeat offenders, a mandatory minimum penalty of 36-month disqualification along with a fine of 1.5 weeks’ net wages;
  3. Your driving licence will be endorsed for 11 years for drug driving;
  4. Possible prison sentence in high reading or repeat offender cases;
  5. Criminal record;
  6. Possible professional consequences such as loss of job/licence to practice;
  7. Significant insurance increases;
  8. Restrictions on foreign travel; and
  9. Reputational damage.

Drug Driving Limits

‘Illegal’ drugs (‘accidental exposure’ – zero tolerance approach)Threshold limit in blood
Benzoylecgonine50µg/L
Cocaine10µg/L
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (cannabis)2µg/L
Ketamine20µg/L
Lysergic acid diethylamide1µg/L
Methylamphetamine10µg/L
MDMA10µg/L
6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin)5µg/L
‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach)Threshold limit in blood
Amphetamine250µg/L
Clonazepam50µg/L
Diazepam550µg/L
Flunitrazepam300µg/L
Lorazepam100µg/L
Methadone500µg/L
Morphine80µg/L
Oxazepam300µg/L
Temazepam1,000µg/L

11 Frequently Asked Questions

1. I don’t take cannabis but I have been with friends who do. Will I be over the limit through passive smoking? Is this a defence?

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.

2. Could I pay a fine instead of being disqualified if I am found guilty of drug driving?

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.

3. What level of sentence could I receive?

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.

4. I regularly take drugs so I have built up a high tolerance. My driving is not impaired so can I still be found guilty of drug driving?

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.

5. How long should I wait after consuming drugs to safely drive within the legal limit?

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.

6. I use cannabis for medical purposes. Is this a defence?

No. A patient will be able to rely on the medical defence if each of three conditions are met:

  1. The drug had been prescribed or supplied to the driver for medical or dental purposes;
  2. The driver took the drug in accordance with the instructions given by the person who prescribed or supplied it, and in accordance with any directions in the accompanying leaflet from the drug’s manufacturer or distributor; and
  3. Possession of the drug was lawful

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.

7. I have been charged with drug driving for taking a drug prescribed by my doctor. Have I got a defence?

There is a potential defence as long as you can prove the following conditions:

  1. You have taken the prescribed medicine in accordance with your GP’s instructions; and
  2. You have been told you can drive under the prescribed dosage.

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.

8. I have a previous drink drive offence within the last 10 years and have been charged with drug driving. Will I receive a mandatory repeat offender 3 year ban?

Yes.

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).

9. I am going to Amsterdam for the weekend and plan to visit the ‘coffee shops’ whilst I am there. Will I be ok driving home from the airport?

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.

10. Will a drug driving conviction affect my insurance premium?

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.

11. I wasn’t smoking cannabis when I was stopped but have still been charged with drug driving. The last time I smoked was the night before and had no idea I was over the limit. I would not have driven if thought I was! How can I be found guilty if I had no intention of drug driving?

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 23 December 2016.

Not Sure What to Do About Your Drug Driving Case?

Most people who get in touch with our team of motor offence expert solicitors are uncertain of their options. They are unaware of any legal defences that may be available and find it difficult to believe that it might be possible to defend the drink driving offence charge they face by using loopholes that apply to the rich and famous! We do represent celebrities but we also represent many hardworking motorists like Brian and we want to help you make the right choice about what you 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 installment 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.

If you would like to spend more time browsing on the site before you get in touch, make sure you have a look at our specialist motor offence guidance features such as our drink driving ban calculator which will help you to determine the penalty you may face if convicted and our money saving calculator which helps to outline some of the hidden costs of accepting a conviction.

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WHAT OUR CLIENTS ARE SAYING ABOUT US

“I was charged with driving whilst unfit through (prescription) drugs following a minor collision with another vehicle in a supermarket car park. I was found not guilty at trial. I was very happy with the firm’s expertise. The barrister at trial, was excellent and I would not hesitate to recommend your services to anyone… Read More

D. Gallington Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Not Guilty

“Having been charged with driving under the influence of Drugs. I engaged the services of Geoffrey Miller Solicitors and as a result have since been acquitted. I would not hesitate to recommend Geoffrey Miller Solicitors to anyone who finds themselves in any similar circumstance and consider the costs encountered the best value for money I have ever received… Read More

Anonymous 12 Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“I’m absolutely delighted that I chose Geoffrey Miller to represent me, they are undoubtedly the best at what they do. At one point I thought the case in court was going to go terribly wrong but my barrister used his experience and expertise to deal with a Judge who didn’t like the way you guys work!!! But hey, we won the case… Read More

Mr M Fairbrother Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Dropped

“I was arrested for drug driving and my blood sample came back as 3.5 times over the legal limit. At trial it only took 40 minutes for my lawyer they provided to get the judges to drop the case and get me acquitted. Overall the team provided an excellent service and i would recommend to anyone in a similar situation to me… Read More

Mr J Smith Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“I was arrested for a drug driving offence, a blood sample was taken which read a high level of cannabis, after speaking with a representative of Geoffrey Miller decided to give them instructions to act on my behalf, everything was dealt with quickly and efficiently with acquittal being the final result… Read More

Mr Williams Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Thrown Out

“Within one hour my call was returned by Jeanette Miller, the MD. Very impressive as it was the 27th Dec! She was able to calm and reassure me that it was quite possible to beat the charges laid against me. My two excellent barristers assigned to me were fantastic. I am very pleased to be able to say my case was dismissed and I was acquitted… Read More

Mr Anon Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“I am writing to express my intense and sincere gratitude for everything. Firstly, I thank you for allowing me to pay your fees, in installments. Secondly, many thanks for Victoria Brennan and my barristers. A team that worked seamlessly and tirelessly together, to achieve a phenomenal result in my favour. Top marks to them… Read More

Mr AO Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“Geoffrey Miller Solicitors were excellent from start to finish. Inspiring hope from the first contact, advising all the way and I knew they would defend my drug driving case robustly. They delivered on their promise and exceeded all expectations. I would not be where I am today without their help. Thank you and thank you again… Read More

Anonymous 19 Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Thrown Out

“This company could not of handled it better, I am absolutely blown away with the outcome, they use the best people you could ask. I would especially like to thank Vicky for helping me through each stage so professionally, and again the outcome. Very happy – would definitely recommend to anyone in the same or similar position… Read More

Anonymous 20 Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“I am grateful to Geoffrey Miller Solicitors for my favourable outcome after my case was thrown out of court. The impact of such a charge and conviction would have had far reaching and unfair effects for not only myself but my family and I could not be happier with the service and attention to detail provided. Many thanks… Read More

Mr J Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Discontinued

“My drug driving case despite appearing complex was handled with professionalism and expertise by all associated with Geoffrey Miller Solicitors. The case ran very smoothly and efficiently and it’s apparent that you and your case are at the forefront of everything that they are trying to achieve… Read More

Mr. H Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

“Thank you very much to the incredible team of Geoffrey Millers Solicitors. Hiring this team was absolutely worth it. Thank you so much for saving me unnecessary embarrassment with this case and for saving me the ridiculousness of this trial. It was 1000x better knowing I had you on my side. I am truly appreciative… Read More

Carmella Kelly Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Dropped

“We chose Geoffrey Miller Solicitors after being recommended and doing some research. After making contact for the first time by phone, I found all of your staff very professional, sympathetic and very knowledgeable about the offence and really put my mind at rest. I would definitely recommend Geoffrey Miller Solicitors… Read More

Mr Wells Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Case Dropped

“I got charged for Drug Driving in May 2016 and rang every solicitor I could possibly find who specialised in this area of law. Some were good and others were ok but after speaking to Geoffrey Millers Solicitors I knew I had found a firm that was perfect for me. The main reason I chose them was due to their record of success… Read More

Mr A Drug Driving Testimonial
Drug Driving / Acquitted

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