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New drug driving laws have been introduced in the UK, although it has long been an offence to drive while under the influence of drugs. New laws introduced in March 2015, along with the introduction of roadside testing equipment, means that drivers can be asked to provide a specimen of saliva or sweat at the roadside, and can then be taken in to the police station for further testing if certain levels of any of eight drugs are found in the driver’s system.
The New Drug Driving Laws
The new laws, and the associated sentencing, are similar to those that are associated with drink driving laws, and an automatic disqualification, as well as financial fines and more. Also similarly to drink driving laws, the police can test for drug levels at the side of the road, but the results from this alone are not enough to charge a driver. The Prosecution must have evidentiary test results, typically taken by a doctor or healthcare professional at the police station after the individual has been arrested.
The testing devices are new and relatively unused, and very few of these devices have been accredited and certified for use, while officers must have received the appropriate training in order to be able to administer the test. If the police have failed in any of these areas, then it may be possible to argue against the Prosecution, and have a case acquitted and a not-guilty verdict recorded.
Low Limits For Illegal Drugs
Initially, drug driving limits have been set for cannabis and cocaine, as well as eight prescription drugs. While the limits for the illegal narcotics are very low, the bar for prescription drugs has been set higher, and those that have a legitimate use for the drugs and can show that they have taken them according to their prescription should not be prosecuted. However, experts have advised that drivers carry a copy of their prescription with them in order to clear up any confusion. However, it is important to remember that mong the new laws that have been introduced is one for failing to provide a specimen, exactly as there is for drink driving laws.
What Are The Drug Driving Limits?
In creating this drug driving offence the Home Office stated that a zero limit for illegal drugs would penalise those people who innocently came into contact with drugs, such as inhaling cannabis smoke unknowingly in a public area, or for having small traces of the drug in their system long after the drug is used. After consultation and advice from doctors the government has set down the following initial limits for drug driving.
- 10 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood
- 2 micrograms of cannabis per litre of blood
- 1 micrograms of LSD per litre of blood
Not all drug driving cases will be regarding illegal drugs, a vast amount will include people on prescription drugs, such as
- 80 micrograms of morphine per litre of blood
- 500 micrograms of methadone per litre of blood
- 550 micrograms of diazepam per litre of blood
Owing to concerns raised during the consultation period the government has stated that they would revisit the proposed limit on amphetamine which has been currently identified as 50 micrograms per litre of blood.
Failing To Provide A Specimen
Failing to provide a specimen is considered a serious offence, and even if you believe that you have every right to be driving lawfully after taking prescription medication, it is important that you concede to the test. If you fail to do so, you will be punished for the crime of failing to provide a specimen, and not for drug driving, which means that even if your system was completely clear of any drugs or well below the limit, you could still face hefty punishment. Take the test and then answer any resulting case, if necessary.
Drug Driving Laws
Drug driving laws were introduced as a means of taking a firmer stance against those that take drugs and then drive. Marijuana and cocaine are both controlled substances, anyway, and this means that the limit has been intentionally low as a way of deterring people from taking the drugs and driving. If you have been charged with one of these offences, you should enlist the help of a professional and experienced motoring offences lawyer, because they may be able to help you avoid the maximum penalties, or have your case acquitted.
Latest Drug Driving Updates (June 2016)
- Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) – 50 micrograms per litre of blood (µg/L)
- Cocaine – 10µg/L
- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis and cannabinol) – 2µg/L
- Ketamine – 20µg/L
- LSD – 1µg/L
- Methylamphetamine – 10µg/L
- MDMA (ecstasy) – 10µg/L
- Heroin and diamorphine – 5µg/L
- Clonazepam (used to treat seizures and panic disorder) – 50µg/L
- Diazepam (anti-anxiety) – 550µg/L
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol – sedative) – 300µg/L
- Lorazepam (anti-anxiety) – 100µg/L
- Methadone (heroin substitute) – 500µg/L
- Morphine (pain relief) – 80µg/L
- Oxazepam (anti-anxiety) – 300µg/L
- Temazepam (anti-anxiety and sedative) – 1,000µg/L
The limits for the majority of prescription drugs are above the normal doses; the new legislation will give police the power to test and arrest motorists who are suspected of driving over the new levels.
Unlike the existing ‘impairment’ offence, the new law provides a medical defence if you’re taking a prescription in accordance with medical instructions – provided, of course, you’re not impaired.
Penalties for Drug Driving
If you’re convicted of drug-driving you can expect:
A minimum one-year driving ban
A fine up to £5,000
A criminal record
Your driving licence will also show a conviction for drug-driving and it will stay on there for 11 years.
A conviction for drug-driving also means you may not be able to get car insurance.
If you have a driving job your employer will see the conviction on your licence and you may have trouble travelling to certain countries, such as the USA.