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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

drug-drivingThe Christmas 2014 drink/drugs campaign is underway, and last week the Home Office finally authorised the use of roadside saliva tests, which have been used successfully in other parts of Europe.

These saliva tests can instantly detect drugs and ‘legal highs’, and will include prescription drugs, e.g. sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs etc. This is likely to affect many people.

Being caught driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs can result in the following:
1. A minimum driving ban of 12 months;
2. A financial penalty of up to £5,000;
3. A criminal record.

This is turn will affect insurance (an endorsement on your licence remains for 11 years), employment, and will certainly provide you with problems when trying to obtain a visa to visit certain parts of the world.

A specific new drug driving offence will soon be law, but this new procedure takes effect now.

With all new procedures, legal problems and issues will occur, which is why it is vital that you seek advice from experienced, specialist solicitors as soon as possible. These driving offence procedures happen quickly, so you in turn will need the best advice quickly. We operate a 24-hour emergency service; please call us on 0207 387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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New Law for Drug Driving to Come into Effect 2014

The government has announced its new zero tolerance policy towards those who drive under the influence of drugs.

Police will be able to take a road test saliva test and then take the arrestee for a blood test at the police station.

Anybody convicted of such an offence can expect to be banned from driving for twelve months and be liable to pay a fine to a maximum level of £5,000. A prison sentence of up to six months will also be an available sentencing option.

If you are in need of legal advice and assistance in any sort of motoring offence, please complete our online enquiry form or call us on 0207 387 2032.

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New drug driving offence

A new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a concentration of a specified controlled drug in the body above a prescribed limit is being introduced in the Crime and Courts Bill, currently making its way through Parliament.

Drug driving is a growing problem in the UK and, according to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, is a factor in an estimated 200 road fatalities each year.

The Government commissioned a review of the law relating to drink and drug driving back in 2010 and has been working to tighten the rules since then. The focus of this latest change is on the fact that the existing law seems to be of limited effect in tackling drug driving.

Issues with the current law

At the moment drug driving is dealt with under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which makes it an offence to drive while unfit to do so through drink or drugs.

In practice, however, few prosecutions are actually brought and of those which are initiated, many are eventually thrown out or withdrawn.

This is because of the technical difficulty of securing a conviction for driving while unfit through drugs: to succeed, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant was driving or in charge of the vehicle; that he was so impaired that he was unfit to drive; and that the impairment affecting him was caused by drugs.

New offence

The Government has therefore decided to introduce a new strict liability offence of driving with a controlled drug in the body – removing the need to prove impairment. This will mirror the position with drink driving, and will run alongside the existing Section 4 offence.

New defence

However, as Stephen Hammond said in a recent statement:

"We must ensure that the new offence would not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in line with medical advice."

The Crime and Courts Bill therefore gives a defence to people who have driven after taking a controlled drug that has been prescribed or supplied "for medical or dental purposes." To succeed in the defence, that person must have followed the directions given for the use of the drug in question.

It's also worth noting that this defence will not apply to the "old' offence of driving while unfit to do so under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This will still be available to prosecutors.

What is a controlled drug?

The Crime and Courts Bill does not list which drugs will be regarded as controlled drugs, nor the limit of concentration at which they will bring the offence into play. These details are going to be dealt with in separate regulations, currently being developed by the relevant government ministers in England, Wales and Scotland.

However, technical advice on the identity of the specified controlled substances, and the maximum permitted levels of each, is already available. This comes in the form of a report from a specialist panel, published earlier this month.

According to Stephen Hammond, the Government hopes to consult on the draft regulations later in the year.

Contact us for legal advice

For specialist legal advice on any of these issues relating to driving under the influence of drugs or other motoring law issues, contact Lewis Nedas on 02073872032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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