What is drug driving? (offence and sentencing)
Drink driving is a familiar part of the UK legal system. But laws relating to “drug driving” only came into force in 2015. So, what is drug driving?
Let’s take a look at what drug driving is defined as and the sentence and consequences it is possible to get if you’re found guilty of it:
What Is A Drug Driving Offence?
In 2013, the Crime and Courts Act added a new part to the Road Traffic Act. This made it illegal to be in charge of, attempt to drive, or drive a motor vehicle with:
- More than the newly specified legal limits of a range of specific drugs in your body.
- More than the set limits of some legal as well as illegal drugs in your body.
- More than these limits even if your ability to drive hasn’t been impaired.
If the police suspect you have taken drugs, they are allowed to stop you and assess your “impairment” or perform a roadside drugs test for certain controlled and illegal substances.
You might also be asked to attend the police station for a urine or blood test. It’s worth noting that it can be a crime to refuse to submit to this kind of test too, so it’s worth getting legal advice as soon as possible after this happens.
Can Prescription Medication Be Part Of A Drug Driving Offence?
Yes, it is possible to be found guilty of drug driving even if you have taken only some kinds of legal drugs and medicines that you have been prescribed.
This makes it vital to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are allowed to drive if you have been prescribed any of the following medications:
- Flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol)
- Morphine (and other opioid-based drugs, such as codeine or fentanyl)
You may feel that you are not impaired even if you are above the legal limits of some of these substances. However, you should always consult a healthcare professional and follow their advice. Also, as we’ve seen, it can be an offence to be above the legal limit even if you are not impaired.
Drug Driving – Sentence And Consequences
Technically speaking, there are currently no set sentencing guidelines for drug driving. However, the Sentencing Council has provided some general guidance and a list of aggravating and mitigating factors that guide magistrates in their sentencing:
Any of these factors is generally understood to increase the seriousness of the offence:
- Other substances – if there is evidence of some other drugs or alcohol in your system and/or that your driving was impaired
- Past history of offences – if you have previous related and recent convictions.
- The place where it happened – if you were driving near a school or in a very busy area, for example.
- What you were driving – if you were driving a HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle), for instance, or a taxi or other vehicle for hire.
- Conditions – on the road and in the vehicle. For example, if you were carrying passengers or there was very low visibility.
Several factors may serve to reduce the seriousness of any charge against you:
- Previous evidence of a very high standard of conduct – this will likely include no previous offences of any kind, evidence of good character, and possibly your age where it might indicate you could be less responsible for your actions.
- Evidence of a genuine emergency – a standard “late to work” level excuse is unlikely to cause any magistrate to mitigate a drug driving offence. Genuine facts demonstrating a life or death emergency might.
- If you have a mental disorder or learning disability – it may be counted as a mitigating factor in your favour.
Drug Driving First Offence Punishment
Even a drug driving first offence is counted as one deserving of serious punishment. If you are found guilty, the courts may impose:
- Mandatory disqualification – of at least 12 months which the court cannot reduce below this level. This will be longer in duration if you have previously been disqualified.
- Criminal record – if you plead guilty, it will go on your permanent record for the next 11 years from the date of your conviction.
- Fine – this can be several thousand pounds, but will usually be tied to your income level.
- Imprisonment – for up to six months.
Talk To An Expert About Your Drug Driving Charge
Being charged with a drug driving offence can be a worrying time. Why not chat with an expert about it?
Solicitors Near Me will find you just the right specialist drink driving solicitors to discuss your case with – for FREE and with zero obligation.