Drug driving first offence in the UK – what happens?
Drug driving was added to the Road Traffic Act in 2013. It came into force in 2015. This can mean that facing a drug driving first offence in the UK can be a worrying and confusing situation to be in.
Because these laws are so new, there aren’t even any official sentencing guidelines yet. However, it’s important to know that the legal consequences of driving under the influence of drugs can be very serious.
This makes it vital to get specialist legal advice right away if you want to maximise your chances of the best possible outcome.
What Is A Drug Driving Offence?
The Crime and Courts Act 2013 made it illegal to drive, attempt to drive, or be in charge of a motor vehicle if you have more than set levels of certain controlled substances in your body.
There are 17 of these controlled substances and – it may surprise you to learn – some of them are over-the-counter and prescription medications that are completely legal. Illegal drugs – such as cannabis and cocaine – have a “near zero” limit (to cover the chance of accidental exposure).
If the police suspect you are driving under the influence of drugs, they may test you at the roadside. If they still suspect you, they may ask you to accompany them to the police station as not all controlled drugs can be picked up by the roadside test.
Be aware that it can be an offence to fail to comply with any requests for blood or urine tests by the police.
What Happens If You Get Caught Drug Driving For The First Time?
If this is the first time you are facing a drug driving charge (perhaps even the first time you’re coming into contact with the UK court system) then this is probably a challenging time. The most sensible steps are:
1) Get Specialist Legal Representation As Soon As Possible
The best thing to do is at least talk your case through with a solicitor who specialises in drink and drug driving law. You may have a general lawyer assigned to you. But the best results will always come from an expert in this kind of case.
2) Don’t Assume That Pleading Guilty Is The Best Option
A specialist drug driving solicitor will be able to review the evidence in your case and determine if you have a possible defence open to you. This may involve a guilty or not guilty plea.
There are also many ways that an experienced specialist may be able to get your case thrown out before it reaches court. For example:
- Challenging the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) to fully disclose all documents, which costs them a great deal of time and money
- Causing the CPS to fail to comply with its duties or show fault with its processes
- Demonstrate mistakes with or lacking areas of evidence or the way it was collected
What Is The Normal Sentence For Drug Driving?
It’s important to be aware of the severity of the sentence the Magistrates’ Court can hand out in drug driving cases if you’re found guilty. This will likely include:
- Mandatory driving disqualification – the court is obliged to ban you from driving for at least 12 months at minimum.
- An unlimited fine – in practice, this is usually linked to your income (roughly one and a half times your weekly income can be a good estimate).
- The possibility of prison time – up to six months, but usually only for cases when you have a history of similar offences or other aggravating circumstances.
Examples Of Aggravating And Mitigating Factors In Drug Driving
Because drug driving is a relatively new offence, there are only rough sentencing guidelines in place. These guidelines describe a range of aggravating factors (that can increase your sentence) or mitigating factors (that may encourage the magistrate to reduce your sentence).
For example, if you were driving a HGV, were carrying passengers, or have a number of previous linked convictions, you might expect any sentence to be harsher.
On the flip side, as it is a first offence, if you have extensive evidence of your good character, or perhaps you drove a very short distance or it was a genuine and verifiable emergency, there is a chance your sentence might be minimised.
That said, mitigation should not be viewed as trying to influence the magistrate with a “sob story” of why you simply had to drive under the influence of drugs that day. This is very unlikely to work. The best approach is to have an expert advocate make a specific defence on your behalf.
Are Drug Driving And Drink Driving The Same?
No. The legal limits for drug driving were set at a level where it was expected that most people would have their ability to drive impaired by being over the limit. Thus, the more over the limit you are, the more likely you are to be impaired – and the more severe the sentence you might receive.
When it comes to drug driving, the government’s experts recommended legal limits much higher than those that were actually set. This means that you might be completely unimpaired by the drugs in your system yet still technically over the legal limit for that substance.
How To Handle Your Drug Driving First Offence In The UK
Your first step should always be to search out reliable – and, most importantly, specialist – legal representation. Only an expert in drink and drug driving offences can ensure you will put forward the best defence. A general lawyer may simply suggest you plead guilty.
Get in touch to discuss your drug driving first offence with an expert. Solicitors Near Me will find you a friendly and approachable specialist to talk with for FREE and with no obligation.