Allegations of drug driving can have a serious and lasting impact on your life.
With Kirwans you have access to a specialist team of solicitors who carefully examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest and scrutinise the procedures the Police have followed. Our aim is simple; to establish a defence and save your driving licence.
There are two main offences that deal with drug driving:
• Driving a motor vehicle on a road or in a public space whilst over a specified limit for 16 named drugs;
• Driving a motor vehicle on a road or in a public space and your ability to drive is impaired by a drug
The first is a new offence which is committed when someone is driving whilst over a specified limit for 16 named drugs. This new law has brought drug driving laws in line with current drink-driving legislation.
Prescription drugs covered by new law:
• Clonazepam (used to treat seizures and some panic disorders), 50 µg/L (micrograms per litre)
• Diazepam (used for anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and muscle spasms) 550 µg/L
• Flunitrazepam (sedative) 300 µg/L
• Lorazepam (used to treat epilepsy) 100 µg/L
• Methadone (used to treat heroin addiction, and as a form of pain relief) 500 µg/L
• Morphine, 80 µg/L
• Oxazepam,(used to relieve anxiety) 300 µg/L
• Temazepam (used to treat insomnia) 1000 µg/L
Illicit drugs covered by new law:
• Benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine), 50 µg/L
• Cocaine, 10 µg/L
• Delta–9–tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis), 2 µg/L
• Ketamine, 20 µg/L (sedative)
• Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 1 µg/L
• Methylamphetamine (Crystal Meth), 10 µg/L
• Methylenedioxymethaphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy), 10 µg/L
• 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and diamorphine), 5 µg/L
Roadside saliva tests are used for cannabis and cocaine by some constabularies in the UK, otherwise, if the Police have a reasonable suspicion that you are drug driving they can arrest you and request a Police doctor to take an evidential sample of blood. You will be released whilst this sample is analysed by forensics. If the test results confirm that you were over the limit for a specific drug, you will be charged with the offence.
This legislation puts many drivers using prescription drugs for perfectly legitimate reasons at risk of prosecution. It is however a full defence if you can prove that you are taking the medicine in accordance with the advice of your doctor and the patient information leaflets provided by the manufacturer.
We work closely with leading independent forensic experts in this field who have advised that as there is no provision in the new law for the fairly common situation where a driver has a medical reason for not providing blood, problems will arise.
Currently there is no alternative test available that can replace a blood sample as it is not scientifically viable to test urine samples for this offence. This is where the expertise of Just Motor Law can significantly assist you. We will explore this anomaly in the legislation when these situations arise, in order to achieve the most favourable outcome and protect your driving licence.
The Police must follow various statutory procedures during the investigation. Our experts will be able to scrutinise those procedures to establish whether there were any flaws that would give rise to a defence. Where appropriate, we will instruct independent forensic scientists to verify the Police procedures and test results in order to establish if that evidence is unreliable and can be challenged.
The second offence is committed if you drive a motor vehicle on a road or in a public space and your ability to drive is impaired by a drug.
To secure a conviction, the court must prove that a person was unfit to drive through drugs which subsequently impaired the driving of the vehicle in question.
It is important to remember that ‘drugs’ can be either illegal drugs or prescription medication that you have legitimately taken.
If convicted, the penalties for drug driving are serious as this is an offence that carries a mandatory disqualification, unless Special Reasons apply.
Sentences vary and can come with life changing consequences.
You can receive;
• A fine of up to £5000, through to a community sentence such as unpaid work in the community, an electronically monitored curfew;
• Six months imprisonment for the most serious offenders;
• Disqualified for a minimum of 12 months. The minimum disqualification increases to three years if you have a previous relevant conviction within the last 10 years;
• Potential loss of employment;
• Rise in insurance premiums;
• Criminal record that will have to be declared to future employers. This will only become spent after the time scales set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
If stopped by the Police under their suspicion of drug driving they will often conduct a series of tests at the roadside. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Field Impairment Test’.
As well as the use of the new drug testing devices, the Police can also observe certain actions. This can include testing of your balance, testing the size of your pupils and observations including your general condition, for example the walk and turn test.
If following these tests, the police have reasonable grounds to believe that a drug has impaired your driving you will be asked to provide a blood sample for examination at the police station.
This sample will be tested by forensic scientists and their report will indicate whether drugs were in your system at the time of the offence. This report will also detail possible links between the drug in question and impairment of the ability to drive.
Remember, the Police require your consent to obtain such biological samples and you should also be offered a sample that you can take away with you for independent testing if you feel necessary.
If you refuse to provide a blood sample the Police can charge you with the offence of ‘Failing to Provide a Specimen’ . There maybe legitimate reasons as to your refusal of a blood test, for example a fear of needles and it is essential that the Police follow the correct procedures; this is where the advice and guidance of our specialist team can help.
What happens next?
It’s a common misconception that drug driving allegations are open and shut cases but it is important to remember that even if you have a drug, legitimate or illegal, in your system it does not necessarily secure a conviction of this offence.
The Crown Prosecution Service must prove that the drug impaired your ability to drive. As specialist drug driving solicitors, we understand the strict procedures that the Police must adhere to and have vast experience with the sentencing guidelines that the Courts will apply.
Our Motor Law team carefully evaluate the circumstances surrounding your arrest and scrutinise the procedures the police have followed with the aim of establishing your defence.
Upon your instruction we will begin in preparing your defence. This can involve instructing third party experts, for example forensic or toxicologist experts. We may also study statements of the police doctor to examine the validity of the initial report and their findings.
In some cases our team will advise on a Special Reasons defence with the aim of avoiding mandatory disqualification.
A 'Special Reasons' argument is based on the facts of your individual case and the circumstances surrounding it. Examples include:
• Taking tablets prescribed by a doctor who has failed to warn you of the effects;
• Taking a drug to soothe pain from an injury unknowing of the impact it could have on your driving.
Whilst the onus is upon you to establish that Special Reasons apply, you will have the full support of Just Motor Law experts who will attend court with you and present the most forceful representations on your behalf.
With Kirwans you have access to a leading defence team who will provide you with the necessary advice and guidance as to whether a special reasons argument can be established.
We have a detailed knowledge of the ever evolving, complex body of case law governing how these arguments are determined. Our team are experts in presenting this argument to Courts throughout the UK and have a proven track record of success.
It is important to remember that by seeking legal advice from the outset you can help to ensure that any complexities and potential implications are effectively managed. Having access to expert advice can bring peace of mind at a time when you face uncertainty and concerns for what lies ahead.
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