DAC Beachcroft Motor Prosecutions Alert: Drug Driving Offence - March 2015
Published 2 March 2015
The removal of the need by the police and prosecutors to prove that a driver was impaired through drugs is to be welcomed. It brings the law relating to the consumption of drugs and driving in line with drink driving.
The prescribed levels of illegal drugs, including cannabis and cocaine, will result in a virtual ‘zero tolerance’ for drivers who test positive at the roadside with these substances. The legislation sets the limit at levels that should worry even the occasional ‘recreational’ user of these drugs particularly if stopped the ‘morning after’.
Whether it has the much needed effect of reducing the 200 drug related road deaths a year will depend upon the effectiveness of police enforcement. Aside from the decision to 'drugalyse' at the scene, a judgment call will have to be made by the officers at the scene, to require a driver, who has provided a negative test for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside, to attend the police station for further testing. The extent to which the public view this new offence as a zero tolerance approach to drugs and driving, will therefore be very much in the hands of the police by way of attitude to enforcement and the resources provided to them.
Drivers who are taking prescription medication as directed have nothing to fear by this new law, though we recommend they carry evidence of this prescription with them to avoid the inconvenience of being taken to a police station for testing.
Those who are convicted will face a minimum 1 year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, and up to 6 months in prison.
We wait to see the extent to which insurers will record an increase in policyholders facing such charges, which we believe will be wholly dependent on the level to which the police carry out roadside testing. A conviction for a drug driving offence will remain on a policyholder's licence for 11 years.