Driving with excess drugs (section 5A Road Traffic act 1988)
Recognising the uncertainty surrounding a prosecution for driving whilst unfit through drugs, the government introduced a new offence in 2015 which deals with new legal limits for both legal and illegal drugs to more uniformly measure an accepted level of usage before driving.
This is now by far and away the most commonly prosecuted version of a drug driving offence. The Crown now need to establish two key ingredients in order to satisfy the charging criteria:
- That a person was driving; and
- The proportion of a specified drug measured in that person’s blood is found to be over the prescribed legal limit
The Drug Driving (specified limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 [Statutory Instrument 2868 of 2014] sets the limits for 17 ‘controlled’ drugs, eight of which are used for widespread medicinal purposes, eight of which are not with amphetamine being categorised separately:
|Controlled drug||Limit (microgrammes per litre of blood)|
|Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) ||2|
|Lysergic Acid Diethylamide||1|
We often have calls from people who might have been charged with an excess cannabis offence (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) who can’t understand why cannabis remains in their system days after the use. There is a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to the presence of illicit drugs in your system whilst driving meaning even the smallest of traces that remain in your system a few days later is likely to take you over the legal limit.
Definitive sentencing guidelines for this offence are yet to be published. The Sentencing Council have released a ‘guidance only’ document to assist the court with determining sentence however it is still open for interpretation until definitive guidelines are introduced. The ‘guidance’ indicates that if you enter a guilty plea or are convicted after trial it will result in:
- Unlimited fine, a community order or imprisonment of up to six months
- A mandatory driving disqualification of at least 12 months (36 months for the second relevant offence in ten years)
As is the case with drink driving allegations, there is a perception that, unless you can identify an obvious and immediate issue with those basic ingredients of the offence, such as it was not you driving the vehicle, or you did use a drug but that was after the incident of driving, then you will have no alternative but to plead guilty to this offence. This is not always the case.