Drug driving solicitors

Since 2015 there have been two ways that you can be prosecuted for ‘drug driving’:

  • Driving whilst unfit through drugs; and

  • Driving with excess (over the specified legal limit) drugs

By utilising our knowledge and working with specialist scientific experts, Stephensons' solicitors can offer a truly expert service to ensure you have the best possible chance of acquittal.

For advice and assistance in relation to an accusation of drug driving contact our expert team on 0203 816 9274, alternatively complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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Driving whilst unfit through drugs (section 4(1) Road Traffic Act 1988)

There can often be difficulties for the police and Crown Prosecution Service when prosecuting for driving whilst unfit through drugs as they have to prove that the driver’s ability to drive was impaired at the time of driving due to that drug.

This can be difficult because unlike drink driving and driving with excess drugs there is no definitive limit of what levels can be in person system before they are impaired.

Usually a FIT test (or a Field Impairment Test) is done at the roadside to determine the drivers impairment levels, this involves things like balancing on one leg and walking heel to toe and is designed to help a police officer to assess whether someone is fit to drive. However this is not always a reliable assessment as there are several other factors that can influence the results, for example if it is a windy day a person’s balance can be significantly worsened.

An officer would need to refer to standard guidelines and procedures for testing and will consider the following indicators:

  • Pupillary examination (measuring the size of your pupils)
  • Modified Romberg balance test
  • Walk and turn test
  • One leg stand test, and
  • Finger to nose test

Should a person be judged to have failed that test then they will be required to attend the police station to provide a specimen of blood to test for the presence of a drug. However, merely a trace of a drug will not amount to driving whilst unfit through drugs. Impairment needs to also be present for the charge to stand. Impairment is a very challengeable ingredient to this particular offence given the number of factors that can influence the results of the FIT test.

The sentencing guidelines for driving whilst unfit through drugs are broad reaching and dependent on interpretation of the ‘nature of the activity’ as outlined below:

Examples of nature of activityStarting pointRangeDisqualification
Evidence of moderate level of impairment and no aggravating factorsBand C fineBand C fine12 – 16 months
Evidence of moderate level of impairment and presence of one or more aggravating factorsBand C fineBand C fine17 – 22 months
Evidence of high level of impairment and no aggravating factorsMedium level community orderLow level community order to high level community order23 – 28 months
Evidence of high level of impairment and presence of one or more aggravating factors12 weeks custodyHigh level community order to 26 weeks custody29 – 36 months


If you have been charged with driving whilst unfit through drugs and are unsure where your circumstances will likely place you within those guidelines please contact our expert team on 0203 816 9274.

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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:

  1. That a person was driving; and
  2. 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 drugLimit (microgrammes per litre of blood)
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) 2
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide1










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.

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Why choose Stephensons?

At Stephensons we have a highly specialist and experienced team of lawyers who can help identify some of the less obvious issues in a case that can lead to advancing a defence to help you keep you licence and avoid a criminal conviction. It is important that you are given the right options for you given your specific circumstances. A generic, scatter gun approach to challenging everything can mean that the case takes a direction that can be harmful to the prospects of success. Where genuine issues arise they should be pursued if it is in our client’s best interests. We can help identify issues that can lead to your defence. Successfully defending a charge of drug driving relies on us using our expert knowledge of the following areas:

Police station procedure

This offence, like drink driving, is one of the few where you as the defendant, by being asked to give a specimen of blood, are being required to participate in and consent to provide evidence that can lead to you being prosecuted. The law is structured so that this evidence is obtained in the correct and legal way. Should it be established that vital elements of police procedure have been overlooked or misunderstood by the police officers then legal authority in both legislation and case law supports an argument we can make on your behalf to say that the prosecution cannot rely on that blood specimen. In such a case, you will be acquitted.

Additional stages

As is the case with drink driving, to get to the stage where the police have what they deem to be sufficient evidence to justify a charge there are a number of different stages that have to be dealt with and several different people can often be involved. We can consider everything that happens from the moment you and are first approached by the police officer up to what happens when you are released and even beyond. The following stages can be considered to give us a full insight into any potential flaws in the prosecution case:

  1. Evidence of driving;
  2. Roadside arrest process;
  3. Informing and provision of your rights and entitlements when taken to the police station;
  4. Blood ‘procedure’ process carried out by a police officer at the police station;
  5. The process of taking a specimen of blood from you by a healthcare professional and your involvement in that;
  6. How the blood specimen is treated after it has been provided; and
  7. What happens to that specimen after you leave the police station.

Reliability of the analysis

What happens to your specimen after you have left the police station is just as important as how you are dealt with while you are at the police station. When you are released to return and answer your bail the process does not stop there for the prosecution. They need to send that specimen to be analysed by an accredited laboratory of Forensic Analysts using accredited methods. Police forces use private laboratories to carry out the analysis of your specimen and those laboratories must ensure that they stick by the processes and strict rules regarding how those specimens are dealt with. If, during the course of our investigations it cannot be proven that they have then the specimen cannot be relied upon and you will avoid a conviction and a ban.

For advice and assistance in relation to an accusation of drug driving contact our specialist team on 0203 816 9274, alternatively complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.