Drug-driving laws

On 2 March 2015, a new drug driving law came into force in England and Wales, making it illegal to drive when over a particular limit for controlled drugs, illegal drugs or even on certain medications.

To enact this legislation, police officers can perform tests at the roadside to determine if any drugs are present in a person’s system, and may follow this up by performing a forensic analysis of blood samples (taken at a police station) to establish the exact drug, and its quantity, in the bloodstream.

Offenders under this law will face a minimum 12-month driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months’ imprisonment and have a criminal record. If you have been charged with drug driving offences under Section 4 and Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, contact one of our motoring offence solicitors on our 24-hour helpline 07980 288 920 immediately to ensure you get the appropriate legal advice and representation.

Affected drugs and their limits

A total of eight generally prescribed and eight illegal drugs were listed with the introduction of regulations on 2 March 2015, with regulations on amphetamine arriving on 14 April 2015. Each drug has a specified limit. If a driver is found to be driving while over the specified limit for one of the listed drugs, then they face being arrested and charged under Section 4 and Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The eight illegal drugs where there is a ‘zero tolerance approach’ with limits in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L) are:

  • Benzoylecgonine: 50µg/L
  • Cannabis (or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol): 2µg/L
  • Cocaine: 10µg/L
  • Heroin (or 6-monoacetylmorphine): 5µg/L
  • Ketamine (known as ‘K’ or ‘Special K’): 20µg/L
  • LSD (or Lysergic acid diethylamide): 1µg/L
  • MDMA (or Methylenedioxymethamphetamine): 10µg/L
  • Methylamphetamine (known as ‘Crystal Meth’ or ‘Ice’): 10µg/L

The eight medicinal drugs where there is a ‘risk-based approach’, with limits in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L), include:

  • Clonazepam: 50µg/L
  • Diazepam: 550µg/L
  • Flunitrazepam: 300µg/L
  • Lorazepam: 100µg/L
  • Methadone: 500µg/L
  • Morphine: 80µg/L
  • Oxazepam: 300µg/L
  • Temazepam: 1,000µg/L

There is a separate approach to amphetamine, due to it being found in a number of medicines, and the limit in microgrammes per litre of blood is 250µg/L.

Driving under the influence of drugs can be dangerous as they can affect your mind and body in many ways for hours or even days after taking them. A drug-driving offender may hallucinate, seem confused, become aggressive, and exhibit other symptoms that affect their driving ability. With the introduction of the drug driving law, police in England and Wales now use ‘drugalysers’ to check for cannabis and cocaine by using a simple mouth swab.

Defending drug driving charges

There is a defence for someone over the legal limit but who has been taking drugs in accordance with a medical or dental direction and whose driving has not been impaired as a result. The key is to talk to our motoring offence solicitors and get the appropriate legal advice as soon as it happens.

Drug driving and your career

A conviction on drug driving normally leads to a driving ban, a fine, up to six months’ imprisonment and a criminal record. As a result, you are likely to see an increase in your insurance costs and possibly a termination from your employer if driving is part of your job or if you need to drive to work.

However, if driving isn’t part of your job and your company doesn’t have a policy relating to drug driving, then your employer is not likely to let you go.

Get drug driving advice from Foys

Our motoring offence solicitors are specialists in drug driving. To find out how we can help you, fill out our Online Form – or call your local Foys Solicitors office:

  • Doncaster – 01302 327 136
  • Retford – 01777 703 100
  • Worksop – 01909 500 511
  • Clowne – 01246 810 050
  • Rotherham – 01709 375 561
  • Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
  • Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609

This article was first published on 01/04/2015 and updated on 09/01/2019.

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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