Driving under the influence of drugs is an offence under the Road Traffic Act, with similar penalties to drink driving. However, there are no defined limits or levels of drugs, in the same way as drink in drink driving. That is set to change soon, on 2nd March 2015, in fact.
The Drug Driving (Specified Limit) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014, will come into force on that date. The Regulations specify the controlled drugs for the offence in section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. [Inserted by section 56 and Schedule 22 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013].
Section 5A makes it an offence for a person to drive, attempt to drive, or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with a specified controlled drug in the body, if the proportion of the drug in that person’s blood or urine exceeds the specified limit for that drug.
‘Drug driving’ is a serious criminal offence. Under section 3A of the Road Traffic Act, causing death when the driver was under the influence of drugs can only be heard at the Crown Court; the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment and an obligatory disqualification. The penalty was originally five years’ imprisonment but gradually increased to the present 15 years.
Under section 4A of the 1988 Act, it is an offence to be unfit to drive through drugs. The maximum penalty is six months’ imprisonment and disqualification.
The offence under section 5A will be in addition to the original offence under section 4A. But, importantly, section 5A offences will not require proof of impairment — simply that one of the specified drugs existed in the requisite amount, and hence provided the police with a significant evidential and procedural advantage.
If you are charged with an offence of drug driving, it will be an advantage to speak to an expert here in Surrey and surrounding counties covering the Magistrates and Crown Courts in Guildford, Redhill, Staines, Aldershot and Kingston.