The offence of driving whilst unfit through alcohol or drugs also known as drug driving, has long been in place in the UK. However, in 2013 a new offence was introduced by the government which has some significant differences to its predecessor. Under the new legislation, there is no requirement for the police to prove that a driver was impaired by the presence of the drug in a driver’s system. Instead a series of legal limits will be applied to various drugs (legal and illegal) and if you are found to be in excess of these limits, you will be prosecuted for the offence of drug driving.
Under the old regime, having the presence of drugs in your system was not enough for a conviction to be secured. The Crown also had to prove that the drugs impaired your driving and a complex series of impairment tests would have to be carried out by the police and evidence of these presented in court. Managing Director, Jeanette Miller, blogged about the drug driving impairment tests earlier in 2013 as not only are they difficult to pass, they created a minefield of technical defences (loopholes) for motorists to exploit. Presumably, this is why many police officers simply do not bother to pursue motorists for this far less common charge, compared to drink driving.
Many surveys have shown that drug driving is a real problem in the UK. This combined with the difficulties in apprehending motorists, is why the government say the law needed to change. However, the drug driving limits are yet to be decided upon. Some might think that all drink and drug driving limits should be zero, including the government, but this would prejudice those taking legal drugs out of necessity and who pose no risk to other road user by their lawful drug consumption. Examples of these drugs are those present in the medication prescribed to sufferers of ADHD and multiple sclerosis.
Many have voiced concern about the zero limit proposals and some scientific organisations have heavily criticised the government’s stance.
In addition to there being uncertainty over drug driving limits, the devices that are to be used by the police in establishing whether or not a driver has drugs in their system are yet to be approved by the Home Office (a pre-requisite for results from them to be used as evidence in criminal cases). Therefore, the new legislation is yet to be applied to its full extent but when it does, we are expecting a huge increase in the number of offenders being hauled through the courts.
For more information on the latest developments in the new drug driving laws check out this hot off the press briefing.
If you want to discuss a drink or drug driving case with us in confidence, our expert team of motoring solicitors are ready to speak to you free of charge. Get in touch on 0800 1389 123 or leave a voicemail message and we will get right back to you.
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