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A Rapid Increase In Drug Driving Arrests
Drug driving arrests have increased by up to 800% in a year after strict new laws were introduced in March 2015. Drivers affected by drugs are thought to be the cause of up to 200 deaths on Britain’s roads per year. Men are found to be more likely to drive while under the influence of drugs than women. An AA survey of over 26,000 drivers found that 88% were in favour of additional action being taken in relation to drug driving.
In March 2015, new legislation was introduced in England and Wales (but not in Scotland and Northern Ireland) whereby drivers can be prosecuted for drug driving if they are over the legal limit for that particular drug. Police now use roadside swab tests to check whether a driver is over the limit for cannabis and cocaine. The police can see if the driver is over the limit for other drugs by testing them at the police station.
This is a radical increase in the powers of the police in the fight against drug driving. Before the new law was brought in the police had to show that the driver’s driving had been adversely affected before they could successfully prosecute for drug driving. Now this is no longer necessary. All that has to be shown is that the person was over the legal limit for that particular drug. Because the new law makes it easier to prove that someone was drug driving, now 98% of suspects that are charged by the police are convicted by the courts. In the days when it had to be shown that the driver’s standard of driving had been affected only 80% of people charged were convicted.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said “Drug driving is often the hidden killer on UK roads. We need to make it as anti-social as drink driving. The new law and greater enforcement will help to achieve this.”
Motorists who are found to be above the drug drive limit face a criminal record, a driving ban of at least a year, and an unlimited fine. In extreme cases they could be sent to prison for up to 6 months.
It should be noted that the new law penalises drivers found over the limit for prescribed drugs, including morphine and methadone, as well as illegal drugs. However, it is a defence if it can be shown that the drug was prescribed, and that the driver had followed the advice of the person who prescribed it. Also, it is a defence if the driving in question was not on a road or other public place. Finally, it is often a defence if the police, when testing for drugs at the police station, were not following a strict procedure.
If you find yourself facing a drug driving allegation, or indeed any motoring offence, call our motoring law specialist solicitor, Philip Hatvany, on FREEPHONE 0800 9098110 for a FREE telephone consultation.