Drug driving offences are provided for under section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. They are:
Driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or public place when there is a controlled drug in your body that exceeds the specified limit for that drug;
Being in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place when there is a controlled drug in your body that exceeds the specified limit for that drug.
Attempting to drive: Steps have been taken to drive the vehicle, beyond the merely preparatory stage, which are a part of the actual process of causing the vehicle to move.
Being in charge: A question of fact dependent on the circumstances, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. A person is deemed to be in charge of a vehicle until he hands that charge on to someone else.
Controlled drug: A drug as defined for the purposes of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Specified limit: The controlled drugs and their specified limits are listed in the Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 (as amended). The limits are given in terms of microgrammes per litre of blood (please see the table at the bottom of this article for the full list and the corresponding limits).
It is defence to show that the drug was prescribed by a doctor, taken in accordance with any relevant instructions or guidance, and the possession of the drug was not unlawful under the Misuse of Drugs Act at the time of taking it.
It is also a defence to show that at the time of the alleged offending there was no likelihood of the defendant actually driving whilst the drug was in his body and above the specified limit.
Drug driving is a summary only offence, meaning that it can only be tried in the magistrates’ court. As the offence carries a potential sentence of immediate imprisonment, there is legal aid funding available on application to the Legal Aid Agency.
Sentence and Penalties
Driving or attempting to drive – the maximum sentence is 51 weeks’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.
Additionally, the court is obliged to endorse the defendant’s driving licence upon conviction with between 3 and 11 points.
The court must then impose a period of disqualification from driving. For a first offence, this can be for up to three years. If a second (or further) offence (previous offences can be any relevant offence, e.g. drink driving) the ban can be for up to five years.
Being in charge – the maximum sentence is 51 weeks’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or both.
As above, endorsement is obligatory, carrying 10 points. Disqualification is at the court’s discretion.
Table of Controlled Drugs and their Corresponding Limits for Drug Driving
Limit (microgrammes per litre of blood)
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (i.e. the substance into which cannabis is metabolised by the body)
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
Legal disclaimer: Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is accurate at the date of publication but please note that the law is ever changing and evolving. If you require advice in relation to any matter raised in this article please contact a member of the team.